The Business Lunch: Booze is Back

The business lunch is a ritual which keeps changing. Right now, what's new is that drinking alcohol is back, reports Joel Stein in BLOOMBERG BUSINESS WEEK. Only in 2010, there's more wine flowing than the hard liquor Don Draper and the clients on "Mad Men" loved so much in the 1960s.

So, you might be wondering: what are the "the rules" or proper etiquette for the return of alcohol after years of bottled water.

Well, the rules of the game about the business lunch are always the same. Power is rule number one, two, and three. That's the recommendation of sociologists such as the famous Erving Goffman, author of THE PRESENTATION OF SELF IN EVERYDAY LIFE.

Those with the most power, be it the boss, client, customer, or prospect, make the rules. If they decide a good time will be had by all, that will be that. If they decide the lunch will be task-oriented, then you comport yourself as you would at work. More simply put, you follow the lead, unless you're the alpha at the table.

The challenge is this: perform that role smoothly. Better yet, brilliantly. That's exactly how players leverage social events as opportunities to get an edge. Goffman, just like William Shakespeare, hammers that all the world's a stage. The business lunch is a stage in which the best acting could be noticed and rewarded. The best actors get that way by modeling their behavior on those who are masters of the business lunch. So, for the first few wet business lunches observe the acting. Then connect the dots on what kind of performances seemed to pay off in ongoing career success.

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