Let’s Not Do Lunch?

Is lunch necessary? It's not really where the conversation is.

Paul Ford is an anti-lunchite.

People go to lunch for many reasons, including eating, but often lunch is gratuitous (pause, head-tilt). Sometimes a restaurant is more convenient, but I’ve had many lunches meeting people in the shadows of the skyscrapers where they work. I travelled an hour mostly horizontally; they travelled three minutes mostly vertically. Why don’t I just go upstairs and save them the trip? Why must we cram our interactions with the wider world into 75 minutes sometime between 12:30 and 2PM, which usually involves something drizzled over something else and then a light garnish, Diet Coke with the lemon wedge that makes it into a $3.50 Diet Coke, and expenditures of between $22 and $248, followed by an ape-dominance demonstration of who can pay? Unless you’re actually hungry, but who is actually hungry?

Of course there is a whole industry—the restaurant industry—dedicated to preserving lunchism and promoting a lunchist agenda. If anything ever happened along my outline there will be ads in major newspapers aboutLUNCH: An American Institution as Important as Marriage but Totally for Gays Too and if he hasn’t already David Carr will write a thoughtful, informed essay about how the web wasn’t satisfied to destroy publishing but was now gunning for midday meals. But is lunch necessary? It’s not really where the conversation is.

Ford prefers instead randomly showing up at people’s offices and staying for several hours. Which, certainly, is more flexible than doing lunch. But it’s also annoying as hell unless you really like Paul Ford and don’t actually have anything else to do that day.

I tend to eat lunch alone in front of my computer, although I’ll occasionally schedule a lunch somewhere nearby with colleagues and acquaintances who work elsewhere.  I wouldn’t want to do it every day, since it’s both time consuming and expensive, but it’s great as an occasional break from the workaday routine. And, hey, you gotta eat.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Things have really changed over the years. Back when I worked for a large corporation I was expected to take a customer to lunch every day and I got raked over the coals if I didn’t spend enough.

  2. John Burgess says:

    There’s a ‘joke’ about diplomats eating for their countries. I use scare quotes because it’s not actually a joke. Doing business over meals is a way of doing business in an environment other than the office. There’s the underlying fact that people sort of need to eat. And then there’s the assumption that business conducted over a meal is going to be more relaxed than that conducted in an office.

    There’s somewhat better control of who’s sitting next to you–or better, perhaps, who isn’t sitting next to you. Alcohol may (but increasingly not) play a role in loosening inhibitions. And a good meal, of course, is its own reward.

    ‘Working breakfasts’ though… those are not fun. Many find them off-putting in and of themselves. I think they’re largely time-wasters as those attending are spending a lot of time thinking about what they’ve got to do for the rest of the day. And people who are at their best in the morning? I don’t trust ’em.

  3. john personna says:

    I liked exploring all the strip-mall ethnic joints in town with adventurous co-workers. At one place we even had that name, the Adventurous Lunch Group.

    Fun, and I really needed the break, and would have climbed walls to stay inside all day.

  4. JKB says:

    The expense account, for which the business lunch is the centerpiece, permits the corporate man/woman to live a life far above their means, were they to try to on their salary. And all as a tax deduction rather than the remains of the much larger taxable income that would be required to achieve the same. Retirement can often lead to a very dramatic step down in lifestyle due to the removal of the expense account. Of course, if you are the one being courted, the benefits are even greater.

    So I would not hold my breath waiting for the business lunch to slip into history.

  5. john personna says:

    (John Burgess needs a breakfast burrito from a surfer joint. But certainly not often.)

  6. Franklin says:

    JJ’s last paragraph sums up my feelings exactly. I do usually grab something from a sandwich shop and bring it back, just to get out walking for a few minutes in the sunlight (out of the dark confines of a programmer’s cubicle). But a sit-down lunch every day, that would be a monumental waste of time for me.

  7. john personna says:

    Programming Franklin? That definitely requires Pho once a week.

  8. John Burgess says:

    John Burgess enjoys breakfast burritos, no matter where he finds them. He strongly dislikes sharing the time taken to eat them with people he is either trying to influence or be influenced by. Whatever the business, It can usually wait until after eyes are open and the first quart of coffee has been consumed!

  9. john personna says:


    I used to eat the breakfast burritos every day, but doc says that impacted lipids. So I only occasionally indulge. I happened to stop at an Angelos in Oceanside, looking for a breakfast burrito … only to notice “World Famous Breakfast Burrito” on their sign. It was scary large, for anyone who hadn’t just spent 4 hours in a cold ocean. Scarier still, I finished it.

    There were some folks in ties in there, discussing business, but obviously that was more chummy business than expense account. (lol, $5 burrito)