The Business Breakfast

This post is definitely a joke, but it hit such a chord with my friends I thought I would open up the dialogue here – what to eat at the business breakfast?.

To be honest, I have never given this much thought. To my surprise a group of friends I was recently with had this conversation with had thought about it, and the opinions were all over the map. The conversation was sparked by Jon Steinberg who wondered aloud about the implications of food ordering at a breakfast meeting.

Folks have come back and brought up this discussion again letting me know what they had for breakfast at some meeting. The strong convictions of people actually thinking about this were very surprising. I order what I want because I am hungry, and feel it does not really reflect on me at all. But, since I have been posting about much more serious topics like how to setup a meeting and the go between I thought it was time for something a little bit lighter.

So what do you think?

French Toast

Hands down this breakfast got the most negative responses – for the record I think its a fine choice as it allows control over your meal and shows you can be healthy.

Results on French Toast:

“The worst possible breakfast to order at a business morning meeting. It shows a lack of serious approach and a immature attitude.”
“Too messy”
“It is desert for breakfast which is just unacceptable”

Eggs Toast and Sausage

This is the go to for many a diner meal – but not ok for a business breakfast.

“Its shows you are all over the place without much structure”
“It is a non-starter as its too messy”
“Middle of the road, average joe, 9-5 type of employee”

The main take away for me here was this one was not too bad, but didn’t really get anything across either.

The egg white omelette

eggwhite omlette

This one may take the cake for worst order at a business breakfast – key quotes below.

“No chance of getting a deal done, getting the job, or showing you are a good candidate”
“Prepare to be walked all over”
“Weakness shown all over the plate”

What about regular cereal?


Well it turns out this one got some pretty interesting opposition as well.

“What are you? 5 years old?”
“Very Zen – shows calmness”
“No way, cereal is not the way to go at any breakfast meeting ever”

So what is the consensus on the go-to item to get for the business breakfast? The item that is universally acceptable and promotes the best message? None other than oatmeal.



It turns out that oatmeal got the least opposition from the group – commentary below.

“Oatmeal with fruit says you are there to eat breakfast, healthy, but still ready to do business”
“Clean, concise, and concentrated”
“Best option across the board – its clean and simple to eat and projects the best picture”

So what did we leave out? Let me know in the comments.

I have provide some visuals to help represent the conclusions we came up with. Visuals provided by ShutterStock.

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  • runinit

    Eggs Benedict.

  • There is a long tradition of non verbal signals at business meetings. Cigar smoking, dress, etc. Your breakfast order is a subconscious signal.

  • Great timing on the post — I actually had breakfast with a colleague of yours this morning, and my oatmeal with fruit clearly beats out his eggs, bacon, and toast. I can expect a term sheet by the end of the week, correct? 😉

  • I would like to know if there are any women out there who have breakfast meetings. Seriously — I only hear about men doing the breakfast meet-ups. Why is this?

    Personally, I dislike eating meals when there is business involved. Meal time is too sacred — I like to keep my mind on one thing — the goodness that's on my plate. Trying to make deals over a burger is simply unappetizing to me.

    That said, if I were to have a breakfast meeting I would order yogurt, fruit and granola. Mostly because it is fresh, clean and seems easy to eat while having a conversation.

  • I'm really glad you posted this. That convo was incredible. As Jon says below, everything you do in those meetings mean something…your food choice is no different. Choose wisely and clearly don't get egg whites.

  • What about the coffee/tea accessories? Bagel, Croissant, Donut, Scone?

    Order a Donut and Eric will walk all over you.

  • What if you don't eat anything, and just have a cup of tea? I think that shows that you 100% mean business

  • I will inquire 🙂

  • You have a burger for breakfast? 🙂

    I think it is a strange combination of being overly analytical that make
    people think about this.

  • No meat on the bones thought – are you there to dig in, or just sit back and

  • I think we may have some evidence to the contrary on the egg whites – have
    to find some real life case studies!

  • I don't know about this route — I mean, you want to seem “hungry,” of course, but do you really want to seem *that* hungry? 🙂

  • Not eating means you are nervous…

  • Lee

    There's nothing like diving head first into a breakfast burrito w/Sofrito sauce on top (just kidding). I voted for cereal because: 1) oatmeal can smell too strong 2) there are plenty of mature cereals out there – it doesn't have to be fruit loops 3) it shows that you're interested in eating but your main priority is conversation. 4) cereal is scalable: you can always add bacon, a few eggs, toast, fruit or whatever if your companion goes for something more substantial.

  • Cereal is scalable! haha I love it

  • hostilewordrat

    Eat anything you want as long as you don't have to touch it with your hands – also, avoid pork products unless you are 100% certain you're not dining with someone of a religious faith that does not do so, or someone who simply does not eat meat.

  • What about Croissants: more sophisticated than toast and too can scale. (Ham & cheese, Jam, apple butter,etc)

  • Great point and a serious staple left off the list.

  • Too messy? Its a good option though

  • A bagel and coffee

  • ppearlman

    i believe it was william blake who once said “egg white omelette's are the devil's breakfast.”

  • I eat Top Ramen at every business meal…shows I'm focused on spending my money the right way…even if they don't serve it I bring my own and eat it dry.

    Ramen profitable, startup life.


  • Don't add water – show true dedication.

  • I'm pretty sure you just wrote this post for SEO value. “What to eat at the business breakfast?” is the second most googled question next to “What to wear to a job interview?”.

    I thought I already settled this issue. The answer is French toast.

  • If this is a big searched item then I don't want to be the result –
    hopefully the conversations are a bit more serious, but you gotta love the
    passion behind some of these answers.

    PS – french toast is desert for breakfast, and a non starter!

  • Exactly.

  • I'm ready to start building an app with the relationships between the FOOD and the OUTCOME. Then, we'll take it one step further and take the check-in data form 4SQ/Gowalla/etc and make the assessment on the PLACE of choice. So, how does it impact you if you pick Grey Dog VS Pita Pit.

  • I love it – I wonder if anyone would use it 🙂

  • Let's do it. A helpful creative commons/community/data driven app for food-based business meeting.

  • Ron

    I think the key to any business meal is that its tidy and doesn't result in it ending up all over your face and down your front.

    So I could disagree with oatmeal because it can easily end up down your shirt for the entire meeting, instead of neatly rolling to the floor.

    Also sometimes I purposely chime in on a point with my mouth full. Then I apologize for it. It makes you seem comfortable and very enthusiastic, yet polite and respectful. Like you were taught better than to speak with your mouth full, but violated it just to make an important point. This technique would not work well with oatmeal.

  • This is the type of answer that made me post this in the first place –
    people have clearly thought this through!

    Ron – I would say that the person you are with should have the respect to
    let you know you spilled something, at least in my opinion 🙂 Hopefully
    they are nice enough to do that.

  • Ron

    So is proper etiquette to always tell the other person if they have schmutz on their face?

    There is risk involved depending on the symmetry of the relationship – if you're interviewing them they may not tell you out of fear of losing the offer. If they're the head honcho they might decline in order to not look like an overbearing jerk…

  • I think the move regardless of status, deal potential, or social setting is
    to let someone know they have schmutz on their face.

  • Tiltmom

    How can this not be restaurant-dependent?

    If you order the same thing at Barney Greengrass that you would at The Pink Tea Cup, you're not paying much attention to your environment.

  • Now you are introducing the variable of location along with what to order –
    another factor for Dan's applications

  • Tiltmom

    Not only am I a woman who frequently has breakfast meetings, sliders are a breakfast staple for many at my preferred venue.

  • I'm ordering off the menu. Something like a pasta dish.

  • I feel this blog post should be replicated for lunch, dinner, and drinks. Questions that come to mind.

    1) Would you look cheap if you ordered the lunch special?
    2) Do you order beer, wine, or cocktails for drinks? What does that say about you?
    3) Do you order the special for dinner, or does that mean you're difficult?
    4) Is it proper to play credit card roulette at dinner? (haha, this is obviously a joke question.)


  • 5) Do you finish your meal or do you leave something on your plate?

  • The pastry option should have been considered further for sure.

  • Those look pretty good!

  • I like “Expect problems, and eat them for breakfast”

  • Spencer is going rogue.

  • More polls! But seriously, people clearly think about all these things it just doesn't get discussed as hopefully we all much more important things to do – like actually have the meeting over a meal.

    your list also treads into the dating category which I will leave for another blog and comment thread.

  • hehehe 🙂

  • I wonder how different the answers would be for people in the UK or Europe..

  • Great question – ill see if I can reach some friends over there.

  • the click stats (when you mouse over) make for interesting reading against comments. 2 other people before me were nosy about what Whitney's possible startup could be. <grin>

  • Tiltmom

    Michael, credit card roulette is always appropriate.

  • I have never seen this done – only the occasional joke that “we should try that someday”

  • You obviously have not had dinner with poker players : )

  • Nice thoughts… 🙂

  • Of course before you work on your business it is important to eat your breakfast first so that you have more energy to do your work well and ready to face the drills.

  • Marketing is really new venture and where any man integrate their knowledge and many people can give some idea when needed.

  • ales1212

    Hi Eric! I enjoyed reading your post, it made me smile and I can't help but find it charmingly shallow. What you order at a business breakfast has no importance whatsoever, as long as you are good and you mean business, the rest is just superstition. I worked as a waiter in several restaurants in Washington DC, and I noticed how nervous people get during business meals, and trust me, ordering the right kind of food won't save you if you're not in control of the situation, the same way that ordering the completely WRONG food might make you pass for an original, creative, trust-worthy individual IF YOU ARE one.

  • I totally agree. I tried to caveat the beginning with the “this is a joke”
    although it did not help the hate mail from flowing 🙂

    To be honest, this post generated more discussion on my blog than many
    others and got many people talking to me about it in real life. It may come
    across as important, but it totally does not matter but it seemed to
    resonate with my friends and those taking these meetings.

  • They should be very delicious and nutritious.

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  • one of the nextviewventures guys just wrote a similar post:

  • I have read a few good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting