Whether you are meeting someone new or touching base with an old contact, you need an engaging point of discussion to get the conversation going. A typical "Hi, how have you been?" won't get you far. You need to find a topic of mutual interest, establish common ground, and bond over it.
According to Susan Benjamin's book "Perfect Phrases for Professional Networking", there are plenty of topics that can spark such a conversation. Pets, kids, sports, movies, and food - which is what we are going to talk about today.
Food is an incredible relationship-building catalyst. It's a universally valued topic, a prevalent icebreaker and it can help you produce wonderful dialogues. Whether you are discussing recipes, flavors, or even how an entire culture is infused into a single dish, there's profoundness in the conversation.
Connecting over food is neither new nor a trend. It's a practice that has been embedded in our society since ancient times. If you get the chance, watch Matthew Salleh's "Barbecue". It documents how cooking on the fire has upheld and strengthened social and family ties across different cultures, through the centuries. As he describes it: "Every fire tells a story".
Such paradigms spin-off to other constructs of our society too, including the corporate world. For example, Google provides its employees with free food for the simplest yet most effective reason. By staying on campus, and sitting together for breakfast or lunch, not only do Googlers get to know each other better, but they also start to exchange ideas. Giving way to some powerful, innovative thinking.
Connecting over food is indeed a powerful way to shape relationships. As in any case of networking, be sure to listen to your interlocutor. Discover their dietary preferences and their favorite flavors. Food is important to each one of us. Keeping notes on the food preferences of your contacts can come in handy, for meetings over lunch, hosting networking dinners, or sending edible gifts on special occasions and holidays.