Many people will at one time or another, when interviewing for a job, be invited to a mealtime interview. Perhaps it will be a combination lunch and interview or any meeting which combines food, drink and being evaluated for a job. Most often it is a time-saving plan, arranged by a busy hiring manager. I know -- it is meant to be a more relaxed and casual meeting. But in my long experience, my advice to any interviewee is that I suggest you avoid it if you have any choice in the matter. Under the circumstances, there is nothing relaxed or casual about it.
First of all, neither side is focused on the purpose of the meeting, which is your potential suitability for a job. I find the whole concept of an interview over lunch or a dinner to be a waste of valuable time – I always recommend against it for both client companies and job seekers. Imagine there is the din and noise of the environment, countless distractions such as wait staff, passers-by, juggling a meaningful conversation while simultaneously avoiding food, drink, crumbs, sauces and dressings on your chin, tie, jacket or blouse. Not to mention the fact that a public venue always poses a risk of being seen by a friend, co-worker or possibly even a supervisor; this potential by itself can be a distraction.
To applicants and candidates: If you must attend an interview under such circumstances, remember why you are there. You are not there to eat but rather to interview and demonstrate why they should hire you. Order light and order whatever has the least potential for making a mess. An accidental spill can turn the event into a complete waste of time.
To managers: I suggest that if you are taking the interview and selection of potential employees seriously, then make the time to meet them in an environment in which both sides can focus on the purpose of the meeting. A mealtime interview may save you time, but you are cheating the other person out of a real opportunity to focus on the task at hand; neither of you are focused.