by Betsy Calvillo, Auditor
Weinstein Spira focuses on making relationships count. What better way to establish, build or maintain a relationship than sharing a meal. As business professionals, we need to take into consideration several factors that would constitute an ideal business lunch. Components to a successful business lunch include atmosphere, service and location.
The type of environment you will prefer depends on the type of meeting.
New Contact or Prospective Client
If you are lunching with a new contact or prospective client, you may want to choose a more formal restaurant. Formal restaurants have a reputation of quality service and menu items. You may want to make a reservation ahead of time by calling or booking on Open Table. Be sure to call the host or hostess the morning of the meeting to ensure your table will be ready on time.
Choose a restaurant that you have been to before and know that you can ask for an attentive waiter. It is a good practice to frequent a restaurant to establish a good relationship with the wait staff. The dining experience is often negatively affected when you have a careless server. If you are taking care of the bill, a good way to avoid the awkwardness of who will pay the check is to give your card to the host/hostess or waiter before ‘being seated’ at the table. This also expedites departure at the conclusion of the meal.
If you are lunching with a colleague that you have taken out before, then you may venture to choose a restaurant that is a little more casual. The mood in a casual dining restaurant is simpler compared to a formal dining experience. Casual restaurants are often able to accommodate customers that did not make a reservation. The items on the menu rarely change, and they usually have affordable lunch options for customers that want a quick lunch. These restaurants cater to individuals who like to eat out on a daily basis.
A major concern of sharing a meal with a client is the quality of the food. Recently, there has been a lot of emphasis in gourmet menu items made with fresh, local ingredients. Houstonians have greatly benefitted from this concept since more restaurants have transitioned their menus accordingly.
Most employees are allotted an hour for lunch. Some business lunches could a last couple of hours. It is important to communicate the expectation of time with all attendees at the business meeting. If time is a concern, then it is a best practice to communicate it to the host/hostess beforehand. This will allow the waiter to allocate his time accordingly. Formal dining restaurants are able to accommodate longer meetings compared to casual dining restaurants.
If you are looking for a speedy lunch then I recommend a counter service restaurant. Although employees at these types of restaurants are very helpful, there is no designated waiter that will attend to you. The benefit of this type of lunch is that because you pay at the beginning of the meal, you will not have to wait for anyone to bring you the check at the end. For the extremely quick meeting, I would suggest a quick coffee/tea break to hash out a few details. I like to go over details of expectations for the day or week with an associate while waiting for a cup of coffee at a nearby coffee shop.
Another important aspect of a business meal is location. It is important to be familiar with the area and list several restaurants that will suit your needs. We service clients all over the Greater Houston area. As an auditor, we get the opportunity to become familiar with all of the dining options available to us while we are working in an area. I like to initially look for recommendations online. If there is a restaurant that catches my eye, I will ask my close network if they have had any experience with my suggestions. We do not mind going out into the neighborhood to research our options.
It is our responsibility as professionals to be able to maintain an open line of communication with our clients. I find that the best way to make a connection with an individual is to share a meal or a quick bite to eat. Successfully taking care of all the details of a meeting can help put others at ease and help facilitate the conversation and ultimately relationships.