The best place for a business lunch

Written by Cathy Gulli

It might seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but choosing the right restaurant for a business lunch is important. The wrong locale can mean an awkward, embarrassing and unproductive meeting. Imagine taking a vegan VP out for steak, or inviting a note-taking client to a loud, crowded joint. “You want to make sure that your guest is comfortable,” says Marvin Greenberg, a Toronto-based hospitality consultant with 25 years of experience.

Before making reservations, think about who you’re taking and what impression you want to make. “The tone you want to set determines the style of restaurant you choose,” says Doug Fisher, president of FHG International Inc., a Toronto-based food-service consulting firm. If the intent is just to get acquainted, then choose somewhere quick and casual; more serious business requires a quiet locale for lingering.

PROFIT asked Greenberg and Fisher what business owners should consider when selecting a restaurant for that future rendezvous. Here’s what our experts cooked up.

Menu Choose a restaurant that offers a diverse menu, including meat, fish, vegetarian options and healthy dishes. Or, ask guests for food preferences beforehand and reserve accordingly. Only choose restaurants you’ve personally frequented and enjoyed.

Service Restaurant staff should be obliging, not overbearing. To avoid mid-meal interruptions, consider ordering everything from appetizers to desserts at once. If you’re familiar with your guest’s preferences, you may want to find a restaurant where you can pre-order meals.

Location Choose an eatery that’s no more than a 15-minute drive from your guest’s office. If your guest is from out of town, then ensure that the restaurant is near landmarks, is easily accessible and has parking. Or, offer to drive together to socialize and maximize time.

Atmosphere A certain degree of privacy is essential for a business lunch. Look for well-spaced tables, good lighting and unobtrusive noise and music levels. Note restaurant protocols such as dress code and cellphone etiquette.

Price points Costs are predetermined by you. Generally, the more money spent, the longer the lunch, say our experts. Upscale spots aren’t compulsory for a productive business lunch.

Familiarity Choosing a restaurant where everybody knows your name is a good way to show guests your people skills and loyalty.

Special touches Ask for place cards featuring your guests’ names on the table. Request a table that seats twice the number of people that are actually in your party to guarantee ample elbow room.

Read other pointers on How To contribute to your business success!

© 2003 Cathy Gulli

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com