There is a value in developing a good relationship with an appropriate restaurant for business meals. Short of the expense and exclusivity of the Harvard Club, Yale Club, NY Athletic Club, regional country clubs, et. al., it is often simpler and more convenient to meet with clients at a dependably discreet public eatery.
First of all, look at the pure science of a meal with someone. According to Carol Kinsey Goman, a top authority on body language and the author of The Silent Language of leaders and other business best sellers, when you share a meal with someone, your consumption of glucose level rises, enhancing complex brain activities and regulating prejudice and aggressive behaviors. Additionally, when individuals dine together they enact the same movements. This unconscious mimicking can induce positive feelings towards both the other party and the matter under discussion. (For more on this check out Goman’s Forbes blog of 3/14/13.)
But beyond the simple fact of the copacetic trop offered by having a collegial meal, there are some specific qualities that make for a business ambience conducive to an effective business meal.
- Pick a reasonably quiet restaurant. Restaurants increasingly seem to equate noise level with gastronomic efficacy. Avoid these restaurants. You do not want to strain to hear.
- Pick a restaurant with good service, the kind of place where waiters have the sense to be appropriately attentive, but not indiscreetly interruptive.
- Pick a restaurant that is centrally located and probably reasonably convenient for anyone you might want to meet with.
- Get to know waiters and the maitre’ d, treat them with respect, and tip them well.
- If you want to be efficient and graceful, arrange the bill on your card in advance. (But be careful. I once did this with an out of town client and the first thing he did was order a $900 bottle of Romanee Vivant burgundy. Gulp.)
For example, my business restaurant in New York is usually The Benjamin Steakhouse. It is located one block from Grand Central Station in the center of NYC. It is filled with people doing business. There is a sense of privacy about conversations, both from your fellow diners and the wait staff. It’s fairly priced for high quality food. They are comfortable with you just ordering tea or a $200 meal. Since I go there a lot, they allow me to sit and write or make calls alone after a business lunch. Perfect for me.
The conviviality of a shared meal is not a bad way to initiate a business relationship or any relationship for that matter. Hell, the central sacrament of Christianity is based on a Passover meal and dialogue Jesus had with his disciples.
Philosopher George Santayana said, “There is nothing to which men, while they have food and drink, cannot reconcile themselves.” Thanks, George.