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The Art of Business Lunching !

October 14, 2015

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Which wine will go well with a limited expense account?

Which wine will go well with a limited expense account?

Liquidity Lunch

Liquidity Lunch

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The best part of giving a ‘business lunch’ is that you get your prospective client out of his office, where he sits imperiously behind a huge desk, looking you through the top of his half-eye.. You move him into a neutral territory of a restaurant, where you are in command and where are no incoming calls, no files and no people pouring in and distracting all the time. Getting the appointment is also easier, because he has to have his lunch and when you invite him, it is difficult for him to refuse. In the bargain, you can get invariably more than one hour with him instead of the customary 15 to 20 minutes at the office.

Although you would want to invite your counterpart in that organisation, you should not exclude his boss, who has the final ‘OK’ and his immediate subordinate, who could very well fill in his slot in the future. But the invitation should be routed through your counterpart, lest he takes an offence to your crossing over his shoulder. Unless, off course, he says that you can directly invite the others. To find out the lunching preferences of the guests, it is best to talk directly to the secretary. Tell her that you are taking her boss out for lunch and would like to know his likes and dislikes. Chances are that she will be so flattered that you will gather more information than what you were looking for. As for the numbers, your group should not exceed the number of the guests lest it gives an impression of ‘ganging up’.

The restaurant that we are looking for is not a glitzy joint with plastic furniture and paper napkins, frequented by families or teenagers. Neither should it be French-style romantic cafe, with dim red lights, ideal for young couples. It a will-lit, sophisticated restaurant with good food and an impeccable service. A quiet place that is near your client’s office with neutral shade curtains, wooden furniture, leather upholstery chairs and a good reputations. You have cultivated this restaurant for all your ‘business work’; and its staff understands your every nod and signal. Because you have been consistently tipping them well, they look forward to giving you their best service.

Place the reservations with the person who actually runs the show – not the owner, not the receptionist. Along with the menu, he needs to know additional information such as the time of your arrival, the number of people and how long you would stay. Since you are familiar with the restaurant, ask the waiter for a specific table by number. The table should be close to a window with a pleasant view and ample light; it should be away from the kitchen, bathroom doors and service islands.

In addition, ask the waiter not to place your group near families with children. As for drinks, squashes are the best. No fancy colorful drinks in long unstable glasses. Coca-Cola type drinks are to be consumed from a glass and not from bottles or cans (without the help of straw). As for the food, it should sound powerful, look good and be easy to eat. Burgers sound too informal and one has to almost yawn to eat them. Noodles and macaroni keep slipping. Chicken requires intricate surgery. Chips and ice cream have a childish connotation. Biryanis, spicy curries and chapatis are filling but too absorbing and dampen your spirits into a lazy lethargy. So what we are left with are steaks, broiled vegetables, kebabs and fish. Power lunching requires a powerful menu. Nothing should be eaten with hands regardless of cultural inheritances. The bread is to be broken with hands and buttered on the plate and not in the air. Do not smoke when the food is on table. For all of the above guidelines, the guest exercises ‘veto power’.

Business lunch is not the place to exhort others on a calorie-count or your diet plans. Neither is it an occasion for feasting and going wild on an eating binge. Similarly, you do not discuss politics, sex, religion or your personal life. Talk about ordinary everyday mundane affairs. Weather and sports are two safe subjects. The primary aim is to get to know each other and to loosen up a bit before the actual serious business talks begin. After everyone has wined and dined and gotten to know each other, the table is cleared (on your signal). Coffee is brought in as you gently bring up the main topic of discussion. The waiter now knows that you wish to be left alone for the next 20 minutes.

At this stage, there is no need to put up a magic show by bringing out clipboards, thick charts, calculators and hefty manuals. At a lunch, it is sufficient to reach a broad agreement, leaving the detailed work for the office. Just a pencil and a small paper should suffice. And when your business discussion is over, you nod and the waiter comes to tell you that you have a phone call. You move to the desk and pay the bill discreetly. Do not forget to tip before you leave. A usual tip is 10 to 15 per cent of the bill; however, the barman gets around 20 per cent. For the coatman, the doorman and the car valet, an equivalent of a dollar should do. The tip is to be paid in notes and not in coins. And, finally, like any other venture in life, keep the golden rule of “flexibility and improvisation” as you go along.

 

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