A good client dinner should make all parties (you and your team, and your client and client’s team) feel relaxed and comfortable. When everyone is at ease, business discussions feel more natural, last longer, and result in more deals. To ensure that everyone has an enjoyable time, here are six criteria to consider when selecting a restaurant for your next business or client dinner.
Criteria #1: Make sure the restaurant can reserve a table for you. It would be a disaster to show up at a restaurant and be forced to awkwardly wait at a crowded bar for 30 minutes, or worse, have to find a new restaurant after everyone has arrived or is en route.
Criteria #2: Look for restaurants that have semi-private or private rooms if you’re hosting a larger group. If the restaurant has an open plan, ask to reserve a specific table in a somewhat quieter area of the restaurant so you don't have to shout at your client in order to be heard.
Criteria #3: Make sure the restaurant has reasonable parking. You don’t want your team and your clients to have to park several blocks away during rush hour, nor do you want to be surprised by a $30 valet surcharge. It’s always a good idea to send out preemptive parking instructions the day before the scheduled dinner.
Criteria #4: Choose a restaurant with a menu that is varied and not too concentrated in one food genre to safely satisfy most taste preferences and allergies/intolerances. Even if it’s a small group and you know that your client loves sushi, it’s best to avoid such specific restaurants, because someone might not be in the mood for sushi that day. Look for places that have a variety of dishes.
Criteria #5: Opt for restaurants that have a more traditional course structure so that each guest can orders his or her own first course, main course, and dessert. At a business dinner, sharing small plates of appetizers is OK, but appetizers should not include salad (salad is a separate course and everyone should order her or his own salad). Sharing anything beyond appetizers is too personal for a business dinner.
Criteria #6: Choose a restaurant that consistently has good food and good service (yeah, we know it’s obvious). Make sure you get a reference or read reviews if you’re trying a new place.
It’s good to have a few “go-to” restaurants that meet all six criteria. Added bonus: You’ll become a regular and the staff will get to know you and give you special treatment.