Lunch prices are 20 to 30 percent less than dinner prices in most places, according to Tim Zagat, founder and publisher of Zagat Survey. While diners are less likely to order cocktails when dining with their families, they are even less likely to order them at lunch.
Find out what your business client likes to eat and pick a place that appeals to them.
"Let them know you care about their happiness," said Zagat.
Many firms and companies have discounts for the places they frequently go. If your business doesn’t have such an arrangement, it is worthwhile to establish a discount at a few restaurants. The places that know you the best will treat you the best, according to Zagat.
Zagat has noticed a trend in restaurants not only offering hugely discounted lunches but also offering delivery straight to your desk; saving not only money but also time.
Try to plan your dining out based on the calendar. Avoid Thursdays through Sundays, when dish prices tend to be higher. Zagat recommends booking a table for the beginning of the week.
Navigating a menu is one thing; avoiding the hidden costs is another. Asking for extra items like mushrooms or cheese and adding items like side dishes can cause the bill to add up.
"Be careful of all the extras. They add up," said Zagat.
Seek out guidebooks, websites, and others for recommendations on where to eat and find the best deals. The best values for business travelers tend to be in smaller cities like Houston and New Orleans rather than New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles; however, the price of flying to these locations may be more than the business meal bill.
The restaurant should fit the tone of the meeting, which means the venues should be more formal and private.
"You don’t want someone overhearing your conversation," said Zagat. "You don’t want someone to close the deal before you do."
Alcoholic beverages can add up to $15 per glass to the bill. For those dining for business instead of pleasure, the deal and potential money to be made should be the focus, not the check total, as the meal may in some cases be written off for tax purposes and the advantages of scoring the deal may financially outweigh the pricey tab. See what your boss or client orders and follow suit.
The tip should be based on the net pretax price, according to Zagat, who suggests tipping 15 to 16 percent, which could save diners 10 percent.