10 Tips for a Successful Business Dinner

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You know you’ve made it when you finally get to host a business dinner. You also know you really don’t want to blow it. Here are 10 simple tips for a successful business dinner that are sure to “wow” your client.

1. Define the mood.
Your choice of restaurant, and whom you invite, will definitely set the tone for the dinner. A pizza buffet with spouses says something totally different than a penthouse café with other sales personnel.

2. Go with what you know.
Now is not the time to try the new Indian restaurant across town. Take your client to a place where you know the menu, the quality of the food and the service. The less surprises the better.

3. It’s all about location, location, location.
No matter how great the neighborhood restaurant across town is, make your client feel comfortable by choosing a place that is easy to get to, in a popular shopping district or an area that’s somewhat well-known.

4. Skip the jazz.
Theme-style restaurants are great when you are with the kids or on a girls’ night out. But listening to “Happy Birthday” sung to the tune of “The Dukes of Hazzard” theme 20 times isn’t the best atmosphere for a business deal.

5. Pay attention to price.
Pick a midrange-priced restaurant. The cost of the meal can give clues to either how cheap or how extravagant you are. That is, it can say something about the price you are charging your client. Furthermore, you should also choose two items on the menu of different price points. Allow your guest to order first and then order your choice closest to the price of her dish. That way she won’t feel uncomfortable for ordering the lobster while you order a chef salad, or vice versa.

6. Know your guest.
Make sure that before you make reservations at your favorite sushi bar or steakhouse, your client likes, and isn’t allergic to, items on the menu. If you aren’t sure or didn’t ask beforehand, choose a neutral restaurant with several food style choices.

7. Keep an appointment.
Always make a reservation. Standing in line or hunching over a bar while waiting for a table only tells your guest you are not very organized or time-efficient, and that you may just keep her waiting in other areas, too.

8. Conquer the wine list. Restaurants aren’t in the business of testing you on your wine knowledge. They want to sell you a bottle of wine and make it fairly easy to do so. The wine list is usually categorized by type or region. Also, many menus will suggest wines to compliment a dish. If you are unsure about wine, choose the recommended selection.

9. Follow wine etiquette.
If the server puts the cork in front of you, simply pick it up and sniff it gingerly. Only if you detect vinegar or an off odor would you mention it. Otherwise just smile and nod your head in agreement. Make sure that you allow any red wines about 15 minutes of airtime before you drink them. This will help them mellow and taste better.

10. Be yourself!
Your client has chosen you to do business with because she feels comfortable with you and your style. So remember that above all else, you must be yourself.