At business lunch, who picks up the tab these days?

Written by admin on February 16, 2009 – 9:02 pm -

The International Herald Tribune ran an article this past weekend about a new dance that’s taking place. At the power lunch, the check is kryptonite. Clearly not everyone is frequenting the Beverly Hill Hotel. But entertaining budgets have come under scrutiny during these difficult economic times.

There are occasions when you have to spend big bucks to close a deal. But it’s time to be creative and make subtle cutbacks. Be sure you factor in cultural mores when conducting business in other countries.

Most people believe the person who does the inviting should pick up the tab. But they’re are looking for less expensive options. Some suggest patronizing a favorite restaurant and asking the owner or the manager for a discount since times are tough. The hope is that some members of the group will return once they’ve eaten there so it may serve as public relations for future business.

A business owner with whom I spoke said he doesn’t want to give the impression that money is no object when businesses are so bottom-line conscious.

Others suggested a pre-fixed lunch menu with limited choices. When it’s a large group, would the restaurant be willing to comp one or two of the group? Or throw in free desserts and coffee?

Another thought – there’s no mandate business has to be done over lunch. How about breakfast or mid-morning coffee? Another option is having a catered lunch sent into the office and eating (and discussing business) in the conference room.

Some say they’re inviting business guests to lunch in a pub. One caveat: Be sure your table is situated in an area where you can hear people speak and diners don’t leave with headaches.

If you’re entertaining an out-of-town colleague or a potential client, inviting them to dinner at your home may be one way to make a friend forever. Before doing so, be sure it’s an inviting and conducive environment. If there are children running around the dinner table, your good intentions may end up going down the tubes…and fast.

What advice can you offer as to how to entertain without declaring bankruptcy?  This is war.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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