Don't Let the Restaurant Happen to You!

I can not tell you how often I've witnessed business dinners miss their mark because of the lack of proper pre-planning.

Picture this—you're in charge of entertaining a dozen clients at a National Convention. You were lucky enough to secure a reservation at a great restaurant—you're all set! ...or, are you?

Upon entering your restaurant you find that your table is not quite ready and are told to go have a drink at the bar. Your guests disperse until beckoned and you concern yourself with the restaurant rather than them.

Once you are finally seated there is an onslaught of Captains, who repeat the evening's specialties at warp speed, sommeliers with wine lists that take time to study not to mention your guests who are now shouting out their items that you'll need to pair with the appropriate wines.

Are you feeling comfortable?

The "fine dining" restaurant business is frenzied, especially at convention time. They are usually over-booked, overwhelmed and hoping to survive the evening with minimal complaints.

In order to have the very best experience at strengthening client relationships within the restaurant environment you need to do a little pre-planning.

Here are my suggestions:

1. When you make your reservation, ask to speak directly with the manager or wine director/sommelier.

2. Tell them you want to spend time with your clients and wish to pre-arrange as much as possible to achieve that goal. Decide right then if you have found the right person who's willing to work with your intentions. Your successful experience depends upon your relationship with that person. If you can't find the right person—change restaurants.

3. Give them your budget.

4. Always start with champagne for the ultimate acknowledgement.

5. Tell the manager you wish two wines paired with the 1st course. (This is both original, as well as entertaining.)


New World vs. Old World (California Chardonnay vs. French white Burgundy—discuss food-friendliness between the two)

Horizontal tasting (compare 2 wineries/same grape variety—Napa/Sonoma Chardonnay vs. Santa Barbara Chardonnay—discuss stylistic differences)

Vertical tasting (compare 2 vintages/same winery—1998 cabernet vs. 1999)

6. Ask them about their signature menu items and go with them. Ask them what wines on their list are showing best with them.

7. Have them fax you their suggested food and wine pairings. Look them over and make your decision.

8. Ask them if they have a small private dining room—round tables are the best.

Now you have Champagne waiting at your table. You have chosen the 1st course with two comparative wines that will stimulate conversation. When your guests arrive, YOU are in control and can spend your time with them. This way you avoid the initial stress experienced by all the others who didn't pre-plan their event.

Other things to consider:

1. Ask them if they can provide crystal glassware. These can be rented at a nominal cost. Fine glassware provides powerful impact.

2. Have them decant all red wines! This adds a touch of class and sets YOU apart from others who might entertain your clients.

3. With parties of 10 or more, I like to serve Red wines from magnum (double size) bottles. Most restaurants don't carry Magnums but, by calling them in advance, they will have time to special order them for YOUR party.

Don't let the restaurant happen to you!

Plan Ahead, Impress Your Guests & Enjoy!

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