Hosting a successful business meal starts with choosing the right restaurant that suits the people, the agenda, the menu, and the budget. Spend a few minutes considering your choices, and your meeting will be off to a great start.

Consider your business guests.  Are your dining companions adventuresome eaters?  Foodies?  An exciting and exotic menu might just be the thing to get the conversation started, and show you understand your guests. If you don’t know, better to err on the safe side. Choose a restaurant with a good variety of dishes, and maybe a few unique choices. You can check most menus beforehand online. 

Try to find out before making a reservation if there are any meaningful dietary preferences or requirements: vegetarian options? Gluten free choices? An organic, “farm to table” menu?  Atkins, Paleo, South Beach?  Again, a menu check or a conversation with restaurant management can help you choose.

Décor and atmosphere are also important. View the gallery images the restaurant’s website to get a feel for the ambiance and feel.  For men, a little monochromatic, better lit; for women, warmer colors, more subdued lighting.  If your in-town, stop by the restaurant and get the lay of the land.  Speak with the host or General Manager about a specific table, if necessary. 

Your guests can also be a source of good ideas.  Some may have favorite restaurants of their own. Taking them there may be an appreciated treat, and help them feel at ease.  It’s ok to ask guests beforehand to choose from two good options that you have found.  Letting your guests participate in the venue choice may draw them closer to the experience.

What’s your agenda?  Are your guests rushed for time?  Ideally the get together will leave time for easy conversation first and for business as well.  Restaurants that rush a meal along are fine for a short chat, but not necessarily ideal for an involved business discussion.  If your goal is to bond and draw out your guests, make sure your party won’t be hurried along.

Choose a restaurant where the pace is slower. 

Make sure the decibel level is conducive to conversation. That means no loud music, not a big, crowded noisy place, tables not set too closely together, especially if your conversation needs to be discreet.  You want to be with your guests, not with everybody!

Get a room. If your group is large, or if you want to offer a presentation, a private room might be the solution.  Surprisingly, even small restaurants may have a private room available, and still serve an off-the-menu meal.  Make sure to check the technology; do they have projector, and screen equipment?  TV monitors? Audio.  Can their staff set it up for you, or do you need to do it.  Can you bring your own equipment?

What’s your budget?  Unless you have serious cost-of-sale research, your budget will depend more on your agenda, how much of an impression you want to leave, how much you feel a client or associate needs to feel pampered.  Or plain and simple, how much you can afford. Just remember that being too lavish can be as off-putting as seeming too cheap.  Clients don’t want to know, for instance, that you too easily spend their money.

 The Devil is in the details.  Make sure you pick a restaurant that’s easy to locate and easy to get to.  Nobody wants to be late because of traffic or bad directions.   Make sure that parking won’t be an issue.  Especially for lunch, convenience is the key to having enough time for a successful meal meeting.

Always make reservations when you can. If a restaurant won’t take reservations, take them off the list, unless your intention is to be completely informal where waiting isn’t a problem.

Your bottom line will be best served by a little reconnaissance, a little homework, and a lot of care about your guests.  Bon Appetit!

Any other tips for picking the perfect restaurant for a business meeting?