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Is the Business Lunch Dead? Nine Tips to Entertain Without Blowing Your Budget

Is the Business Lunch Dead? Nine Tips to Entertain Without Blowing Your Budget

By Solovic
Published: September 29, 2010

Entertaining clients and customers at lunch or dinner is an excellent way to build relationships and create business opportunities. Small businesses, however, are looking for ways to cut expenses in these tough economic times and for many that means wining and dining clients simply isn't in the budget.

So is the business lunch dead? Not if you think creatively. You can entertain clients professionally and affordably. Consider these tips.

  • Meal choice. Breakfast is less expensive than lunch or dinner. So invite your customer or client to join you for breakfast. In addition, you may find a lot of people are more available to meet for breakfast because it is hard to take time out of their hectic day for lunch or away from their families in the evening.

  • Coffee, tea or happy hour. The popularity of meeting for coffee or tea during the day is becoming more popular. Not only does it save money, but it also requires less of a time commitment. Happy hour is another option. Many restaurants provide hors ;oeuvres and special drink prices. Make sure, however, you set a time limit for the get together.

  • Avoid hot spots. I-s fun to go to the cool, hot spots. However, not only are these venues usually expensive and hard to get into, but they are typically noisy which makes a productive conversation difficult. Remember this is about business, not impressing a date. Also, if you have a favorite neighborhood restaurant that serves wonderful food, that would be an excellent choice. Most people enjoy being introduced to these little known, out-of-the-way places.

  • Negotiate. Everyone needs business these days. So if you like a particular restaurant, negotiate with the owner or manager for discounted pricing in return for your regular business.

  • Stay in control. Either select the restaurant location or offer your customer/client a few choices which you have checked out in advance. Make sure they have a menu with items priced inline with your budget. Also, check out parking and availability to public transportation. A location that is convenient for your customer is advisable.

  • Home entertainment. Entertaining in your home can be a nice way to really get to know a customer or client better. It does-t have to be fancy. In fact, you could pick up prepared foods from a local gourmet deli. This allows you to truly manage the cost.

  • Watch for promotions. Sign up for restaurant emails and watch for special dining promotions. Join their loyalty program for special offers. And do't forget about special community-wide promotions such as restaurant week in New York City.

  • Coupons. Yes, you can use a coupon to take a business client to lunch or dinner. I asked my social media followers if they would use a coupon and honestly, I got mixed reviews. If you are afraid yo'll look like a cheapskate, arrive early and give the coupon and your credit card to the waiter. Your client will never know.

  • Enjoy the outdoors. Do't be shy about suggesting something unique such as a picnic or lunch at the zoo. Your client may appreciate your creativity and enjoy the break from the norm.

About the Author:

Susan Solovic
Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and a small business contributor to ABC News and other media outlets, public speaker and attorney. In addition to sitting on several executive boards of small business organizations, Solovic is the CEO and co-founder of ItsYourBiz.com – a company she led from a concept to a multi-million dollar enterprise.(formerly SBTV.com) She is also a featured blogger on numerous sites including Huffington Post, AllBusiness.com, Constant Contact, WSJ.com and Fast Company. Her forthcoming book, It’s Your Biz: The Complete Guide to Becoming Your Own Boss, is scheduled for release in October 2011.