Picture this: you’ve decided to take a potential client to the hottest restaurant in town. You’re lucky enough to secure a reservation for 4 persons. You’re all set or, are you?
Upon entering your restaurant you find that your table is not quite ready and are told, “Why don’t you have a drink at the bar?” When you get to the bar there aren’t 4 seats together…you’re beginning to lose your grip. Once you are finally seated at your noisy table there is an onslaught of captains who repeat the evening’s specialties at warp speed and sommeliers with lists that take time to study. Your starving guests 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, usually over-booked, overwhelmed and determined 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:
- When you make your reservation, ask to speak directly with the manager or wine director/sommelier.
- 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 an individual 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.
- Give them your budget. Without this they cannot begin to suggest what they can offer you.
- Always start with Champagne. American’s only drink Champagne on special occasions like New Years Eve. If you start your event with bubbles they will instantly feel very special.
- Tell the manager you would like two wines paired with the first course. (This is both original and entertaining.)
- Have the wines served before the food. This allows your guests to focus on the wines you are presenting to them. Now you have something to work with as soon as you are seated.
New World vs. Old World (California Chardonnay vs. French white Burgundy…discuss the food-friendliness between the two)
Horizontal tasting i.e. sample several wines from the same vintage made by different wineries (compare 2 wineries/same grape variety…Napa/Sonoma Chardonnay vs. Santa Barbara Chardonnay…discuss stylistic differences)
Vertical tasting i.e. show how a wines flavor evolves as it ages. (compare 2 vintages/same winery…2002 cabernet vs. 2004)…demonstrate the importance of vintages.)
- Ask the restaurant about their signature menu items. Ask them what wines on their list are showing best with these foods.
- Be creative. Allow your guests to make discoveries by tasting new foods and wines they’ve never tried before. Steak and lobster is what everybody else does.
- Have the restaurant fax you their suggested food and wine pairings, along with their wine list. Look them over and make your decision.
- Ask them if they have a small private dining room. Get it. (private dining rooms are powerful)
Now you have Champagne waiting at your table. You have chosen the first course with two comparative wines that stimulate conversation. 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 events.
Other things to consider:
- Ask the restaurant if they can provide crystal glassware. These can be rented at a nominal cost. Fine glassware provides powerful impact. Riedel is widely available.
- Make sure that your red wines are served at cellar temperature (62-65 degrees F.) This serves to amplify their fruit (sweetness) which will balance the wine’s acidity.
- Have them decant all red wines! This adds a touch of class and sets you apart from others who might entertain your clients.
- With larger parties, 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.
I cannot tell you how often I’ve witnessed business dinners miss their mark because of lack of proper pre-planning. If you would like to create an extraordinary experience at your next client dinner, Wolf Management Consultants, LLC presents Power Entertaining for Lawyers with Eddie Osterland, Master Sommelier.