First off, because you’re reading this, I can assume one of two things: either you’re successful or you’re becoming successful. Why do I say that? Because mixing dinner and business is a pretty great sign you’re somebody. People who take clients out to dinner are people who probably believe the line between business and pleasure should be permeable – and that’s the best way to live. But moving on… here’s how to have a successful dinner with a new client.

Find out Their Favorite Restaurant

Discover their favorite restaurant. If you’ve known them for some time, you probably know. But if you don’t know, ask their assistant. Be sure to discover their favorite restaurant – not just one of their favorites. This will make a difference. If putting the client in a happy place makes them happy – then it’ll make your job of putting together a business deal that much easier.

If the client is new to the area or has never been in town before, find out their favorite type of food: Italian, Mediterranean, etc. Bonus points if you can find out their favorite dish. You can be sure to let him/her know upon arrival that the duck confit is superb.

Plan Arrangements Appropriately

Make the entire dinner as easy as possible on the client. Understand how he will get to the meeting. Mention parking if appropriate. For extra points, offer to pick them up or have someone else pick them up and bring them to dinner. Remember, the dinner should be about taking care of business. You don’t want to burden them with horrible parking, a difficult to understand Uber driver or anything of the like. Your job is to make life as easy as possible for the person.

Another top tip is, if the guest is a male, that you don’t require their back to face the door. This, for an unexplained reason, makes many males uncomfortable. Be courteous and put your own back to the door if necessary. But ideally, have no one put their back to the door. Ask for the proper table, if need be. Many people are too shy to request a table but in a restaurant, everything is up for negotiation. Except the price, of course.

Hold the green onion, please.

Be Friends First

Don’t talk business right away. That’s considered rude in nearly every culture. Instead, find out about the person. Even if you know them well, ask for updates. For an inside track, find out what has been happening recently in their world. If they are from far away, mention local news events. If appropriate, mention something you’ve seen them write about on Twitter. How long you wait to talk business depends but waiting until after you place your orders is a good rule of thumb.

Always Pay the Bill

“Don’t get cheap on me, Dodgson.”

Jurrasic Park, 1994

You don’t want to cheap out on the deal. After all, if you’re taking a client to dinner, thousands of dollars are at stake. An extra $150 is nothing. Plus, it’s just the pleasant thing to do. In general, the person who invites the other is the person who pays. Makes sense, right? Follow that bit of social etiquette.


William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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