The Perfect Place
Early in my career, I received some advice. “Don’t ever take a client to a place that serves anything besides American, French and Italian food unless you specifically know they like other things.”
The words, derived from more than two decades in the field, were wise. No one is going to be chastised for setting up a lunch where soup, salad and pasta are all possibilities. It also made things simple –I used to work at a firm where the company handbook had a list of exactly six suggested lunch destinations. It was easy to pick one of these destinations, make a reservation and then head back to other work.
Placing too many boxes on the experience means that public relations professionals miss out on a chance to impress clients. When it comes to client-media interviews, the public relations person is there to handle the details. Our clients are the horse, the journalists water. We need to ensure the trail is as easy-to-follow as possible.
No one will remember dining at Café Centro or Michael Jordan’s for the ninth time. And no one will talk about steak frites during an awkward gap in the conversation. Picking an interesting atmosphere or food may help.
When the TV producer has to pick which of the eight fixed income analysts they’ve met in the last three months to fill a last-minute opening, how will they decide? I’ve had more than one serious relationship develop from an interesting first encounter.
The changing dining scene has helped, pushing more cuisines and approaches into more corners of the city, while getting rid of musty standbys. There are multiple outposts for elegant and interesting cuisines like Danish and Russian on the Island. Lunch can also be a great time to snag a table at a place where dinner reservations might be impossible to come by. (Go to any momofuku restaurant at lunch to see what I mean).
Geography is a constraint. I know plenty of interesting and reasonably-priced in Jackson Heights and Bensonhurst, but I’ve yet to have a client or a reporter that has either the business or the will to meet there. Financial business and journalists are increasingly focused in Midtown, one of the worst dining areas in the whole city. Eliminate the tourist traps and steam table restaurants (both are obvious no-nos), and it’s easy to fall back in the same-old personality-free dining rooms of years past.
The best dining experience sticks to a few guidelines and then finds someplace that will surprise and delight inside of this. Here are a few tips for great experience:
Go east or west
People are busy. You can’t expect them to walk more than five minutes for lunch. But there are hidden jewels on New York’s side streets, even in some of the most crowded spots of the city.
A reporter will need to take notes and your client will want to keep their shirt clean, so stick to places where forks or chopsticks are being used. Ethiopian, which is shreds of injira, isn’t right for lunch. (This is OK as New York’s Ethiopian scene is rather dismal).
Scour the openings
New Yorkers love to brag about doing something first. When looking for ideas, check out places like Grub Street’s Power Rankings or the Eater 38 for what’s interesting now. Cross-check with Yelp to make sure early diners say the food lives up to the hype.
Know the price tag
How much is too much to spend on lunch? It might be silly to give a hard and fast rule, but here’s some guidance: Don’t go to a place where the average entrée is above $30. This is lunch, and anything above that could make the reporter (who will try to pay the bill) or the client (uncomfortable).
Have an app in the back of your head
Business meals tend to get most of the business done before the actual meal arrives which can be hard on a hungry client. Look at the menu in advance and consider suggesting a couple appetizers to get the conversation flowing.
While I won’t give away all my secrets, here are five interesting meals for 2016:
- Barn Joo