Last time, in How to Wine and Dine (Part 1), we took a look at how to wine and dine in your social circle, but today I want to turn my attention to wining and dining in your professional spheres. Not surprisingly, the desired outcome -- to gain favor and influence -- is much the same as it was with your friends and family, but this time around the stakes are higher. One slip-up and you can kiss that job, promotion, or account goodbye! So, let’s take a look at a few tips for the best wine and dine strategies for your professional acquaintances.
For most people, wining and dining professionals has more to do with wooing and maintaining client relationships than anything else. When you are on the prowl for a new client it’s important to impress them. They need to at least think you are successful, but they also want to know that you’re not going to be wasting their money.
Cautious optimism should rule the day. A nice restaurant is in order, preferably one that can be comfortably called high-end while not breaking the bank, perhaps a very fine Chinese or Mexican joint, which has the added bonus of not exactly being the most wine-friendly cuisine, so you can opt for high-end beers instead. It’s a perfect plan that allows you to give the impression of being top-of-the-line while paying middle-of-the-road prices. Now that sounds enticing to me. What were you selling again?
For current clients you’ve got to protect the relationship you have already established while proving to them that you really are the hard-working guy they met at that really good Chinese place. Your meal has to be fast -- you have to get back to work after all -- and it should also be, shall we say, frugal. But you also want to continue to impress your clients with your savvy, so where to go and what to do?
Keep it simple, down home and wholesome, that’s what. This is the time for a great burger or gourmet sandwich. Make this a lunch meeting not dinner, and visit a really top-end restaurant that also does lunch but at more affordable prices. The gourmet burger, made with organic, free-range Piedmontese beef of course, shows that you value the finer things in life but manage to find affordable ways to enjoy them, with your client’s money! Since it’s lunch, the pressure is off to order much in the wine department, though you should always offer. If wine is on the cards, go for a great Zinfandel -- top-of-the-line wines that are always great values, and just reinforce your all-American values!
Co-workers you supervise
When taking out co-workers who you supervise, the situation is always very delicate. You need to let your hair down a bit -- assuming you still have any -- while making sure to not break the sanctity of the supervisor/supervisee bond.
The best way to do this is to start slow, and then leave! This is the time for sports bars and pu-pu platters. Order up a few and pay for the first round of drinks. Buy a bottle or two of wine as well. Enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail with your supervisees and watch the conversation heat up as the bottles get drained. When you’ve had enough to know you’ve been drinking, it’s time to hightail it outta there, before you get carried away. Order up another round of drinks, pay for it all, and leave as the hero to your staff. They’ll feel better being themselves without you around, and you’ll feel better having not gotten caught ogling that cute girl in the design team or oversharing about your own boss.
Your immediate supervisor
When wining and dining your immediate supervisor you have to be as cautious as when you’re wining and dining your supervisees, but you can’t be the first to flee. Now is the time to be a long-distance runner, not a sprinter.
You’ll want to find a dark, quiet place to meet. Not romantic, mind you -- unless you have an ulterior motive -- but more clubby and conducive to sharing. While one’s first reaction here might be to go for the Scotch, starting with a half-bottle of wine can let you see where the evening is headed. If your boss waves it off and opts for a full bottle, or worse, be prepared to listen, and listen, and listen. The silver lining here? Well, your boss will think you’re a good listener and if he does happen to overshare, you can his respect by keeping your lips zipped. Well, at least until a better use for his info comes along.
Your boss’s boss aka the Big Boss
Very few things are as intimidating as sitting down and socializing with the Big Boss. What to eat, what to drink? In the days of classic television – I’m thinking Bewitched here (check it out, it’s on Hulu) -- you entertained the Big Boss, in this case Mr. Tate, at home. Of course, dinner was always interrupted by Darrin’s witch of a mother-in-law -- no, she really was a witch, turning Mr. Tate into a newt or a brick or something. (See also wining and dining the in-laws)
Well, the tried and true wine and dine at home still holds for the Big Boss. You’re not going to impress him with your largesse when you’re out on the town and playing at D-list level, so save your money. Show off your stability and sensibility by inviting him to share your table and use your money for a fine bottle of mature Bordeaux instead. You’ll appeal to his sensibilities as well, not to mention his sense -- if he has any -- and he’ll leave feeling all warm and fuzzy, especially if you keep your hand off the Bordeaux. Remember, your reward (hopefully) comes later!
Your children’s friends’ parents
OK, so you’re going to think this is a little odd, sticking in for children’s friends’ parents here, but think about. Not only do you want to get leverage for play dates and babysitting by lubricating these folks, but you are also paving the way for your children’s future. These are business decisions and will help facilitate entry to exclusive schools and clubs, not to mention improve chances with potential mates and employment.
Life has become ruthless, so while we might look back nostalgically at Bewitched when wining and dining our Big Boss, today’s fellow parents require a more tactical approach. You want to expose these folks to something that will set you apart from all the other parents of their children. Something that will make you special and that can rub off on your children. You are after the most elusive of elusive wines: the one-off, and you’ll have to corner the market at that! On second thought, you might want to invest in really good Halloween candy, bribe the kids, and make an investment in the future instead of the status quo. Besides, a halfway decent bottle of Chardonnay is usually sufficient to buy yourself some play date or babysitting time. And if that doesn’t work, at least you’ll have the bottle to turn to!
To view the photos for this article, go to How to Wine and Dine (Part 2).
To view part 1 of How to Wine and Dine, on impressing family, friends and more-than-friends, go to How to Wine and Dine (Part 1).