You’re at a pivotal moment in a conversation with a client during lunch. Something is about to gel. To anyone watching, it’s obvious you’re fully engaged. You ask a key question, and just as your client is about to respond, the waiter loudly enters your space and barks out the day’s specials. The momentum and the moment are lost.
I had lunch yesterday with a business friend who’s also from New York. New Yorkers, fast-paced conversationalists, especially when they’re with kindred spirits, will often finish each other’s sentences. It’s like a good tennis or—better yet—ping-pong match. At least that’s what it might look like to a waiter. And there, to the knowing, considerate waitperson, lies the challenge. When do I tell them about the specials? At what moment can I ask for their orders? Then there’s the wait staff who never dream of asking these questions.
My friend and I discussed this very topic. She reminded me of the almost clairvoyant skills of the wait staff at New York’s Four Seasons restaurant. How they just instinctively know when to approach the table. Sometimes it’s triggered by eye contact or a subtle nod. Other times it’s just professional observation. It’s never intrusive, but a gentle transition that’s part of a seamless process. The approach and dialogue constitute a welcome segue that gently keeps the meal moving forward. Zagat gives Four Seasons an exceptional service rating, and if you’ve dined there you know why.
Taking a client to lunch ought to be a smooth, productive and pleasurable experience, doing some business and strengthening a relationship. Providing good service at that lunch is an acquired skill. When it’s done right, you hardly notice its existence. When it’s not, it’s an annoying void or a jarring, unwelcome interruption.
As the number of businesses in our market continues to grow there will be an increasing demand for ideal restaurants where we can take clients. And as the restaurant options continue to increase, I hope the attention to service is given an equal priority to that of the food and decor. Good restaurant service is always important, and at a business lunch it’s perhaps even more important than the food.
By the way, our waiter at Zoria was masterful—appropriately there and not there. I’ll be sure to ask for his table on my next visit.