Why the Restaurant Selection Matters
If you have to take a business acquaintance out for lunch or dinner, it could be important to choose an appropriate restaurant. Even if the purpose of the outing is not strictly business, showing your guest a good time could pay dividends in the future. If people enjoy themselves in your company, they will remember you fondly in the future. If people remember you fondly, they will be more likely to think of you when they have something good to offer. Additionally, if you need a favor at some point down the line, someone who has a pleasant memory of you will probably be happy to help you out.
Be Aware of Dietary Restrictions
So how should you choose where to dine for a casual business meeting? There are, of course, several factors to consider. The first and most important thing is to know your guest. If possible, know your guest's dietary habits, preferences, and recent dining history. If you are taking a vegetarian out to lunch, choose something with a suitable range of options for that lifestyle. Ethnic restaurants like Mexican, Chinese, and Italian are often good choices for vegetarians.
Know Your Guest's Preferences
In addition to dietary restrictions, your guest may have some individual tastes that you should account for in choosing a restaurant. Some people do not like spicy food, others prefer to avoid fish at all costs, and so on. In most cases, such preferences can easily be accommodated. Of course, you might not know in advance what your business acquaintance likes or dislikes. In that situation, there are two equally good options. The first is to come up with two or three different ideas and ask your guest which one he or she likes best. The other is to choose a dining establishment with a large enough selection that individuals of any persuasion will be able to find something they'll like.
If you are eating out with someone who has been on the road for quite some time, or with someone who has dined with others in your company in the past week, it's a good idea to try to find out what they have eaten recently. For example, if your guest has gone out with your coworkers to Chinese restaurants three times in the last week, it might be a good idea to try something else. Your guest may politely accept a fourth Chinese restaurant, but she or he will almost certainly not have a wonderful time.
Avoid the Big-Name Chains
Once you have made sure that you can cater to your guest's individual preferences and habits, there are some other factors that may help you settle on a restaurant. It's always a good idea to choose somewhere local. You may think it's a safe bet to pick a chain restaurant like Olive Garden or Pizza Hut, but those restaurants do not make for very memorable experiences. Try to give your guest a taste of your hometown by choosing a local favorite that doesn't exist anywhere else.
Showcase Your Culture
If you have plans to dine from someone who comes from another country, consider showcasing the best cuisine of your nation. Even if there is a cute locally-owned sushi bar in your area, you might want to avoid taking a business guest there (unless, of course, you live in Japan). Sushi is popular all over the world, so your guest will probably not get a unique cultural experience from a sushi restaurant. Instead, think of the best food your culture has to offer. If you follow these tips, you can show your guest a good time, make a lasting impression, and be a good ambassador for your country, all at the same time.