Author: Kim Pitsko, Digital Marketing Manager, Georgia State University MBA
Closing a sales deal, asking for more time to complete a project, or simply building a relationship from a cold sell into a long-term commitment: there are many reasons why taking a client out to dinner is a vastly important aspect of the business relationship, and that’s why it’s become an integral part of the deal. The word ‘schmooze’ has taken on a somewhat negative connotation over the years, however its origins refer to something along the lines of an easy-going chat. But regardless of whether you’re schmoozing or chatting, networking or mingling, consulting or conferring – selecting the perfect business-grade venue for your VIP meal can set the stage for a successful outcome.
Choosing the right restaurant is easier said than done. There are many factors you should take into consideration when determining where to dine:
- Is your client a foodie or a picky eater?
- Would they like to be wined and dined at a fancy place or prefer a casual night out in a friendly atmosphere?
- If you’re both traveling, should you consider a restaurant by a tourist attraction?
- Will there even be room for your party?
- And of course, the logistics: Is there valet? Can you make a reservation? Are the customer service ratings on par?
The list goes on and on.
So where should you go? Our team at Dinova has brainstormed and reviewed our marketplace of more than 16,000 restaurants and compiled a list of some of our favorite hotspots to inspire you when choosing the next place to entertain . Take a look at why we chose these restaurants in particular, and don’t forget to use your company’s preferred restaurant locator app when deciding where to dine with clients.
1.National Chain: Grill on the Alley
The Grill on the Alley is a renowned steakhouse with a classic American menu to suit all tastes.
Why it’s great for your client: It’s very important that when you’re out with your client (or entertaining guests), that you are taking them somewhere with exceptional customer service (hint: always check Yelp and Google ratings). You’ll definitely get this at Grill on the Alley! You want fast service, so no one gets hungry, and each table at Grill on the Alley will typically have two to three servers assisting with food and drink orders. This is especially a plus if you’re wining and dining larger groups.
Signature Food and Drink: The Grill on the Alley is known for its excellent steak and seafood as well as its mixology bar. Zagat recognized it as one of the top five steakhouses in 2012, so you know this is the place to go for a good steak!
2. National Chain: Ocean Prime
Ocean Prime is an award-winning modern American restaurant and lounge from acclaimed restaurateur Cameron Mitchell. With stunning settings, a vibrant energy, an impressive menu of seafood and steaks and truly exceptional service, Ocean Prime is an ideal place to socialize, talk business, celebrate and indulge. There are locations in Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Orlando, Phoenix, Tampa, Denver, Columbus, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Beverly Hills, Calif., New York. Washington, D.C. and Naples, Fla.
Why it’s great for your client: Not only are the seafood and steak menu options award-winning and cooked to perfection, but there is a highly creative cocktail menu that can strike up a friendly conversation with your client right from the get-go.
Signature Food and Drink: Perfect for meals that require more fanciful fare, Ocean Prime delivers seafood and steak options that are on point. For an eye-catching signature cocktail, we would highly recommend their Berries & Bubblies: Belvedere Citrus Vodka, marinated blackberries, house made sour, domaine chandon brut on dry ice! (Talk about a conversation starter!)
3. National Chain: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Founded in 1998 by restaurateurs Paul Fleming and Bill Allen, the first Fleming’s opened in Newport Beach, Calif. The vision was to create a unique steakhouse experience with an emphasis on generous hospitality, an inviting atmosphere, and the very finest aged USDA Prime beef.
Why it’s great for your client: Fleming’s offers private dining rooms that can accommodate small to large parties. Utilizing their Private Dining Director will ensure that every detail of your event is flawless.
Signature Food and Drink: Of course, it’s all about the steak. From classic cuts like a Certified Angus Beef ribeye to specialty selections such as a prime tomahawk, a steak lover can’t go wrong at Fleming’s.
4. Washington, D.C.: Gordon Biersch Restaurant & Brewery
Inspired by the Reinheitsgebot (“German Beer Purity Law”) of 1516, the Gordon Biersch experience rests upon the foundations of purity, simplicity and precision.
Signature Food and Drink: If your client loves craft beers, this is a perfect option. Gordon Biersch is known for its unique in-house crafted German-style beer, as well as for having a great selection of craft cocktails to choose from. Looking for a great appetizer to start? We highly recommend the crab dip!
Why it’s great for your client: If you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere and it fits the personality of your client, a brewery is ideal. This is also a great location for a more social gathering if you’re looking to book a networking event or an end-of-the-year get-together.
5. San Francisco, CA: Il Fornaio
Il Fornaio’s mission is to provide guests with the most authentic Italian experience outside of Italy. Il Fornaio features Italian dishes made using the freshest ingredients and traditional cooking techniques.
Why it’s great for your client: Il Fornaio providesa relaxed, elegant atmosphere with an authentic, Italian-inspired menu that everyone will love! Based on Dinova’s recent study in collaboration with the Global Business Traveler’s Association (GBTA), we have found that 77% of people eating out for business like local flavorings and unpredictable restaurant choices.
Signature Food and Drink: It’s all about authentic Italian cuisine here. One of our favorite meal offerings is at dessert time – their Spumoni gelato will leave you thinking you’re walking along the cobblestone streets of Rome!
6. San Diego, CA: Blue Point Coastal
Blue Point Coastal Cuisine offers fresh seafood, supper club sophistication and award-winning style in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego.
Why it’s great for your client: Blue Point Coastal is in the heart of Gaslamp San Diego, which offers a lovable local flare. Taking your client out on the town is always a great option for an atmosphere that is relaxed, unique and memorable.
Signature Food and Drink: Lobster lovers can’t go wrong here! Other menu recommendations include the lobster risotto, oysters and crab cakes.
7. Orlando, FL: Kings Dining & Entertainment
Kings Dining & Entertainment was established in 2002 (as Kings Bowl) in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay and was inspired by the idea of merging genuine food, creative cocktails and social gaming to create the ultimate entertainment experience.
Why it’s great for your client: Having fun is very important in establishing long-term relationships with clients. This would especially be a great option for entertaining a vendor group after a long day of meetings.
Signature Food and Drink: The snacks are especially fun to order for a large group of people who are gaming and entertaining at the same time. Try the Teri-Dactyl Impossible Meatballs.
8. New York, NY: Kingside
Kingside features New American classics, highlighting fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, paired alongside hand-crafted cocktails.
Why it’s great for your client: Taking a client (or small group of clients) out for sushi or tapas is a great way to keep people talking, as the foodie experience will drive the conversation. It also never hurts to give your client a new experience at a hip, local establishment, especially if they are from out of town.
Signature Food and Drink: One of the main features of Kingside is their locally sourced small plates, including salt baked beets, cauliflower croquettes and crispy artichokes.
9. New York, NY: James Beard House
Calling all true foodies! The James Beard Foundation is a New York City-based national non-profit culinary arts organization named in honor of James Beard, a prolific food writer, teacher, and cookbook author, who was also known as the “Dean of American Cookery.”
Why it’s great for your client: It would be a culinary traveler’s dream to be wined and dined at the James Beard House! (Ditto for anyone who is a fan of Top Chef!) It’s a one-of-a-kind experience with an ever-changing menu.
Signature Food and Drink: You’ll have to check their website, as the dinners change with every specific event and featured chef. That’s what makes the James Beard House so special!
10. Los Angeles, CA: Lawry’s The Prime Rib
A family owned and operated company, Lawry’s has earned the loyalty of customers and co-workers alike by consistently offering superb quality food, service and hospitality in a respectful workplace atmosphere.
Why it’s great for your client: Hosting a dinner at a truly remarkable high-end steakhouse sends a pretty big message to your client(s) that you value their partnership and appreciate their business.
Signature Food and Drink: The name speaks for itself. If you have a client who’s a fan of prime rib, this is your place to be.
11. Las Vegas, NV: Canaletto Risorante Veneto
Located in the piazza in St. Mark’s Square inside The Venetian Hotel & Casino, this authentic Italian restaurant is always accompanied by live music and a lively ambiance.
Why it’s great for your client: A lively musical atmosphere with superior service is an awesome way to treat a client – especially one who likes to be adventurous!
Signature Food and Drink: All of the flavors at Canaletto are derived from Venice, and some of the most well-known foods are their freshly baked breads.
12. Dallas, TX: Zaytinya
Zaytinya offers an innovative mezze menu inspired by Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisines served up in a sleek and modern setting.
Why it’s great for your client: This bright and modern eatery is perfect for large size parties, serving shareable Mediterranean favorites and authentic regional wines. Located near the iconic Star in Frisco, if you have Cowboys fans in your group, this venue is definitely a go-to!
Signature Food and Drink: Our favorite at Zaytinya is the Lamb Kleftico: spit-roasted lamb shoulder, homemade phyllo and feta.
13. Dallas, TX: Abacus Restaurant
Dinner at Abacus features sustainably-grown foods sourced from local farmers and ranchers with quality, hand-crafted cocktails.
Why it’s great for your client: The foodie experience is a great conversation-starter, so you can never go wrong taking a client to a restaurant featuring a wide variety of global, high-quality foods.
Signature Food and Drink: One can choose from their quality sushi menu to big plates such as one of our favorites, Pan Seared Hawaiian Golden Snapper.
14. Chicago, IL: AceBounce
AceBounce was born out of a gap identified in the market to cater to groups looking for an amazing party experience, without compromising on quality of food and beverage offering. If you’re looking for a sporty yet competitive atmosphere, this place is for you.
Why it’s great for your client: If you want to capture the attention of a prospect, send them an email asking for a round of Ping Pong. We guarantee you’ll get a response. One-of-a-kind outings that bring about the competitive spirit in typical bar games is a fantastic ice-breaker when you’re entertaining a client. It’s also a great place to celebrate with your team after completing a big project.
Signature Food and Drink: Bar bites are great to order while you’re playing a competitive game of Ping Pong, including Millionaire’s Bacon with brown sugar, maple syrup and a chili glaze.
15. Chicago, IL: The Franklin Room
The Franklin Room is a proper city tavern, serving inspired American fare and fine spirits that Chicago speakeasies have celebrated for centuries.
Why it’s great for your client: Here’s another example of a more creative concept to capture the eye of a prospect. With a wide-ranging American menu, you can feel comfortable knowing your party will find something they enjoy and are familiar with on the menu.
Signature Food and Drink: While we find their ribeye to be exceptional, you can’t go wrong with anything on the appetizer menu as well.
16. Atlanta, GA: Gypsy Kitchen
Located in the heart of Buckhead, Gypsy Kitchen offers the best of modern day Spanish cuisine, served tapas-style.
Why it’s great for your client: This southern gem features a wide variety of seating options, including a spacious outdoor patio with amazing views of the city! Logistically, there’s also a great valet service, which is really important when you’re considering a dining option for your client.
Signature Food and Drink: Our favorites include the Patatas Bravas and the Duck El Pastor.
What other restaurants would you recommend for taking out a client for dinner, and what do you find important when you’re wining and dining a client? Comment below with your thoughts!
Want more? Return to The Fork.