A Girl's Guide To Business Dining
Business relationships are tough enough in the office, but taking professional interaction out of the workplace and into the real world can be a minefi eld of unwritten protocols and expectations – particularly when you throw eating and drinking into the mix. So if you’re confused about which shirt to wear for a breakfast meeting or whether it’s okay to drink at a power-brunch, take some tips from two of the UAE’s top businesswomen below, who reveal how to do good going-out.
What’s it for? “A breakfast meeting is usually reserved for talking through new ideas, getting to know someone or catching up with old business contacts,”explains Noor Sweid, strategy managing director for Depa Limited. In other words, this isn’t a time to talk hard business. You’ll be casually throwing a few ideas around to suss out their viability or just doing a bit of early morning schmoozing.
Why is it a good idea? Studies by Research Penn State show that the majority of people are neither morning nor evening people – they function best in the middle of the day. With this is mind, scheduling casual meetings in the AM will ease you into the day and give you time to prepare for the more stressful meetings later on.
Where should you go? Somewhere simple and elegant is perfect for breakfast. This meeting isn’t about impressing clients with opulent settings or extravagant food orders. Ideally you should choose somewhere that won’t be too packed – you don’t want to have to shout to be heard, particularly in the morning when you and/or your clients are still in the pre-coffee stage of the day.
What to wear: Although this isn’t a particularly formal meeting, Sweid stresses that you should still be wearing business attire. A suit without a jacket or a smart dress would be perfect for the occasion – you will usually be going straight from the meeting to your office, so it’s important to stay smart.
What to eat: Try not to choose potentially messy food items - chocolate croissant crumbs and syrup stains are not a good look, particularly since you have a whole day of work ahead of you. However, you need to fuel up for the busy day ahead, so Sweid advises that a full breakfast is a good idea as it’ll keep you going strong 'til lunch.
How long should it last? : 45 minutes to an hour
TOP BREAKFAST HOT SPOTS
Just like the rest of the hotel, Armani/Mediterraneo is stylish and simple – the perfect place to relax and enjoy a leisurely breakfast meeting. Feast on the buffet anytime from 7am-11am. Call 04 888 3888
ANISE, INTERCONTINENTAL DIFC
The fire and ice themed eatery is a safe bet due to the variety of the menu. It specialises in all-day dining, so is a good choice if you have back to back meetings.Call 04 701 1111
What’s it for? A brunch meeting usually indicates that not a very serious discussion is expected.
Why is it a good idea? If you want to get to know your clients away from the formal structure of a business lunch or dinner, and aren’t planning to do any deal closing, brunch is perfect. Being able to inject some of your outside-work character into meetings can improve relationships (so long as you remember that you still need to maintain a professional air).
What to wear: Taking clients somewhere you’d usually go with friends can be tricky, outfi t-wise. Stylist, speaker and author Kelly Lundberg from Divine personal styling advises wearing something slightly dressier than you usually would to brunch. However, she adds, “The type of clothing depends on who you are seeing. For brunch with local clients, clothing should be respectful.” Use your common sense and you won’t go wrong.
Where should you go? Unless you work as a holiday rep, it’s best to save the more raucous brunches for your downtime. Think somewhere elegant, with the focus on food rather than booze.
What to eat:“If it is a brunch and you know there will be drink, then if you wish to, by all means enjoy a glass,“ says Lundberg. “However, under no circumstances should you get drunk and always be one of the first to leave the table.”
How long should it last? It’s brunch, so you’ll be there for at least a few hours. What you don’t want is to overstay your welcome – it is also a business meeting and people generally have other things they want to do.
Traiteur, Park Hyatt
Traiteur attracts a sophisticated crowd who are all about fi ne dining. The upscale brunch includes a fantastic sushi room, roast dinner station, eggs Benedict cooked while you wait, delicious cheeses and a whole room full of chocolate-tastic desserts. The fancy bubbles and outdoor seats overlooking the creek make this one seriously impressive place to take clients, and the excellent service will make your meeting as slick as can be. One of the best things about conducting a brunch meeting here is the fact you’re smartly dressed won’t make you stand out from the well-turned out crowd. Call 04 317 2222
What’s it for?
A standard business lunch is used for developing relationships with clients, explains Sweid. Expect serious discussions; come with your work hat on.
Why is it a good idea? By lunchtime, you’re focused and in full work mode, plus it’s good to get out of the office during the day. Having a meeting at lunchtime, rather than later in the afternoon, will mean you avoid the 3pm slump. It’s also worth noting that business lunches have been around for æons, so most people will come ready for a serious discussion – meaning you can make progress and eat at the same time.
What to wear: There’s no question – you need to be suited and booted for a business lunch. Remember, you are meeting people who will have come straight from the office, or from other meetings, so even if you’re not dressed smartly, they will be.
What to eat: “I would personally check with who you are meeting beforehand to find out if you will be eating or not,” advises Lundberg. “Not everyone wants to eat or vice versa, so better to be prepared and then there is no awkwardness when the menu arrives.” If you are eating, stay away from carb-loaded food, as it will make you sleepy and less productive during the afternoon. Something filling but light, like sushi, is perfect.
How long should it last? Lundberg explains that the duration of lunch will depend on who you are meeting. “If they are in a corporate environment they may only have an hour,” she explains. “However, if people are not in a rush then lunches do tend to last longer.”
Top professional lunch hangouts:
Head here and take advantage of the Ebisu set menu. Set menus tend to come with a rough time frame, meaning you can plan accordingly. Call 04 425 5660
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, The Monarch Hotel
If you’re looking for something substantial, try this upscale steakhouse – which also offers a lighter lunch menu. Call 04 501 8666
Can Can Brasserie, Ritz-Carlton DIFC
Eat al fresco in cooler months or relax inside the continental restaurant when it gets hot. The French dishes alone are worth the visit. Call 04 372 2222
What’s it for?
Taking your clients out to dinner generally means you have some serious talking to do. Sweid advises that this is the time when business deals are likely to be closed, contracts signed, and discussions take a more businessy tone.
Why is it a good idea? Unlike breakfasts and lunches, you’re not hemmed in by time restrictions. A business dinner means you can stop clock watching, but since these are usually more serious meetings, you still need to keep your head in the game.
What to wear: Although it’s tempting to get out of your work clothes as soon as you leave the office, Lundberg suggest sticking to business wear. “Ladies can always change into evening accessories to alter the look slightly, for example wear higher shoes/carry a clutch/ wear brighter lipstick,” she says.
What to eat: It’s fine to have a full meal. But, Lundberg says, “Never order the most expensive thing on the menu; unless your client orders on your behalf. Drinking alcohol very much depends on your company.”
How long should it last? You’re looking at around an hour and a half; depending on your company.
Best deal making dinners:
La Petit Maison
Stylish décor, tasty cuisine, and a decidedly French vibe – there’s nothing not to love about this place. The menu is varied, so there’ll be something to suit even the most exacting palate. Call 04 439 0505
This New York style eatery serves downright delicious food – perfect for dining with clients who enjoy prime steak and good entertainment – live jazz makes a great talking point. Call 04 447 7601
What’s it for? Popping out for drinks after work with clients or colleagues suggests a quick catch up, or relationship building meeting, so don’t expect serious discussions, says Sweid. It will be mainly small talk, so avoid heavy topics of conversation.
Why is it a good idea? You have the chance to catch up with people without any serious agenda, forwarding your future relationship, and you may find out some important gossip or information (though don’t push for this if the conversation isn’t going your way).
What to wear: You’ll be coming straight from the office, so formal business wear is expected – but you can take off your jacket and adopt a more casual look than you have during the day.
Where should you go? Somewhere lively enough to signify the fact that you’re out of the office and won’t be talking hard business but nowhere too rowdy – this isn’t a drinking session with buddies – you’re still technically working.
What to eat: You won’t be there long enough to eat anything substantial, but could opt for a few nibbles. In terms of alcohol, you should be following their lead, says Sweid – only drink if they are, and never more than one or two.
How long should it last? You’re looking at less than an hour.
Best drinks destinations:
RED lounge terrace, Raffles Dubai
Pay a visit to this chic Chinese-style lounge for classic cocktails, great nibbles and a spectacular terrace which not only offers a great apres-work atmosphere, but also a fantastic view of the Dubai skyline. Perfect if you’re planning to dine in one of the restaurants here later - or for anyone working that end of town. Call 04 324 8888
Oeno, The Westin Dubai
This popular after work haunt is perfect for a quick catch-up with clients or with your colleagues. Sit outside to avoid the potential hustle and bustle inside, and order a cheese plate to nibble on while you discuss all the news, views and gossip from your working week. Call 04 399 4141
360, Jumeirah Beach Hotel
Grab a drink with a difference at 360, Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Set out from the shoreline, this is a great place to pop to after work to watch the sunset. This is probably an option best for business acquaintances you’re already familiar with, or office colleagues – this is one place with a chilled out vibe, and the potential for drinks to extend to more than one. Call 04 406 8999