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Business lunches – the new speed dating

for businesses nowadays, Johanna Baker-Dowdell discovers. CAREER

No longer do the words “business lunch” conjure up images of the long, alcohol-fuelled affairs that were the staple of 1980s corporatemeetings; today, a quick, sober meal is more the norm. Luxury Experiences Tasmania owner

Simon McInerney, a trained butler, says the “hedonistic” liquid business lunches of three decades ago have made way for meals that are “much more likely to include a round of lemon, lime and bitters than a bottle of wine – or three”. “Men in suits these days are more

likely to order a calamari salad or pizza than a 400g. scotch fillet.Women are a far greater presence at business lunches and, interestingly, conversation is more often kept on topic if awoman is present or leading themeeting,” saysMcInerney. Hecites the reasons for the change as

patrons having less time, accounts depart- ments keeping a closer eye on expenses, and tougher drink-driving laws. “It has been a few years since someone has asked for their bottle of wine to appear on the receipt as a food item so they can claim it back,” he laughs. As a result, restaurants are locked in

a fierce contest for business lunches. For example, business diners in Launce- ston can have ameal with a drink and cof- fee for less than $25. Popular destinations in Tasmania’s northern city are the Sea- port on the Tamar River, Pierre's, Elaia Cafe, Fresh onCharles, Star Bar,TheMetz and Restaurant Esca at theHotelCharles. “Most business lunches are well and

truly over in an hour and there is much greater pressure on restaurants to provide quality food and service in quick time. Far less business is decided over lunch. A handshake over a nice bottle of red to seal the deal is long gone. It's all aboutemail correspondence and record-keeping now,” saysMcInerney, who believes a business lunch ismore likely to follow the signing

60 JUNE/JULY 2012 | WWW.EXECUTIVEPA.COM.AU Three courses and matched wines are mainly off the menu

of a contract rather than being an enticement beforehand. Chef Luke Mangan, who

owns Glass in Sydney and Salt outlets in Australia and over- seas, agrees, saying business lunches at his restaurants generally last an hourandcover justone course, manyskip- ping alcohol. But, he says, “of course it depends on the nature of the lunch”. A typical business lunch could cost

Time is the essence for business lunches – a trend Sydney's Sofitel Wentworth hotel foresaw a few years ago, introducing quick dining with chef Jess Ong working to a stop watch.

dollar, even at the top end of the scale. The three-hatted Vue de Monde in Melbourne offers a four-course lunch for $150 while Quay in Sydney, also three hats, offers three

courses for $125 and four for $145. This change in attitudes toward busi-

anywhere between $50 and $150. “Not many have wine, but there are always a few tables that go the full three courses and wine,” says Mangan. He says that restaurants offering a quick lunch in a generally quiet setting, but not too formal, are most popular with business clients. Lunches in Australia’s biggest cities

tend to bemore extravagant, but still com- petitive enough to woo the corporate

ness lunches is not just an Australian trend. London's Restaurant Gordon Ram- say (three Michelin Stars) offers a three- course lunch for about $75). An alternative to the traditional busi-

ness lunch is a networking event over coffee, drinks and canapes or a meal. These events are usually held in a restau- rant’s private room or at a conference centre and run between one and two hours. Somealcoholmay be involved, but the focus is usually on making contacts and spreading your message. E

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