by Liz O’Donnell (Boston)
Bryant Park says pink is the new black and Wall Street says coffee is the new lunch. The New York Times recently ran an article about Hollywood and literary types who no longer fight to pick up the check at business lunches due to the struggling economy. So The Glass Hammer asked business women if their lunch habits were changing too.
We learned that a coffee meeting is indeed the preferred way of doing business. Lunches, although sometimes unavoidable, are viewed less favorably. While some business women use lunches to stand out from the crowd, we predict the coffee meeting will replace the business lunch as the power get together of 2009.
“Yes, the economy has affected my business meal practices. I’m scheduling more coffee/drink meetings. The lunches and breakfasts are few and far between,” says Gaea L. Honeycutt, President, G.L. Honeycutt Consulting, LLC: Research and Communications Services. “I generally split the tab unless it’s a client I’m strongly courting. Most client meetings are scheduled over coffee or in their offices.”
Coffee meetings have many benefits, beyond cost savings. There is often more counter or table space to use a laptop, review documents or sign a contract. The wait staff at a coffee shop is less likely to interrupt conversations by asking if everything is okay or if you need anything else. And coffee meetings are usually shorter than lunch meetings.
“Lunches can be a huge waste of time – or a large investment of time – depending on how qualified the appointment is,” says productivity expert Neen James. “Coffee appointments seem more productive to me and much shorter than lunches.”
Stephanie Noble, owner of a database and software development company, Paden Noble Consulting, agrees. “Coffee meetings are typically more productive, straightforward, and to the point,” she says.
When Noble does schedule a lunch meeting, she eats at lower priced restaurants.”I have no problem picking up the tab and often do,” she says. “If I initiate the meeting, I plan on paying. I find that as business is affected by the economy, those with the company card are being more conscious of how they spend company money.”
For those who are still “doing lunch”, there are new services like Lunchtime deals.com, a service that allows users to find lunch deals in their area and request specials and coupons via email or text messaging. Registration to Lunchtimedeals.com is free. Users can log on to the website to print coupons or show a text message coupon to the restaurant cashier in order to claim their discount. The service is only available in New York, but plans are in place to launch in cities including San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Atlanta.
Havona Madama is one woman who is still lunching with clients. Madama practices entertainment and technology law with the New York-based law firm Madama Griffitts O’Hara. And she says she is picking up more lunch tabs since the downturn in the economy.
“I have been taking more people to lunch and at nice places and picking up the tab. As a result we have seen an increase in business. I believe people want to work with successful people and by taking people out when others are not, you are giving them confidence to entrust their legal needs to you,” she says. “Taking people out to lunch or dinner is still the best way to build a meaningful relationship and ultimately to gain their business or obtain referrals from them.”
Micha Star Liberty is another attorney who continues to pick up the tab. “I’ve just re-launched my solo legal practice and am doing a lot of networking to drum up business. I have always, and will continue to pay for lunch.”