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CorporateLand: Restaurant Lockdown for Sales Guys
Published 10/03/18 by VasiliyZaitzev [0 Comments]

CorporateLand: Restaurant Lockdown for Sales Guys

Introduction: Just a short CorporateLand post, primarily applicable to sales guys, but also helpful for others.

Body: So when the economy is in recession, guess what industry gets nailed? Well, trick question, because there's more than one, but restaurants, especially fine dining. Back during the "Great Recession" high end restaurants were begging for business. Fleming's in Boston would pick you up in a Merc anywhere in the city, give you a discount on wine, and drop you off afterwards. Times still aren't great so there's plenty of opportunity out there.

So how does this advantage the RP sales guy? Simples. If you are the kind of sales guy who gets to wine/dine his clients, you should be able to capitalize. How?
Pick a high end restaurant or two. And no, not Applebee's. Pick a place that you can bring multiple customers, so you want to pick something with fairly broad appeal: Steak, French, Italian, yes, Indian, Vegan, seafood {exclusively}, no. A locally owned one is probably going to be more open to it, but sometimes you can get a GM with a brain in his head. Go in during non-busy times, ask to speak to the GM. Introduce yourself, give him your card. Explain to him that you are in sales and you often have occasion to take your clients out to dinner. You can drive business to his place, but you want to feel comfortable there.1
Ask for the following things:
First, you want to be greeted by name by the Maitre D', without introduction.
Second, you want to be shown to your table, immediately. It should be waiting for you. You know how you go into a place and they have a little "RESERVED" sign on different tables? That's what you want. Indeed, they should be perfectly willing to let you choose your table, since you're there already.
Third, you would like the chef to make a visit to your table during the meal. This may not always be possible, but if it's not busy, and you're a VIP, they will make it happen. Alternatively, they might suggest a kitchen tour, because it's easier for them. Other places will say "Fuck, no!", and well, you can either forgo that bit, or pick another place.
Fourth, another option is a kitchen tour. I have been in more NYC kitchens than I care to, but I have a customer who loves that shit, so I've been in kitchens where they don't actually have a tour, but made one up for us on the spot. One included their very dramatic wine cellar, and another one made us up some cocktails involving liquid nitrogen {there's a reason they have 3 Michelin stars}.
The above cost the restaurant zero dollars, and they should be happy to accommodate. If not, take your business elsewhere.
Now for the nitty gritty: things involving money
Fifth, ask for a discount on wine. The mark-up on wine is fucking enormous, like 200 or 300% or more. Ask for 30% off, go down to 25% if you want. If they get a bottle for $85 {the vineyard price on some very good pinot noir I favor} and sell it at $270 and you get $90 off, they still are making nearly double what they paid. You might also ask for this discount when you come in on personal business, i.e. with the wife/girlfriend/primary plate and/or out of town guests. This is more akin to having a restaurant on "lockdown", as one reads about from time to time in the Manosphere. What you do on this is up to you. The only real benefit is if you are trying to keep expenses down for your own benefit. To wit, we have a client who sends us 8 figures a year. That guy we go long for. DRC? No problem.
An aside about wine.2 If you can, ask to meet the Sommelier, and the Captain while you're meeting the GM. In fact it's not a bad idea to ask to see the kitchen at the initial meeting. If you can meet the chef and/or sous chef then, great. I realize this seems like overkill, but it's nice for people to be able to put a face with a name. A word about the Som. When you are at a restaurant and either are not familiar with the wine list or you are in the mood for something new, ask to speak with the Som. Explain that you have $50 or $100 or $200 to spend on a bottle of wine that night, and you would like him to recommend something. If you have likes or dislikes, let him know. For example, I might say "My price point tonight is maybe $150. I like Central Coast and Oregon pinot noir, but would not be averse to trying a different varietal. I dislike Australian wine3, but I like Tuscan reds, for example or things that have some heft but aren't so big that I have to eat them with a knife and fork, like a big Cabernet." 4 People become soms b/c they're really into wine {if your som isn't then you need to start seeing other restaurants}, and therefore will knock himself out to get you the best bottle of wine at/near your price point, and using your parameters.
Sixth, you can ask about being billed at the office on 7-14 days. It would be highly unusual for a restaurant to agree to this, but sometimes it's easier to give them one thing they say 'no' to. One thing you do want is to end the meal without the customer seeing the bill, or having it presented at the table. You can either make arrangements in advance, or simply get up after dessert/coffee has been ordered {but not delivered} and excuse yourself, taking care of the bill on your way to the Gents. It adds to the impression that you're a baller, and this restaurant is like your private club.
Seventh, do NOT cheap out on tipping. My firm won't bat an eyelash at a 20% tip. If you can get away with tipping more, do it. You're investing in the relationship. It's also ok to send the chef a brief note of thanks/compliment on the back of your business card. When I'm dining on my own dime, I prefer to tip in cash. Nothing says "great job" like new, crisp Yankee greenbacks.
Eighth, your job is to be a gracious host, the restaurant's job is to help you. If anything goes wrong, address it privately if possible, and do not blow your cool. As an example, I once had a n00b server at a high end joint accidentally spill wine a small amount of wine on me {I had turned to talk to the person on my left, and when I turned back, I startled her, accidentally, as she was pouring and she flinched}. It mostly hit my skin {hand}, and then some on the tablecloth so it's not like my suit needed dry cleaning. This was a non-big deal to me but, unluckily for her, the Captain had arrived at exactly that moment. I insisted it was All My Fault and handled it with aplomb. I see her now and again at the same restaurant, where she's moved up in the ranks and she never fails to come over to my table {if I'm not already in her section}, greet me by name, and extend courtesies to me. It never hurts to have a friend....toward that end....
Ninth, if warranted, review the restaurant online. For one of my regular joints, I wrote a review titled, "If Heaven Has a Restaurant". Why? The food and service warrant it, and it also buys a shit-ton of good will. I emailed copies to the 2 Maitre D's I deal with and they told me that it was read out loud at their staff meeting by the HMFIC, who then added "This is how people should feel after they eat here." The review cost me nothing beyond the time it took to compose {less than one hour, on company time, anyway}, and you had better believe that the red carpet comes rolling out when I go there. N.B. if I am going to a restaurant where I am, as I like to say, a "known guy" {my own slang for being a regular}, and there's some sort of special occasion involved, then I mention to the Maitre D. Oh, and if there's a food allergy in your party. Fucking tell them. First when you make the reservation and second at the table.5

How To Taste a Wine

The bit where you taste the wine is mostly theater. You're really checking to see if the wine is corked or otherwise not in proper condition. This rarely happens these days, but is still possible, when natural cork is used; a bottle with a screwtop or a synthetic cork cannot be 'corked'. It may have other problems from improper storage, but it won't be corked.6 So does your wine have have an 'eau du musky basement with notes of wet dog' scent about it? Then it's corked. Not likely, but possible. If this happens to you, put the glass down, and ask the som to taste it. He will pour himself a bit and investigate. If it's really corked, the restaurant should have no problem making amends.
So the wine will be brought to table and presented. Make sure that it matches what you ordered. Mistakes are rare, but possible. When you are ordering, it's also perfectly fine to include the bin number, as in, "Let's start with the Peter Michael Moulin Rouge, 2008 {if they have more than one vintage}, bin number 8342" It's not necessary, but they won't toss you out for it, and it makes it easier for them. I will typically do this with French wines, because my French pronunciation will someday land me in Language Jail in Paris for Crimes Against The French Language.
Once the wine has been presented, assuming it is the correct bottle, simply nod your head, or ask them to pour it. The cork will be removed and placed on the table. Leave it where it is. Sometimes I crack a joke about how I'm tempted to screw the cork into my ear and say "Sounds good! Pour it!" Diners at my table will laugh because they've never heard that, and the som or the waiter will laugh because, well, they pretty much have to.
The som will pour a small amount of wine into your tasting glass. Swirl it gently so that the wine swirls around the glass no higher than half way. You can do this holding the stem or by using your hand on the base of the glass without it leaving the table. Your primary goal is to keep the wine in the glass, and your secondary goal is to aerate it a bit and see how it will taste when it opens up. The lines that trail down the glass? Those are "legs" or "tears". They used to be deemed important by some, but really it's a function of the alcohol content {or viscosity} of the wine, and it has nothing to do with quality, but if someone thinks otherwise, don't ruin the illusion for them.
Next, smell the wine. Get your schnoz deep in the glass and take a good, deep whiff, but only one. First, you are seeing if it's corked. Second, as smell and taste are closely related, you are gathering information about the wine.
Take the wine into your mouth. Some people will draw air into their mouths, and the sound will be similar to someone getting that last bit of soda or shake out with their straw. Again, this is to see how the wine will taste when it opens. Get a sense of the 'heft' of the wine.
Lastly, swallow. Hold for a second. That's the wine's "finish" or aftertaste. If the wine is acceptable ask the som to pour it.
When can you send a wine back? I have a rule for this. If there is something actually wrong with the wine, i.e. corked, improperly stored, otherwise damaged, sending it back should not be an issue. If you just don't like it? Hmm. For me, that's a "no". If I fuck up, that's my problem. This is why I recommend scouting the wine list in advance, and looking for old friends. Why? If it's a business dinner, I want it to go smoothly, and I want to stack the lineup with winners.
A couple of other notes:
Some places will have a 'reserve list'. This is the "Big Boy" wine list. It's going to {or should} have excellent wines on it. They are also going to be costlier than what's on the basic list. If there's a reserve list and you know about it and your guests don't, and you casually ask to see it? That will make them feel warm and special, and people who feel warm and special like being around you, and they like buying from you.
What if there's someone who is more experienced with wine at the table? Don't be afraid to ask their opinion. Indeed, this is the very reason I am invited on customer dinners, to lay the lumber down on the wine list. Also, customers over 40-45, especially the long-marrieds, want to hear all about my travels to exotic locations and my banging of women half my age, so they can daydream, later, about being half as cool as me. Puts on Wayfarers. More seriously, if there's someone at the table, it's always fine to include them in the discussion. For example, I sometimes dine with a guy who is much better than I am with French reds. Guess who chooses the French reds? Exactly. If that guy is at the table, he's in charge of France, and I'm in charge of Italy and California. It's a great way to learn about wines outside of your usual neighborhood.
Finally, wine tasting is far more art than science. It's about the experience."Black currant, red cherries, forest floor...with notes of toasty oak" If my wine glass had pine needles in it, I would fucking send it back to be strained. I didn't develop taste for wine until my late 20s. But I do know what I like, so I will usually describe the nose, heft and finish of the wine. Great wine is meant to be shared, and properly deployed it can help build camaraderie and relationships.
  1. With economic crisis, comes opportunity.
  2. Locking down a restaurant can DHV in both SMV and BMV (business market value), often for little or no cash outlay beyond the meal.
  3. People like cool people, and clients are no exception.
1 If you have an idea of how much, I'd mention.
2 I know a lot about the wines that I like to drink. I thought I was going through a Pinot Noir phase, but it turned out to be my life. West coast (USA) wines are home for me. I am also fairly comfortable ordering French wine and Piedmont or Tuscan wines, and non-Pinot California reds. And don't believe that bullshit in Sideways about Merlot. People drink Merlot b/c it's like drinking a Cab, only without the punishment. Oh, and speaking of which, I also sometimes drink South American wines, although the experience is like being punched in the mouth, except you sort of like it. Chilean wines used to be $6/btl before they got 'discovered'.
3 I do. Australian wine makes me sweat like it's 105 in the shade on a humid day. At least both times I had it. After the second time? Fuck Australian wine. For me, I mean. I'm sure it's fine for other people. Australians, for instance. Maybe kiwis, too, but none for me, thanks. Also, if you have a wine allergy, then don't drink wine. If you want to anyway, try having a Claritin and an Ibuprofen before you drink. Why? Claritin will work for most people, and the Ibuprofen will help if you get ill ("red wine headache" for example) while not reacting with the alcohol like aspirin or Tylenol would. If Claritin doesn't work, try something else, or stick to vodka. Incidentally, some folks can drink Italian red, but not California, or vice versa. It's just a matter of finding what you like.
4 I might name specific wines to the Som, but I'm trying to write it in a way that might help neophytes. If you have some favorites, it's ok to share them, but you're going to wind up with something that tastes a lot like them, which is fine if that's what you're going for, but not if you really want to expand your horizons.
5 Food allergies. If anyone has any food allergies, by which I mean actual real food allergies, like celiac disease or something else, as opposed to a food "preference", such as "I'm low carbing it to get cut" or whatever. For example, I don't eat certain shellfish (bivalves) because experience has taught me not to. If it has legs or a face (crab, lobster, arthropods) then its ok, but bivalves? No. If you have any food issues in your party, tell the restaurant, first when you make the reservation so they can note it and second when you are at the table. Restaurants do NOT want diners to become ill. Help them help you.
6 There are many good wines that come with synthetic corks or screw top. Erath is a highly drinkable PN. Not my favorite, but nothing wrong with it, and yes, it's screw top.
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