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Jean Chatzky will be covering a variety of different topics in this space every month. Come back next Tuesday for the second article in this month’s Dining series. Please leave your dining questions as comments below and she will address several of the questions at the end of the month.
You spend a great deal of time - not to mention money - entertaining clients in restaurants. I know, not only because I've spoken to many small business owners about it, but also because I'm a business owner too.
Over the years, I've discovered a few ways to save, while still impressing clients. But for this post, I decided to go to the real experts: The chefs at the very restaurants where you're breaking bread. Here are their tips:
- Do breakfast. This comes from Luc Dimnet, the Executive Chef of Brasserie in New York City, and it's one I've used myself. Meeting clients for the first meal of the day is a natural way to keep the tab down. "A lot of restaurants that serve breakfast have good offers for business that include coffee, orange juice, and a great dish. There's also no risk that the guest will order an expensive bottle of wine," says Dimnet. That alone cuts the bill considerably - enough to order a nice basket of pastries to round out the meal.
- Share. Small plates, or tapas, are trendy right now, but they're also relatively inexpensive, says Richard Sandoval, chef and owner of more than a dozen restaurants, including Zengo and La Sandia, both located in Santa Monica. "Order small plates and dishes for the table to share. This is also a great way for everyone to try items that interest them." This is a particularly good tip at a restaurant you and your clients haven't tried before - you'll be able to order much of the menu without draining your wallet.
- Plan ahead. David Burke, chef and owner of David Burke Restaurants, says this is one of the best strategies for saving money. "Arrange for a pre-set menu ahead of time, with wines included in the price." You can work with the restaurant to come up with a menu that fits within your budget, and - as a bonus - that personalized menu looks pretty fancy to your clients.
- Stay casual. Every business dinner doesn't have to be fancy, and I for one think clients appreciate a more relaxed evening every once in a while. Chef Kerry Simon of LA Market in Los Angeles says that many restaurants are now offering two levels of food on their menus. The lower tier will be more casual, both in cost and presentation. She also suggests looking for beer or wine dinners. "They're popping up everywhere, and they're a great way to experience the menu at a restaurant for a relatively reasonable price."
- Eat early. Chef David Myers, owner of Sona in Los Angeles and Comme Ça in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, suggests dining from 5 to 6pm. "Many restaurants offer special drinks and food deals [during that time]. These are the best deals in town because drinks are heavily discounted and the food is most likely a version of their existing menu."
Jean Chatzky, award-winning journalist and best-selling author, is the financial editor for NBC's "Today," a contributing editor for More magazine, and a columnist for The New York Daily News. She is the author of six books, including her newest, Money 911: Your Most Pressing Money Questions Answered, Your Money Emergencies Solved. Check out Jean's blog at JeanChatzky.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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