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Now is not the time to tighten your belt

David MacGregor

[Advertising]

There was no way you could have coerced me to go to Euro, the posh restaurant on Auckland’s Princes Wharf, until recently.

I had a bad experience there. Actually it was the worst experience of my dining life (and I’ve had a few). I took my beautiful ex-wife there for a special occasion, celebrating our pending divorce or some such. Our server treated us with the kind of disdain normally reserved for shit on one’s shoe. The food was delicious but the experience left the kind of bad taste in my mouth that made me vow never to return. And I never did.

Imagine my reluctance when I was invited by the affable adman Nick Baylis to attend the launch of a thing called Social Dining (cue denouement music). At Euro. My interest was piqued. Maybe 12 or so years is too long to drag a grudge around? My motto, “I have principles, and if you don’t like those I have others,” came into play.

I chose to attend and was feted with champagne and Bluff oysters as Nick and Euro owner Simon Gault flamboyantly extolled the thesis behind Social Dining: business should be done while breaking bread. That is about it in a nutshell.

Hard to disagree, especially when one’s host has plied one with champagne and oysters and the serving staff were charming and welcoming.

Gault’s commitment included producing a little red book called Things We Like, for his staff to share the ethic.

But this is a column about advertising I hear you cry! Where’s the meat and potatoes?

Here is my point. Difficult times are not the time to reduce your budget for entertaining your clients and prospects. It is the time to increase it. Gault just pulled the primed trigger.

I have never had an idea sitting at my desk—and I have a fine desk in a slick, modern office overlooking Auckland’s Viaduct. Visit any time you like. We have a fabulous deck and it’s a shame to waste it.

Sitting at a desk is a typically solitary business. Idea generation is better when conducted in a huddle, preferably over a plate of decent food and a glass of something convivial. Perhaps two.

Discussing matters over a meal is probably the best investment you will ever make … it’s hard to be disagreeable when you are enjoying someone’s company and hospitality

I’m not alone in this thinking. At a recent Tom Peters seminar, he spoke at length about the importance of not wasting lunchtime by eating a sandwich at your desk, something reiterated in the excellent book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz. (Unfortunately my attempt to get Mr Peters to join me for a conversational luncheon on your behalf was a barren effort.)

In business-to-business terms, discussing matters over a meal is probably the best investment you will ever make. More so than advertising or the kind of social media that narrowcasts affable but impersonal messages through Twitter and Facebook. It’s hard to be disagreeable when you are enjoying someone’s company and hospitality. Of course I don’t mean it cynically—not every meeting will close a deal. It shouldn’t. But being closer to your customers? Eyeballing them is critical. Personal relationships are the ultimate disintermediation.

The best social media is society. Who needs media?