In a world of tweets, posts and texts, the face-to-face lunch meeting is still a staple of how business gets done in Rhode Island, according to Dale Venturini, president of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association.
From “power” lunches to networking and team meetings, the restaurant is the place where, despite a slowly recovering economy, the deals continue to flow, Venturini said. “A lot of businesses today don’t have formal offices, so when they need a meeting room, they take someone to lunch,” she said.
For power brokers in Providence, one of the go-to places for business lunches is Capriccio at 2 Pine St.
Vincenzo Iemma, the owner of Capriccio since it opened in 1976, depends on word of mouth to promote his restaurant as a great place to do business at lunch.
“We have a special place, we try to make people feel comfortable here. They enjoy the food, they enjoy the service, the ambience, they like the privacy,” he said.
The downturn in the economy during the past few years has slowed the luncheon business a bit at Capriccio, but the restaurant is still doing very well, Iemma said. “It’s all about the details. It’s not about luck, it’s about hard work.”
For Eleven Forty Nine Restaurants, with locations in Warwick and Seekonk, the selling points are convenience and variety of its menu – as well as the ability to accept reservations for a party of any size, according to Amanda M. Marcello, the vice president of marketing and customer satisfaction. At the Warwick location at 1149 Division St., “18 of the 34 luncheon events for the month of February were business-related events using one of our private meeting spaces,” Marcello said.
The increasing trend in business lunches has also been felt at Shula’s 347 Grille at the Hilton Providence, according to Doug Koenig, the general manager. “It’s been slowly improving over the last year and a half,” he said, a sign that the economy is improving.
Koenig believes in word of mouth, along with some social media outreach. But the bottom line is always good food and good service.
Another sign of the increasing volume in lunch-meeting business is the decision by Chapel Grille at 3000 Chapel View Blvd. in Cranston to start up a lunch program beginning March 18.
At first glance, the uptick in business lunches locally is not reflected in national trends, according to Vic Macchio, founder and CEO of Dinova LLC, which tracks corporate spending on corporate dining at restaurants. Even though business at the nation’s restaurants from corporate diners declined 3 percent in 2012 from 2011, to $700 million, Macchio was optimistic about growth in business lunch meetings.
“Business meetings at lunch are an essential and growing part of the business,” Macchio told Providence Business News. “It’s pretty clear to us that the majority of transactions incurred by our clients are lunch-related transactions.” This trend, he continued, reflected a growing tendency of people to be working remotely. •