The restaurant scene is much more competitive today, and the significant downsizing of Ruth's Chris' lunch business (it's now only open on Fridays) is evidence of new networking and entertaining trends. Whether it's a change in how the oilfield industry entertains, the "dress-down" attitude of the local business community, more professionals working from home and easier communication because of technology, networking in Lafayette is moving in new directions. And power lunches at pricey restaurants ' where extravagant meals and liquor can help secure a business relationship ' are no longer at the top of the list.
"Every industry has its own traditions, but I think people today are so busy that they use structured events to see people," says Henry Florsheim, the Lafayette Economic Development Authority's vice president. Florsheim surmises today's business community is under pressure to be more productive during the day.
Jerry Prejean, senior vice president/private banking manager at IberiaBank, says his clientele ' mostly doctors ' rarely commit to lunch meetings. "Their practices are busier, so it actually costs them to breakaway for lunch," says Prejean, who's gotten more creative in his efforts to nurture and secure business.
"We're doing more specialized entertaining," he says. For the Jerry Seinfeld performance in April, for example, the bank hosted a group of clients ' many in the same age group heading down similar career paths ' for a pre-show gathering in the courtyard at CafÃ© Vermilionville, a fine dining restaurant on Pinhook Road. There wasn't much talk of bank business, but it offered clients an opportunity to build new relationships. "They were impressed with the circle of clients that were there," Prejean says.
Bankers like Prejean may be taking their cue from pharmaceutical representatives who in recent years are turning to group entertainment to connect with doctors and introduce their products. "They are a phenomenal boon to our business," Ruth's Chris General Manager Patrick Fleming says of the drug company reps. "[But] again, that's all dinner."
Such after-hours schmoozing is alive and well, insists Fleming, but the clutter of restaurants in recent years has just made it too easy for people to make other choices for lunch. "They're every place now, and you're going to get more," he says. Competition was the driving factor behind the decision to shutter the lunch business in early July. Metairie-based Ruth's is primarily a dinner concept, and the Lafayette Ruth's was among only a handful of the chain's 39 corporate-owned restaurants that opened for lunch. Others in Louisiana include New Orleans and Metairie, along with Baton Rouge, one of 49 franchised stores. The company does not have plans to stop serving lunch at those stores.
Fleming worked as a landman in Lafayette from 1980-1986, so he knows how oil money flowed back then. Since that time, however, a lot of the white-collar jobs ' and the entertaining budgets ' have moved to Houston.
Fleming expects more restaurants to be dinner-only, saying it's a tough market for higher end eateries to make it during lunch. Outback Steakhouse, Doe's Eat Place (a new steak and tamale restaurant a block from Ruth's that also only opens for lunch on Fridays) and the Bonefish Grill location coming to River Ranch only serve dinner.
Open in Lafayette since 1977, Ruth's previous Pinhook Road site, a dark and musty space housed in a former college hangout, was the stereotypical hot spot for clandestine gatherings and big business deals ' much more so than the richly-appointed and airy current location, where it's been since late 1998.
Whether over lunch or at another type of social event, relationship building is critical to success, says LEDA's Florsheim. "Most people I know do business with people they know," he says.
That's the premise behind the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce's annual Business Over Breakfast, biannual Eggs & Issues and monthly Business After Hours functions. Patricia Parks, the chamber's events coordinator, says the BAH has been held since 1985 and that more breakfast networking opportunities were added recently at the urging of the membership. "I think it's because a lot of them have children or other obligations after 5," she says.
The networking from Business After Hours, held from 5 to 7 p.m. at a different business each month, does tend to stretch later into the evening, Parks says. "Most people carry the party elsewhere. Any place downtown is fair game, and La Fonda is another popular place," she says. "It's probably more partying, if I had to guess, but it's very possible they're continuing the business conversation elsewhere."
According to at least one study, there's good reason to enjoy a couple of drinks after work. In a July 13 Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Syracuse University associate professor Arthur C. Brooks writes of an association between drinking and higher earnings. Of workers identical in education, age and other characteristics, those who drank earned 10 to 25 percent higher wages (economists guess that moderate alcohol has health benefits that make people more productive ' or alcohol acts as a social lubricant). Beyond two drinks, wages tend to fall.
The study didn't address drinking at lunchtime.
Still, Ruth's of Lafayette is hoping the power lunch isn't dead. Fleming says the objective is to consolidate it into Friday business, and the plan seems to be working. "It's going great, and we're also seeing increases at night [during the week]," he says.
IberiaBank has a corporate philosophy that requires employees in its private banking division to network, and Prejean says golf and hunting outings are still big forms of entertainment, though he believes some level of business will always be done over lunch. He says Ruth's was a good place to impress a client.
"I wish [Ruth's] was open, quite frankly," Prejean says.
While much of the talk was about whether New Orleans could win a big game — or any game, for that matter — on the road, the conversation in the Saints' locker room was about something completely different.
State health officials told thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical diseases meeting this weekend in New Orleans to stay away if they have been to certain African countries or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days.
Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.
Compared to the rest of the country, Lafayette has it pretty good when it comes to the cost and speed of our Internet.
Hello Kitty turns 40; police ambush suspect caught; Knicks surprise Cavs and more national and international news for Friday, October 31, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
Saints fans were to gather, make merry, eat/drink compliments of a new Downtown group and watch the Saints beat Carolina and claim 1st place in the NFC South. But...
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram doesn't see his dramatic spike in production as any sort of validation.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is facing off one last time with her two main Republican challengers before next week's election.
He’s pulling for Knezek and Hidalgo on his end of the parish but issued endorsements in three other districts as well.