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.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Pat Bowlen steps down; typhoon caused Taiwan plane crash; Arizona execution botched and more national and international news for Thursday, July 24, 2014.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
Unlike those swindled by Bernie Madoff, the victims of Texas businessman Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme won’t be getting any relief from the Securities Investor Protection Corp.’s emergency fund after a recent appellate court ruling.
The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010.
The lone Democrat to announce he's running for governor, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, criticized Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's budgeting tactics as "running the state like a big Ponzi scheme."
State police have arrested a 42-year-old Kaplan man in the July 7 hit and run fatality crash that killed a bicyclist on Louisiana Highway 92 near Milton.
Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy has picked up support for his U.S. Senate campaign from a former GOP competitor.
Lisa Hargis Smith lived a mysterious life as seen with her death earlier this month and its impact on the community of those who knew her, whether as a star student in Lafayette High’s class of ‘69, or later as a woman struggling with homelessness and mental illness.
Attorney Valerie Gotch Garrett will announce on Tuesday that she plans to run for the Division E seat of the 15th Judicial District Court.
Back in 2012, three Baton Rouge attorneys came to the aid of several disgruntled police officers with a high-profile lawsuit against the Lafayette Police chief and a number of higher-ups in city-parish government, but in a federal courtroom Thursday, their claims of conspiracy coupled with a lack of evidence backfired and the case was dismissed.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration intends to rework how it pays the private managed care networks that provide health services to two-thirds of Louisiana's Medicaid patients.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration is raising health insurance rates and cutting benefits for state employees and retirees, to keep their insurance program solvent.
Local, state and federal law enforcement officials spent much of Thursday reviewing their reaction to this week’s bomb threat, which led to the closure and evacuation of UL Lafayette and Girard Park, and a massive search Wednesday for two alleged explosive devices.
"We're not in a better place from the policy perspective than we were two weeks ago," says Education Superintendent John White, commenting on Thursday's face-to-face meeting with Gov. Bobby Jindal to discuss their dispute over Common Core.
Gov. Bobby Jindal appears to remain unmoved by offers of a compromise on procuring testing materials tied to the Common Core based on a terse statement his office released following a meeting Thursday with Superintendent John White.