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.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Ten departing CEOs rake in $430 million; profile of FSU gunman emerges; Buffalo's weather woes and more national and international news for Friday, November 21, 2014.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.
The money came through a general obligation bond sale Thursday.
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Comeaux died Monday, Nov. 17.
With a growing number of alleged sexual assault victims coming out against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, upcoming projects have been canned by NBC and Netflix, but that won’t affect the once-loved comedian and actor’s scheduled performance in Lafayette.
The Baltimore Ravens' retooled secondary had no trouble against a rookie quarterback at home. This week, however, their task is far more challenging: stopping Drew Brees on the road in New Orleans.
Add Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name to the list of possible Republican presidential candidates flooding the campaign trail for GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is in Florida this week with his fellow Republican governors for another gripe session aimed at their favorite target, the president, this time taking aim at his immigration plans.
Early voting for the runoff is shortened by two days because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Coach Don” Gagnard is running for school board. Today he offers his critique of the socioeconomic relationship between government subsidies and obesity.
Former Le Rosier chef who cooked at the James Beard House and was named one of the “Best New Chefs in America” by Food & Wine magazine in 1995 was 48.
Pat Cooper is contesting his termination by the LPSB, filing a petition Tuesday that calls the recent decision “arbitrary and capricious.”
A look at the numbers highlights the challenge facing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu as she tries to win a fourth term in a Dec. 6 runoff against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising the new Republican majority will quickly resurrect Keystone XL pipeline legislation killed by Democrats, potentially setting up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.
A national animal rights group has been rebuffed by a Baton Rouge district court judge, although the group might still get its day in court.
The administration says public college campuses won't be on the chopping block.
The legendary musician is performing at a $1,000-per-person fundraiser Dec. 1 in New Orleans.
Old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil and gas royalty payments and other unclaimed money is sent to the state when a business cannot locate someone.