Does the term “business dinner” conjure up the image of grey suited peons with starched shirts submissively nodding their heads at the corporate king at the head of the table, while dutifully picking at plates of uninspired food, all the while resisting the temptation of furtively glancing at their slowly ticking time-pieces?

At one time it was enough to take clients out to a posh restaurant for a nice dinner. But times have changed. Nowadays there just has to be more incentive than spending a time-consuming business evening out with the promise of an ordinary three course dinner, plus a brownie button for attending. Enter the 21st century and Connecticut restaurants have developed creative solutions for businesses, big and small.


Morton’s Explores the Satellite Experience


Known for its classy old-world atmosphere with rich leather chairs and dark mahogany interiors, Morton’s Steakhouse has moved into the twenty-first century with state-of-the-art high-definition satellite broadcast capability. With your company’s offices scattered throughout the states, should you wish to hold a board meeting, just book one of Morton’s private boardroom dining rooms throughout the country and hold a virtual meeting with dinner to boot, without having to fly every representative into one city. One company recently launched a new product line via satellite. What would have taken weeks, flying from state to state, took just one evening. The savings in cost and productivity were tremendous.

Away from regular business concerns, what about entertaining clients with a virtual wine tasting with a wine maker from an esteemed Sonoma Valley Vineyard, or take in a live ballgame with ringside seats? This is not the regular dinner, concert,  or ringside experience  because the screen is over six feet wide with Dolby surround-sound. The virtual possibilities are endless. Recently Morton’s in Stamford, Connecticut booked a private concert with jazz and classic trumpet legend Wynton Marsalis for clients. Now that’s dinner theatre!

Morton’s has 64 restaurants in the United States and 6 international locations. They have 2 in Connecticut, Stamford and Hartford.


The Polytechnic Club – Leaders  in Protocol


Far above the maddening crowd on the 20th floor of the Steamboiler Building in Hartford sits The Polytechnic Club. It’s one of Connecticut’s most sophisticated restaurants. The cuisine is deftly designed by Chef Noel Jones. He is turning out creations such as Roasted Guinea Fowl with Quail Egg, Juniper Ice Cream and a Port Reduction that have others in the know clamoring to taste. Behind the scene it’s becoming the haunt of many of Hartford’s other top chefs. With it’s five private dining rooms - all have a birds eye view of the Connecticut river or Downtown Hartford, calming atmosphere, haute cuisine, and expertly trained staff it’s no wonder this place has become an oasis for business entertaining.

Steering the helm for all private parties is director of dining facilities Erica Howat. Nothing seems to faze Erica. She would know the correct protocol to entertain the Queen of England. She says that your etiquette is a reflection of yourself and your company. Developing this awareness and understanding is very much appreciated in the business world with many businesses taking advantage of her talents in the form of etiquette dinner classes. Table manners and etiquette is fraught with danger. It’s easy to embarrass your boss, your client and of course yourself. For example, when is it inappropriate to order a drink, or eat with your fingers. One private dinner class concluded with a discussion on the controversial subject of whether men should stand up when a woman gets up or sits at the dining table at a business dinner. 

The Polytechnic Club will also advise companies about international protocol. One company hosted a group of clients from Japan. In Japan it would be an insult to serve one top ranking client before the other so the wait staff at the Polytechnic Club made sure to appropriately serve two guests of equal stature exactly at the same time.


Three Days of Learning at Octagon


The restaurant Octagon, located in the Mystic Marriot, can take a one-night stand and turn it into a 3 day affair.  Last year they designed several healthful learning experiences for a group of 40 and 50 year old businessmen from McGraw-Hill Publishing. They dined on a delicious four course tasting dinner, which included such delicacies as Dual Tasting of Grilled Yellowfin Tuna and Coffee Rubbed Kobe Flat-Iron with Local Asparagus, and for dessert a house made Chocolate Decadence Cake. Unbeknownst to the group until after the dinner the entire meal was in fact low fat, low cholesterol and low in carbohydrates. The following day the businessmen were ushered into the kitchen and divided into teams to prepare their own lunches. It turned into a team building exercise and a cooking class rolled into one. Rounding out this healthful learning experience, David Kirsch, author of the Ultimate New York Body Plan, taught the group ways to live a healthy lifestyle while on the road with tips such as exercising in hotel rooms, and looking your best while traveling.


Eating at Octagon, a contemporary designed steak house with an open kitchen, is an experience in itself. An unusual feature of the private dining room is the transparent glass wall that with a touch of a button frosts over providing instant privacy. The chef can also prepare a spa luncheon served inside the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa also housed within the Mystic Marriott. This private luncheon room is in a serenely Japanese inspired setting. Now that’s a unique concept - business dining in a bathrobe!


A Culinary Adventure at Thali


The cliché of the business person as a cigar-smoking stuffed shirt type is a bit passé nowadays. The new generation that’s come to power is younger, more savvy and casual, and craves new and unique experiences. It’s this generation that wouldn’t dare turn down an invitation to a culinary adventure at Thali as it’s the hottest new restaurant in town. Prasad Chirnomula, chef and owner of Thali Restaurants has been called “the most exciting Indian Chef in America.” His third Thali restaurant has just opened in New Haven – his other restaurants are in New Canaan and Ridgefield.

The furnishings at Thali are sleek and contemporary, just like the cuisine. Everything is beautifully conceived with attention to detail. The Indian influenced dishes are balanced with an extraordinary wine list that match his creations. It’s the sort of place that trendy business types are clamoring for. Prasad’s newly opened Thali in New Haven is booking their private corporate dining rooms fast. But their private dining room isn’t squirreled away in a windowless backroom. It’s a place to see and be seen as the only thing separating the sidewalk and the dining room is a large glass window.

There’s a few choices to consider at Thali. Regular corporate bookings with a set menu are worked out with the client. But for good reason most of Prasad’s clients trust the chef and let him design a tasting menu of many dishes.

Another interesting way of business entertaining at Thali, either before a sit down dinner, or instead of, is the corporate lounge party. This is held in the bar area and for these occasions Chef Prasad serves 5 to 6 small courses that are passed around. It’ a casual and fun way that promotes socializing in a business setting.


An inimitable and different dining experience is all that is needed to entice a business group to dine out. In Connecticut there are many ways to go. These four unique venues will spice up any corporate dining experience



Max Downtown – where prestige is second nature


Steve Abrams, partner of Max Downtown restaurant in Hartford, places personal service at the highest priority. “We offer projectors, screens and high speed internet in both our private rooms and we’ll rent microphones and speakers and other equipment on request.” Max’s menu is one of the best in Hartford. Never content as being solely classified as a steak house the ever-changing menu is innovative, exotic and classy. One of their signature dishes is Steak a la Max, a 16 ounce N.Y. strip covered in Gorgonzola cheese on a bed of Arugula and Tomato, but the kitchen also serves inventive fish dishes. But if clients need a special menu, such as kosher, Max Downtown will make arrangements with a caterer on their client’s behalf. First time business diners feel like regulars here, with the ever-present Abrams circulating the high-energy dining room acknowledging diners by name. Clients can even arrange to have their own private wine storage system that’s displayed at the entrance of the restaurant. Now that’s prestige.


Wine Dinners and Business - a Perfect Match at Ruth’s Chris Steak House


Whose to say that business, entertainment and the learning process new do not mix? Ruth’s Chris Steak House, located in Hartford offers a perfect way to entertain business clients. They regularly offer monthly five-course wine dinners, and can design a special wine dinner for your clients. Along with dinner, a winery or wine distributor representative can present and talk about the wines. It’s a great variation on the usual business lunch. General manager Tom McCarthy says. "We can build a menu for our customers according to their budget. We can recommend or just let them pick and choose what they want. When requested, we can also prepare items not offered on the menu. Our kitchen is always up to the challenge."


1576


Contacts at restaurants for photos, etc.


Mortons

Beth Hale– 203 324-3939

Cm.msm@mortons.com


Octagon

John Trudeau 860 326-0358

cell- 8607059881


Polytechnic Club

Erica Howat 860-722-5596

erica_howat@hsb.com


Thali

Prasad Chirnomula -203 777-1177

cell- 203 829-7457











Changing Face of Business Entertaining

Connecticut Business Magazine - Fall 2006