The Steve McQueen Guide to Business Lunches
This weekend I took one of my twice annual trips though the pages of the Esquire Magazine, AKA the Steve McQueen Guidebook. I check out Esquire a couple times a year just to make sure I'm still in the neighborhood of Hip, if not not a homeowner. In addition to learning the proper shape of ice and that anal sex is not a proper topic for small talk, I did come across something clever and amusing: "A Brief History of the Business Lunch."
The editors of Esquire attack this subject in only a half hearted way, but that's really all the subject demands. Looking at the topic by decade they start with the 1940s business lunch, move to the 1960s, then on to the 1980s and finish up with what we eat and drink in the 2000s when we eat and do business as the same time, as well as how long we take for these types of lunches today.
I was of course most interested in the evolution of what we drink at the business lunch. According to Esquire, the drink of choice during the 1940s was two cups of black coffee. By the semi-prosperous 1960s we were consuming three martinis. The 1980s brought with it two shots of espresso and plenty of Perrier, according to Esquire. Today, we do business over one glass of white wine.
I'm pretty sure there is only a modicum of truth to Esquire's take on the business lunch and how we water ourselves during them. But it got me thinking. They nailed my own habits. I have no problem at all having a glass of wine at a business lunch. None at all. However, I'll rarely have more than one. This isn't because it's bad etiquette or unseemly to indulge in the middle of the day when your partner(s) want to do business. Rather, I find that if I have two glasses of wine with lunch, buy 2:30pm I want a nap.
Despite my own failings, fact is it's quite rare for folks to drink wine at business lunches as far as I can see…even in wine country. This isn't a lament. I'm not yearning for an Esquire/Mad Men version of the 1960s when three martinis and a scotch chaser was the libation of choice.
But I do know this. At least when prospective business is on the table, when folks are feeling each other out and examining their comfort level with one another, when the prospect of spending money on each other is on the table, a glass of wine (or two) isn't a bad idea at all. It loosens the jaws. It provides for slightly more creative thinking. And it makes lunch something more than a strategy session.