In Food + Drink

The Secret Rules to Nailing Every Corporate Lunch

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The festive season is right around the corner, and with it will be the holiday tradition worth waiting a whole year for – the office Christmas lunch. It’s a chance to escape the workplace, to get to know your teammates better, and do it all with the company picking up the tab.

While there will no doubt be plenty of good food, great wine and photographic evidence to destroy later though, spare a thought for those brave souls tasked with organising the event. After all, nobody wants to be remembered as the Grinch who ruined Christmas lunch…

To help boost their chances of success, we asked Jeremy Courmadias for the inside scoop.

As General Manager for Fink Group – the team behind renowned venues such as Bennelong at the Sydney Opera House and the newly-renovated Quay at the Overseas Passenger Terminal – Courmadias not only knows his way around the dining table but the secret rules for planning the perfect lunch every time. And he’s ready to let us in on a few of them.

“Every occasion is different,” Courmadias says. “Yet, there are a few golden rules which you can apply to almost any situation, and they’re a lot simpler than you might think.”

With over 25 years in hospitality, Courmadias has seen his fair share of festive disasters, yet he says many of them could have been easily avoided if organisers had considered just three essential elements: venue, budget, and, the one that is overlooked the most, timing.

“While these all sound reasonably straightforward, you’d be surprised how easily things can go awry if just one of these elements is overlooked,” he says.

Choose the right venue

“The number one rule is venue choice,” Courmadias says. “Make sure you select a venue that is appropriate for the occasion, the diners, and, most importantly, your budget.

“Consider the style of the lunch you’re looking for too, whether it’s a formal affair or a more casual group lunch and choose a venue that will enhance the experience. Delve into the venue itself: the menu prices, the style of dining, and the speed of service too.

“Budgets can quickly get out of hand, particularly with large groups, and it will reduce stress knowing you have everything sorted. If there are going to be a number of people, think about where everyone will be sitting, as that can impact on the dynamic at the table.”

Research the menu

“Do some research in regard to the food and beverage offering and, if required, consider pre-selecting a menu – it’s as simple as speaking to the manager,” Courmadias suggests.

“The benefits of having set food and drink is all that decision-making is already taken care of, and you won’t end up with any hundred-dollar steaks sneaking onto the dining table.

“You can also control the volume and quality of what your group is drinking.”

Develop your relationship with the restaurant

“There are ways to get the best out of the restaurant team. It’s often as simple as learning staff names and working with the team on the floor. They’re there to ensure you’re having the best time, and that you get everything you need within the period of time you want it.

“It may be a small thing, yet it goes a very long way. Some people do it extremely well and you’d be surprised just how much an experience can be elevated by the floor team.”

Lead by example

“There isn’t a golden rule when it comes to ordering the right amount of food and wine – it’s about what is appropriate for the occasion. People also tend to follow the host’s lead when it comes to ordering, so don’t stand on ceremony – be decisive and lead by example.

“If you’re unsure whether to order a bottle or just a glass, engage with the sommelier or perhaps ask them to match dishes with wines by the glass. If someone in your party is particularly interested in wine, it can become a great point of conversation.”

“There’s a current trend to drink a half bottle or a glass of really beautiful wine that’s more expensive. It’s not so much about budget but more about time. People need to get back to the office and they don’t want to feel like they have to finish a whole bottle.”

Have an exit strategy

“Timing is always a vital part of any dining experience; the bigger the group the harder it is to control the flow of lunch – having an exit strategy is just as important,” says Courmadias.

“If you can only be away from the office for two hours, share that info with the staff – they can guide that flow. It’s important to also consider your relationship with the restaurant. If a guest gets a little bit too merry, consider a change of venue, as it can enforce a break.”

Beyond the festive season, these rules all still apply. Whether it’s a lunch for four or forty, a thank you dinner for a long-term client, or just an excuse to get out of the office for a change of scenery, follow these rules and you’ll nail the corporate lunch every time.

Fink Group, a family run hospitality group that runs some of Australia’s best restaurants including Quay, Bennelong, OTTO Sydney, OTTO Brisbane, The Bridge Room, Firedoor and Beach Byron Bay. Work or play, this season lean on the Fink Group for all your celebrations and events.

Published 22 November, 2018