Restaurant table (Photo: Thinkstock)

Many advisors entertain a lot. They meet prospects over coffee. They take clients out to lunch. Business entertaining is part of the cultivation process.

(Related: The 10 Commandments of Prospecting)

This gets sticky when you are going out with friends. Yes, some have the potential to be clients. However, they might assume your job comes with an expense account or “you can afford” to pick up their tab. Sometimes they slip away from the table before the check arrives. How do you avoid this sticky situation?

You are generous. There are times you want to pick up the check. Yet if you attend a community event, meet a nice couple and go out for a bite afterwards, you want to split the check. Your friends are wrong. You don’t have a lavish expense account.

Upon meeting someone of the first time, most people will offer, even insist on splitting the dinner check. If you are going out for drinks, someone might say: “I’ll get the first round,” establish the ground rule that the other person will follow suit.

But what do you do when you are getting together with people you suspect are unfamiliar with the rules, or friends you haven’t seen in a long time?

Everyone who entertains needs a selection of favorite restaurants. You know the prices. The staff knows you. You are on your home territory.

Three specific restaurants need to be in your pocket:

1. The Price Fixed Menu

Many restaurants do three courses at a set price on weeknights when business is slow. These are often great deals. Same kitchen, same great food, better prices.

What to say: “Let’s go to The Gallic Frog. It’s right around the corner. They’ve got really great French food. During the week they do this terrific three course menu. It’s a great deal at $ 35.00”

What they should hear: “I’m being told what to expect pricewise, because I’m expected to pay my share.”

2. No Credit Cards

You need a place that doesn’t accept charge cards. There are more than you might expect. They usually tell you upfront when you make your reservation. They typically accept personal checks in addition to cash. If you can’t find one, try for a restaurant that takes some, but not all credit cards.

What to say: “Let’s go to The Gallic Frog. It’s right around the corner. They’ve got great French food. It’s reasonably priced. There’s one thing you need to know. They don’t take credit cards. Let me know if you need to stop at an ATM before we get there.”

What should they hear: “I’m being told I need to bring cash, because I will be paying for my share.”

3. The BYOB Restaurant

Bring your own bottle restaurants are popular. Prices are sometimes a little higher, because they aren’t making money at the bar. If you are a wine fan, you can enjoy a spectacular bottle, without paying the restaurant a spectacular price for it.

What to say: ”Let’s go to The Gallic Frog. It’s right around the corner. They’ve got great food. Even better, it’s a BYOB. I have a couple of nice bottles in the car. The wine is on me tonight.”

What they hear: “If the wine is on her, that probably means she isn’t springing for the whole meal. I will enjoy her wine, but be expected to cover my share.”

The Birthday Dinner

There are times when a group of friends heads out to dinner to celebrate someone’s birthday or anniversary. It’s easy to set the ground rules. Once seated, you toast the guest, explaining they are tonight’s guest of honor. “You aren’t paying. Taking you out tonight is our gift to you.” That establishes the remaining guests are covering equal shares of the total bill.

You don’t want to be cheap, but you don’t want to be considered an easy mark. Most people have some experience with a friend who has “alligator arms.”

— Read 10 Ways to Tactfully Get Your Point Acrosson ThinkAdvisor.


Bryce SandersBryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” can be found on Amazon.