Workzone: Casual is replacing costly at business meetings


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Not too long ago, if you wanted to seal the deal with a client, impress a potential investor or recruit the next Steve Jobs, the venue of choice might have been a cherry-paneled steakhouse, a resplendent dining hall in a private club or even a richly appointed boardroom.

But an artisan coffeehouse?

Whether it’s to cut costs or simply as a matter of preference, people are choosing lattes over lobster and a double shot espresso over the three-martini lunch to conduct business.

At least, that’s according to Aigerim Shorman, CEO of San Francisco-based Triptrotting, a company that created Wist, an app that recommends restaurants, bars and other venues for specific occasions.

Ms. Shorman said Triptrotting surveyed more than a thousand Wist users to determine their favorite places for business meetings. What it found was that white tablecloth restaurants are giving way to more casual venues like coffee shops.

“I think this is a trend. A lot of users [of the app] are between 25 and 40. These are kind of the young professionals who prefer a more casual environment,” Ms. Shorman said.

She noted more casual places are being used for a variety of business meetings, from those involving potential clients or investors to interviews with prospective employees to get-togethers with colleagues.

“We’re talking about a whole spectrum,” she said.

How do you select the right place for a business meeting? Ms. Shorman offered some tips:

Gain the home field advantage. Suggest the meeting place in making your invitation. Try to pick a favorite place where you know the waiters well, where you know where the best seats are, and where you know you’ll be able to talk without distractions.

Minimize hidden cost. Select a place where the parking is free or very inexpensive. Also, stick to places that are reasonably priced. “If it is too expensive, it makes people uncomfortable. Stay within a reasonable budget,” Ms. Shorman said.

Avoid obvious distractions. Find a place that is quiet and one without television, which can become a distraction in itself, particularly if there’s a sporting event being played, Ms. Shorman said.

You might want to avoid Starbucks in larger cities because those coffee shops can become noisy and crowded, she said.

“In big cities like New York and in areas that are very popular, Starbucks can be packed. It’s hard to find a seat. In general, if you’re in Times Square, don’t pick a Starbucks. You won’t find a seat and you’ll stand in line for an hour,” she said.

Break down business barriers. By that, Ms. Shorman means finding places that are casual but professional.

She added that it also helps to find a venue that offers diverse menu choices, especially if you don’t know the tastes of those with whom you will be meeting.

Triptrotting developed Wist, which is available to users of Apple products, to help people find restaurants or bars for specific occasions, such as business meetings. An updated version of the app, released earlier this month, now includes more than 1.5 million restaurants and bars throughout the world.


Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.

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