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Published 23 August 2012 04:52, Updated 23 August 2012 05:00
Traditionally the best business has always been done over lunch. But now – in a time-poor world – the business breakfast has come into fashion.
Rockpool chain owner and chef Neil Perry only meets over breakfast because it is convenient.
“I just think everyone’s so busy they’re trying to get meetings in at any time,” he says. “I’ve been to a couple of breakfast meetings to talk about opportunities simply because that’s the only time I’ve got to spare.”
The Four Seasons Sydney hotel’s director of food and beverage, Carl Contractor, dates the growth to the beginning of 2010.
“Breakfasts have definitely . . . grown immensely in popularity,” he says. “It started with the brunch concept and made its way from there.”
Breakfast, a shorter meal than a lengthy brunch, is cheaper for the customer.
“In a hotel scenario, I would say a breakfast meeting costs anything from $30 to $40,” Contractor says.
“Compared with a meeting over lunch at the same venue, you’re talking at least about $40 to $60 per head.”
The breakfast trade is a niche cafes have moved into heavily.
“Cafes have upped the game in what they’re offering,” Contractor says.
It’s not a uniform trend, however. At Perth’s No. 44 King Street cafe, which has been in business for 21 years, the breakfast trade is actually smaller than it was during the booms of a few years ago or of the late 1990s.
“Breakfast certainly relates to the economic cycle and the economic cycle is tight so people don’t see it as a great priority,” a restaurant spokesman says. “It’s the tourists that come in from overseas and interstate that keep breakfast alive. It’s not as big an issue with our local business community. They’re flat-strapped.”
Where they are growing, breakfast meetings may be a consequence of behavioural changes just as much as economic ones. Just 16 per cent of restaurant diners spend more than $90 per head, down from 20 per cent a year ago, bookings reservation site Dimmi says. In addition, a trend to more casual meetings may reflect the way communication is changing and how we choose to spend time with people. Communication – through the plethora of devices available now – has become less formal than it once was, says London-based chef Bill Granger.
“The way we work has changed so much,” Granger says. “Everyone communicates so quickly that when they meet face to face, people don’t want it quite so formal any more.”
And in an Australian context that values informality, holding business meetings over breakfast is a logical step.
“Breakfast is a less formal meal,” says business etiquette and communication coach Gary Eaton. “The peak of formality is dinner. Maybe somewhere in between that is lunch.”
The casual trend is a far cry from meetings in Asian countries where not only the timing of a meal, but what Eaton calls “context” – the positions and seating arrangements have significance.
“We’re a lot less casual about contextualisation in our culture than in other cultures,” he says. “It’s an area where Western business people have had issues dealing with Eastern business people because they don’t understand the importance of context.”
Does this mean Australians shouldn’t invite Asian business partners to a casual meeting over breakfast?
“If it’s with an overseas guest wanting to understand how to do business in Australia, you would explain we tend to approach the setting of business meetings as quite casual. It doesn’t mean we are casual business people,” Eaton says.