Entertaining Clients in Lincoln – 2017

What have you done lately that involved spending time with your clients aside from when you were conducting business? If your answer to that is nothing, you’re missing a major opportunity that’s one of the most rewarding out there. Business is all about relationships – establishing them, developing them, and strengthening them. It only makes sense to set up enjoyable events that facilitate the interaction necessary to accomplish those objectives periodically.

The effort you put into the relationships with your clients and to show gratitude for their continued business will greatly influence your success.

Jennifer Jones Raising Cane’s headshot

Jennifer Jones
Raising Cane’s

“Clients are the life blood of any company,” says Jennifer Jones with Raising Cane’s. “Without them, we simply wouldn’t exist. So it’s important to let them know just how much you appreciate them. Holding events, parties, or small gatherings is the perfect way to show your appreciation. It will not only give you a chance to get to know them outside of just your business relationship, but will strengthen your partnership overall. In the end, people do business with people. If you can make your clients feel like they are doing business not just with your company, but your people, you will keep your clients happier and lengthen the longevity of your partnership.

Particularly around this time of year, corporate tailgate events are a popular way to entertain clients. Raising Cane’s and tailgate parties are the perfect combination. For smaller parties we recommend tailgate orders of 25, 50, 75 or 100 chicken fingers with our homemade Cane’s Sauce. From there you can add on additional items such as our lightly buttered and grilled Texas Toast and creamy coleslaw.

For larger parties, our food trailer would be a huge hit. It’s equipped with a full kitchen, and your food will be cooked hot and fresh as needed throughout your event.

We also offer our freshly-brewed sweet tea and fresh-squeezed lemonade by the jug, to help quench the thirst of your guests. Although a fun opportunity to enjoy alcoholic beverages, it’s important to do so in moderation when entertaining for business purposes, and to offer a non-alcoholic option so that no one gets left out.”

As a general rule to follow, food brings everyone together. Jones notes, “When you have a gathering where are most people hanging out? The kitchen! Planning an event to bring in customers, clients or prospective customers isn’t much different than an event you’d hold at your house. And in order for either to be successful you need just a few things to create a warm, inviting, and fun atmosphere—food, drinks, and good company.”

For those seeking unique ideas to consider, the hospitality professionals are notorious for offering great suggestions for these types of events, as representatives of the most common destinations for client entertaining.

Cherie Anderson Venue Restaurant & Lounge - headshot

Cherie Anderson
Venue Restaurant & Lounge

“Venue Restaurant & Lounge frequently hosts special events such as our in-house wine and beer dinners, themed murder mystery dinners, celebrations of life, official business functions, and in-home or off-site catering, as well as the typical family gatherings and intimate, romantic affairs, to name a few,” says Cherie Anderson with Venue Restaurant & Lounge. “We provide easy and unique opportunities to show your clients appreciation by offering extraordinary, one-of-a-kind dining experiences. Venue boasts a Certified Sommelier and an award-winning Pastry Chef on staff, is the only Gluten Free Certified kitchen in Lincoln, has an in-house dry aged steak program, and uses the freshest, local Nebraska farmers’ produce. Put this all into one basket and you’ve got the recipe for an amazing experience that will broaden your sense of taste, touch, smell, and sight beyond the everyday encounter. Your clients will feel appreciated.

Venue has four private dining rooms on-site and books reservations for The Lion’s Den at our sister restaurant, Piedmont Bistro. Venue also operates The Jasmine Room by Venue, a 300+ person reception facility located in downtown’s historic building, The Grand Manse. Once you’ve booked your reservation, you will work with our talented event coordination staff who possess over 30+ years of combined experience. These are the professionals who will help plan your gathering down to the last detail, making your event a memorable one.

Standing out from the crowd and making a big impression on your clients can be tough. It’s especially tough when facing fierce competition from other players in your field. So, what is going to make you stand out from the rest? Take the time to listen to and invest in your clients’ wants and needs. This is a must for successful and lasting business relationships. If you are not putting thought into this, you are behind the eight ball.”

She adds, “Event planning and details not your gig? Great, it’s ours! Our staff’s attention to detail is impeccable. They walk you step-by-step through the decision-making process and will assist you to make sure nothing is missed. We strive to ensure that you look good and that your clients walk away feeling special and appreciated.”

Anderson also points out that tailgate parties are a safe way to go if you want to plan an event yet this fall, as well as extending the invitation to an upcoming event for those who want to bring their clients, which is quite the convenient alternative to hosting one yourself. “Who doesn’t love a good tailgate? At Venue, we love football and we love the Huskers! On Saturday, September 2nd, we invite you to our inaugural tailgate, kicking off this year’s football season in style downtown at The Jasmine Room. Our first home game tailgate begins at 3 p.m. Entry is free and this tailgate includes food and bar specials, three projection screens broadcasting the game, a live DJ, $3 Bud Lights, a whole roasted pig and a whole lot of fun! Want to plan your own tailgate? Contact Venue’s event coordination team and let’s plan your very own football bash! GO BIG RED!”

Mike Malone Rita’s Italian Ice - Headshot

Mike Malone
Rita’s Italian Ice

For those looking to mix it up a little bit for their tailgate event as far as refreshments are concerned, Mike Malone with Rita’s of Lincoln offers another unique suggestion that can be enjoyed by all. “Rita’s Italian Ice & Custard can be a great addition to a Husker tailgate event especially for those early games in hot weather. With over 80 flavors of Italian Ice and dozens of flavors of custard, there is something for everyone. Our Custard Cookie sandwiches are a hit in hot or cold weather. Order several gallons or a party bucket of ice or get some quarts of your favorite flavor of our ‘hand-crafted custard.’ Get your treats to go and serve yourself or have the Rita’s Treat Team come serve at your next corporate tailgate event. If you’re tired of the same old fare at your tailgate and are looking for something exciting, new and refreshingly delicious, look no further than Rita’s! To order, call Zack at (402) 975-8171 or e-mail ritasoflincoln@gmail.com.”

With endless options for entertaining, it’s wise to be thoughtful about selecting how you will occupy your time together.

“Entertaining clients can go a long way towards your business success, so it’s good to know a bit about your client(s) tastes and interests and plan your event with these in mind,” advises Jennifer Davis-Korn with 48 Bowl. “To plan your event or outing with a client, start by asking yourself what you are trying to accomplish during your time with them. Is it to get to know them better? Is it to thank them for their business? Is it to approach them about new work? Or is it to plan a project you already have in the works? The answer to this question should give you an idea of an appropriate venue to take them and what types of activities will accomplish your mutual goals.

While 48 Bowl, Inc. centers are not the venue and atmosphere to bring every type of client, or even accomplish all of those goals, you might be surprised to find the unique settings and variety we do offer at Parkway Lanes and Hollywood Bowl. If it’s a quiet lunch or dinner you’re after, we highly recommend the Parkway Pub, which offers a full bar and award-winning burgers and other American Fare in a distinctive pub setting. A meal at the Parkway Pub is a great opportunity to converse with your clients over drinks and a meal. If you are looking to entertain your clients, we’d recommend drinks, appetizers, and bowling at either center. While evenings can be full with leagues, we do have some open lanes during most weekdays and the atmosphere is always fun and relaxing. Bowling can be played by everyone and can be a great ice-breaker or bonding experience with a client while you laugh at the ugly rental shoes and the gutter balls you inevitably throw. We hear more often than not from customers as they return their shoes at the end of a round, ‘That was really fun, we should do that again soon.’ The other great benefits to planning a bowling event are that it won’t get rained out, our rates are reasonable, and there is a lot of flexibility in the amount of time you choose to spend on the activity. You can also easily move from the lanes to a table in the bar to switch gears from fun to business.

If you are looking to entertain many clients at once, whether it be throwing an appreciation event or even a tailgate party, we do allow the reservation of lanes and our bar areas at either center. We host multiple tailgate parties each year so it’s good to plan early to get the date you want. Our party packages are always built to suit you and your budget and can include any combination of bowling, food and beverage service. If you think have questions about reserving lanes or one of the bars, please contact Terri Jo Podraza, Special Events & Programs Director, at (402) 483-7763 or via email at tjpodraza@48bowl.com.”

When it comes to entertaining clients, it’s all in the details. For those planning this type of event, the location will determine a lot of the other aspects that will need to be coordinated and decisions to be made, so securing that is at the top of the to-do list. It’s also extremely helpful to book an event at a venue with experienced professionals that can help you with planning the details. It can easily end up being a lot of work to do so on your own, and it’s likely not one of your greatest talents either, otherwise, you’d probably be doing it for a living.

Headshot - Matthew Rogge Talon Room

Matthew Rogge
Talon Room

“Planning an event to entertain your clients can be as difficult or as easy as you would like to make it,” asserts Matthew Rogge with the Talon Room. “The Talon Room offers its service to help take the daunting event planning portion off of your to-do list.

How large your company and customer base is in total, or the size of the targeted group you’re entertaining, will determine your venue options for hosting such an event. While some events are appropriate at your office or place of business, others will be better suited at an off-site location. Setting a budget and understanding any limitations that are present is important as that will factor into the decision on where to host your event as well.

Aside from the setting, your hospitality is what will make a lasting impression. Every event aimed at entertaining customers should include the following crucial aspects: staff (including owner, CEO, President, etc.), food and beverage, entertainment, and a token of appreciation such as a parting gift or prize drawing. By including a large portion of your staff, it lets clients know that you are pulling out all of the stops. It shows that you really appreciate their loyalty and care enough to get to know them personally. Food and drinks are always a good idea because hospitality is a big part of entertaining. Whether you have tableside service or a simple buffet and bar option, your guests will not be disappointed. Providing a drawing or some sort of prize system is a great way to entice customers to attend and stay at your event; everyone likes to win something. Then, top it off with a parting gift, which is a nice gesture that’s always appreciated.

These crucial aspects of a successful client event are made even simpler by choosing the Talon Room to handle all of your event planning and venue needs.”

Rogge also offers insight into some trends and popular entertaining ideas. “There are always new trends emerging, especially with new technology offering instant gratification to each and every person. I think each client base is impressed differently depending on age and service. Less tends to be more in these situations, because the main focus should be on the personal interaction. If you try too hard, some guests may be put off at your attempts. Finding equilibrium is important, and this starts by getting to know your clients.

One trend that I feel has become very popular is incorporating local craft beers/breweries and offering specialty cocktails. Providing one or both of these options will go leaps and bounds in developing a connection because it sets the tone for a relaxed environment. Most enjoy having this option at a social engagement, whether it’s business or personal.

Providing an opportunity for clients to interact with your company representatives on a more personal and less business-related level helps create a bond between your customers and staff that may not be possible in a business setting. This bond will, in turn, develop a loyal customer base and help make your customers feel important and rewarded for using your services.

With Husker season back and in full swing, corporate tailgates are abundant. If you’re looking to set yours apart from the rest, the Talon Room offers a great Husker Tailgate themed event. The location of the venue is perfect for parking, partying and getting to the game. We are partnered with ChefauChef catering to provide the top tailgating food. Why party out in the street when you can party at the Talon Room?”

If the setting you have in mind is one outside of the city, which is a great way to do something a little different and get people out of the office setting and into the fresh air and sunshine, of course, we can provide a couple of ideas for that type of event too!

Bryson - Bryson’s Airboat Tours - headshot

Bryson’s Airboat Tours

“Our riverfront property is perfect for client entertaining as it’s a relaxing atmosphere with plenty of seating and room to mingle, games to play, standard amenities provided, it’s a secluded spot that’s not open to the public, and of course, the highlight of the event as it’s not something most do on a regular basis, airboat rides!” says Bryson with Bryson’s Airboat Tours. “We host a lot of these events every year, and the feedback we receive is that in the three hours spent together, you learn more about each other than the three years you’ve shared a business relationship together. That really says something about the importance of making the time to plan and host an event for your clients. It’s a unique, fun experience, and one that’s not overly complicated or with too many distractions, which can get in the way of the bonding that’s the whole reason behind coming together. Although it might not come to mind first, it’s also an excellent spot to host a Husker football watch party too. The property can be rented for the day with or without the airboat rides, you can bring in your generators, TVs and A/V equipment, and anything else needed for the ultimate tailgate, and make it your own private party spot.”

For those who are hosting outdoor events, he also offers a word of caution regarding planning for the weather accordingly. “Ensuring there is a covered area is highly recommended. If there isn’t one already on-site, consider renting one. If you’re putting time, money, and effort into an event, you want everything to be perfect. In Nebraska we have the extremes, which during our open season, are storms and scorchers. Protection from the elements, whether it’s for shelter or shade, will ensure your guests will stay longer and enjoy themselves more. A tent or awning is such a simple thing that surprisingly really does transform the area, and people do tend to gravitate towards those. Paying attention to the details necessary to create the ideal environment is an essential part of entertaining.

Also, keep in mind that there’s usually a reason why things are done a certain way. If you have a creative or wild idea, pass it by the professionals to make sure it will work, because they’ve seen it all – or most of it at least – before. With plenty of past experiences to reference, they can easily tell you what works best and what to avoid, so take their word for it. Don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations or either; we’re always happy to help!”

We are also lucky to have fantastic wineries in close proximity to Lincoln, with facilities that are designed for hosting small and large groups.

Capitol View Winery & Vineyards is a new favorite of many, with its tasting room recently expanded and tours available to book for corporate entertaining, and with a historic barn and 2 ½ acre vineyards, there’s an abundance of possibilities for a memorable event.

Then there’s James Arthur Vineyards, a longtime favorite and host to many an event for the purpose of entertaining clients.

These are both also great places to stop out if you’re just spending time together one-on-one, or in a small group.

With all of this talk about the beverage options you plan on offering and fun places to enjoy them, it’s also worth mentioning that if the alcohol will be flowing, it’s not a bad idea to arrange for your guests to have a safe ride home should they need it.

Also, if you want to put together an itinerary that requires traveling to another, or several, destinations, depending on the locations and proximity to one another, arranging for group transportation may be advantageous in this scenario too.

By including transportation as a part of the entertaining when needed, it shows you’ve been thorough with your planning and really want your guests to enjoy themselves.

Lori Hiebner Leisure Limousine & Sedan - Headshot

Lori Hiebner
Leisure Limousine & Sedan

“With a 34-passenger limo bus and a wide array of sedans, SUVs, and several different sizes of limousines in our fleet, we are able to accommodate both small and large groups,” says Lori Hiebner with Leisure Limousine & Sedan. “We are a premier transportation service, so you can count on us to provide a safe and professional experience no matter what you have planned for your client.”

In closing, Derek Kats with Keller Williams Lincoln offers the following thoughts on the opportunities entertaining can create within your existing relationships, but also how it could potentially help you attract new clients:

“Entertaining clients is not only essential to client retention, but if implemented correctly, you can actually develop clients from those entertainment opportunities, both directly and indirectly. ‘Direct’ being the face-to-face networking opportunities with new clients it may afford (typically those who join the event as a guest of your existing client), whereas the more valuable yet harder to attain ‘indirect’ opportunities are only created by providing a high-quality entertainment experience that will cause that existing client to become more willing to actively refer you in the future.

Headshot - Derek Kats, Keller Williams Lincoln

Derek Kats
Keller Williams Lincoln

Nearly all companies and business people are savvy enough to realize the modern-day business need to entertain your clients. But just like any form of marketing (let’s not act like entertaining clients is not a direct form of marketing to a captive audience, as well as rewarding them for their past and present business), not all capitalize on their entertainment opportunities correctly. There is much more to the process than just putting some money towards a marketing medium or entertaining/networking event. The content is what truly separates the entertainment experiences that are to be remembered and talked about, versus those that just blend in with all the others.

As a Top-100 Realtor in the United States and an owner of multiple businesses, I have the luxury of providing my clients with exclusive high-end, full-access entertainment experiences both in Lincoln as well as nationwide. That ‘entertainment value’ has served as a tremendous asset to my client development and retention rates. Whether it is access to a country club golf course, dinners by reservation only, client appreciation events at exclusive venues, suite tickets to shows and concerts, VIP evenings in the Haymarket, or nights overlooking the Las Vegas Strip, the more you show your clients appreciation by providing them exclusive entertainment, the more dividends it will pay! To experience the benefits of being a client, please feel free to contact me for a free real estate consultation.”

Entertaining clients has always been, and will continue to be, an essential part of what it takes to form prosperous, lasting partnerships in the business community. Those who consider it as such and make it a point to do so on a regular basis are the wisest and savviest of businesspeople. When you demonstrate that you truly value the relationships that support your livelihood, and recognize the importance of conveying that gratitude with an experience that’s personal and well thought out, everybody wins.