Volume 43, Issue 5 - May 2008

the Farnady Files

The Three-Martini Lunch
Ah, Those Were the Good Ol’ Days
by Dez Farnady 

Recently a friend asked me if my wife and I would join him and his wife for dinner at a local, somewhat upscale steak house. I had been thinking recently about how good a nice prime rib dinner would taste, so it did not take me too long to convince my wife that we were due for a nice evening out, and prime rib and the invitation were timed just right. 

My friend ordered a scotch and soda before dinner so, instead of my usual glass of red wine, I decided on a large gin martini on the rocks with a couple of extra olives for health reasons—vegetables, you know. Or are olives a fruit? 

As dinner proceeded and I glanced around at the crowd, something seemed a little strange, but I was not quite sure what. It was not until the bill came that it occurred to me that, with their suits and ties, the restaurant’s patrons seemed to primarily be businesspeople. They were drinking fancy drinks and expensive wines and appeared to have a great deal in common. 

It must have been the company expense account. With drinks and wine and the smallest entrée, a dinner for four could easily hit four bills depending on how pricey the wine was. The businesspeople likely were “entertaining clients” on company money with the sales department’s budget.

As we walked out, I thought about the healthy size of our dinner tab and reflected on why we don’t go there so often. My two martinis before dinner and the smallest prime rib on the menu at 16 ounces, plus the dessert sampler we shared, also convinced me to stay off the bathroom scale the following morning …

The Good Old Days?
I guess those were the good old days, those days I am paying for now. Both my dinner companion and I had cut our sales teeth on expense account meals. He spent his time entertaining customers in the early days of the electronic business and I was spending LOF’s money on big-time glass distributors. 

Some days it seemed that every time I showed up at the door the purchasing agent and the contract estimators looked at me like I had dollar signs written on my forehead alongside a blinking billboard that said “here comes free lunch.” So off we would go, often in groups, to someone’s favorite dinner house or watering hole at between 11:30 and 12 for one of the infamous three martini lunches. There were times in the early days that I was grateful it was only three. 

At one point in time, early in my glass career, I had a personal supervisor and frequent drinking partner who seldom stopped at even four. He was a little guy with the proverbial “hollow leg” who insisted on drinking only vodka martinis and would still be perpendicular after five of them, even though his tongue was upside down after the second one. After some of those longer lunches he could be found in his office with his head on his desk taking a mid-afternoon nap in order to get ready for the evening. Of course the fact that he was in California and his immediate supervisor was in Toledo took some of the pressure off. It wasn’t too hard for me either since my supervisor, although pretty close by, was sound asleep with his head on his desk. 

Obviously we didn’t drink alone and the customer—the co-conspirator—had his name all over my expense report. Back in those days, more often than not, the serious partying was instigated by the customer. Since I was doing the entertaining, it had become old hat for me, but the customer probably had not had a “vendor lunch” in a while and figured he was entitled to the perk. Many a time after I had long since switched to club soda my customer was still sucking up the real stuff. 

The Last Martinis 
These are more competitive and politically correct times, with tighter budgets and a far higher level of health consciousness. Companies are taking a closer look at the expense account as well as the productivity of their employees. With a few more years under my belt, along with the expansion of that same belt, the three martini lunches are way behind me. From my current perspective it appears that they seem to be a thing of the past for most of our business. 

I don’t want this to sound like sour grapes because we had our opportunities and certainly I have little interest in them anymore. But, after looking around in that restaurant the other night I can only conclude that, while the three martini lunch may have left the glass industry, it seems to be alive and doing well. 

© Copyright 2008 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.