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5 Places to Wine and Dine Your Big Prospect in San Francisco

Fall is here! The conference/seminar/tradeshow/boondoggle season is upon us. This is one of those few times when you and everyone in your industry will be in one town and away from your families. So, before you go out drinking with your real friends, here’s a chance to socialize with prospects who might become your real friends. Yes, I’m talking about your Next Big Prospect.

This is the person who you’ve talked to several times before. You’ve pitched to them at least once. Maybe you’ve been turned down already, but they’ve got a new project coming up. Or maybe you heard that the people that they picked instead of you aren’t exactly hitting the cover off the ball.

This is the prospect that could make your Q4 or your Q1, or maybe your entire 2011.

You’ve been emailing. You are both going to be in San Francisco – maybe for CTIA, or the Home Show, or the Web 2.0 Summit. You’ve blocked out time for a dinner and you want to go to a great place to set the tone for the conversation. Sure, you could go to Harris’ Steakhouse or The Ritz, but that’s been done.  Here are five places in San Francisco where the food, the service and the atmosphere will all but seal the deal for you.

1. South Park Cafe

Only a couple of blocks from the Moscone Center, and on a hidden gem of a park, this modern French bistro is convenient and accessible. South Park Cafe has good service and beautiful food. It’s a place where the less adventuresome can get great steak frites and foodies can get veal sweetbreads. The atmosphere is classy, not stuffy. A great place for someone up for a change of pace.  Not the place for  a true high roller.

2. Gary Danko

For the true high roller,  the choice is easy – Gary Danko. For seven years this place has made bank on amazing food and service. Any prospect coming in here knows you are raising the bar. The menus emphasize fresh local ingredients. With such high calibre, there’s a minimum of fuss. The wine list is spectacular.  If your dinner guest won’t be intimidated, and you have a large expense account, Gary Danko is a great choice.

3. Blue Plate

On the other side of the spectrum in terms of cost and atmosphere, there’s Blue Plate. It looks like a dive when you peak in the door, but go up the stairs and you come into a great, friendly dining room and further back, access to a garden. The food is “classic American and rustic Mediterranean” and the atmosphere is relaxed enough to put your prospect at ease. Another plus – you are in the upper Mission, so lots of places for drinks afterwards.

4. Acquerello

Is your prospect hot? Do you subtly flirt with each other? Is there more than just professional interest between you? Then go to Acquerello. One of the best kitchens in the city, and renowned service in a town with very high standards, Acquerello is the best upscale Italian restaurant in San Francisco. If you slowly shake your head and chuckle to yourself after getting off the phone with your prospect, this is the place for you.

5. Boulette’s Larder

For a great lunch or an over-the-top dinner party (up to 24 guests), this place is amazing. Perched right on the water with a view of the Bay Bridge, the windows alone are fantastic. But the dining room is like a giant chef’s table, where you sit right next to the stoves where your meal is being prepared. The staff balances the scene well, providing attention but not too much doting. The dinner experience costs a minimum of $1,675 and $175 per person, so this is either a “let’s get the teams together” or a _very_ important prospect.

Time with a big prospect is rare. If you get a chance to hang out for a couple of hours, make the most of it and check out one of these great San Francisco dining spots. And close that deal so your expense report looks like a bargain!