There was a time when liquid lunches were a regular party of business life – but they are now few and far between, if they even ever happen.
Business Argus has been asking the local business community if they have a ‘no alcohol during the working day’ policy and what they would do if someone came back to the office tipsy after lunch...
Peter Lewis, managing director, Industrial Automated Controls Ltd, Newport
Alcohol and electricity do not mix well, so we have had a no alcohol policy in place for some considerable time. The lack of a pub close by also removes temptation. I cannot remember the last time we took clients out for lunch – they mostly do not expect anything and the majority do not have the time. I can honestly say that at IAC, we have not had any incidents where alcohol usage has been reported. We used to provide beer for the last day of work before Christmas, but that had to stop years ago. We still do deals over a meal and a beer, but this would be after hours and almost no detail work takes place. People, especially in China, still like to get to know you socially, but they rarely discuss business in the evening – and many can hardly discuss anything after a few beers and endless Mao-tai. The old macho image of beer swilling and staying out late still occurs once in a while, but its slowly becoming less prevalent.
Dan Smith, M4 Property Consultants, Newport
Our sector is one which historically heavily featured liquid lunches as prime deal making time, but this has changed somewhat in recent years. Whilst it’s important to network and meet with clients and other professionals, we generally wouldn't drink at lunchtime if returning to the office. However, there are occasions where it is clear we won't be returning to the office that day and in that situation having a drink is often enjoyed. There is something to be said about informal business meetings in pubs or cafes. People are generally more at ease and we find such meetings are often more productive. But it’s always good to have a clear head when making important business decisions!
Jakko Brouwers, director, Morrello Clinic, Newport
I’m Dutch and started my career in Holland in the 90s. Having an alcoholic drink with lunch was not considered unusual back then and it still isn’t today although far less people do that. I have been working in Wales for almost 20 years and cannot remember ever having a liquid lunch with alcohol. We are very much hands on with what we do and in close proximity to our clients therefore smelling of alcohol is a big no no. My team are also very aware that their actions can have a long lasting impact on clients health, therefore every decision made has to be carefully thought out and requires a clear head to do that.
Cerys Roberts, sales manager, Kingston Newell Estate Agents, Newport
I spend a lot of my working day travelling around the city in the car so I don’t drink at all in office hours. There probably was a time in the estate agency industry where having a drink at lunchtime was acceptable but those days are long gone. Meeting clients and attending viewings whilst smelling of alcohol would not be professional or create the right impression. We are often sent bottles of wine and sometimes Cchampagne from happy clients but these are taken home to consume for the same reasons.
David Lewis, employment solicitor, Howells Solicitors, Newport
As a solicitor qualified in the noughties, I clearly did not do this label justice and missed the heyday of deals done over a liquid lunch. With the constant reminders of 'risk' in the work we do and the potential implications of errors, I am certain that the modern trend is away from drinks at lunch time within the industry; networking and meetings are still done with alcoholic accompaniments but these tend to now occur after work. As an employment solicitor I am also well aware of some alcohol-related nightmares involving employees and will often be involved in drafting the annual company-wide email which beckons in Christmas party season. While specific policies on no alcohol may be rare, most businesses will have reference to intoxication in their misconduct policies and what constitutes 'intoxicated' is a rather subjective point. It would certainly be possible to discipline an employee who was unable to perform their duties due to alcohol intoxication and it is far less likely to be sympathetically dealt with these days. Socialising with clients remains an important part of many businesses but must now also be considered in light of the Bribery Act 2010 which can impact on corporate hospitality.
Matt Trevett, director, TMPR Marketing Communications, Newport
My first job was in an advertising agency in Cardiff city centre in the mid 90s. Every lunchtime the whole agency – 18 in total, would head for the Park Vaults and have a wet lunch of a limp ham roll and two pints of Brains in the smoke-filled bar of the back street pub. Personally, I loved it, and quite often headed back there after work with colleagues to have a few more before heading home. I seldom drink now and personally wouldn’t drink at a lunchtime as I fear it would send me to sleep for the afternoon and, of course, you need to consider driving home at the end of the day. When working on-site at clients offices, instead of heading to the pub there is a growing number of staff who head to the gym! That would also send me to sleep in the afternoon for other reasons but for others it invigorates them! The pub is a great place to take clients – informal, friendly environment that puts everyone at ease. Deals can still be done there but whilst drinking water and soft drinks.
On special occasions such as Beaujolais Day or sporting events then having a few drinks in a work environment is absolutely fine as long as you don’t over indulge.
Leanne Fieldhouse, practice manager, Budget Vets, Newport
The days of having a couple of beers in the local pub and catching up with friends and colleagues over lunch as they did in All Creatures Great and Small are long gone. Drinking at lunchtime is a definite no for our industry for obvious reasons. While I appreciate it’s social and enables staff to get to know each other outside of work, we have to remain 100 per cent focussed throughout the day and any mistakes could have severe repercussions. If we suspected a member of staff had been drinking at lunchtime we would take appropriate disciplinary action.