Let Them Eat Cake

By Malcolm Fleschner

Whoever said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” never worked in a physician’s office. In fact, many savvy pharmaceutical reps have discovered that one of the quickest ways to win over a physician’s office staff members is to ply them with food. But when logistical issues arise, a rep’s visions of a lengthy, uninterrupted meeting with a key physician can quickly turn into a catering nightmare. To help reps avoid this eventuality, Pharmaceutical Representative Magazine recently talked to a range of companies with experience delivering meals to physicians’ offices about what to look for in a prospective catering partner. Following are some key tips:

1. Check the record
Of course you’re going to want reliable catering services, and one way to ascertain reliability is by checking references. Whatever company you select should have experience providing lunch to doctors’ offices and be willing to put you in touch with other pharmaceutical salespeople who’ve used their services in the past.

2. Are they flexible?
Find out a potential caterer’s window for delivery. If you want lunch to arrive at 12:00, will it be there at 12:00 precisely or just somewhere between 11:45 and 12:15? Also, how much lead time do they need from you? There may be occasions when an opportunity crops up at the last minute – will they be able to accommodate you and put together a lunch on short notice, even the very same day?

3. Quality counts
Even the most reliable and cooperative catering partner in the world won’t do you much good if the food reminds staff members of their time spent eating in the high school cafeteria. Ask the company if you can try a sample menu. They should also let you come in and walk your palate through the food items they’ll be serving. And remember to ask how they keep their food hot while in transport – lunch should arrive as hot as it would at a restaurant.

4. Do they do it all?
You want to spend your time during this lunch being productive, not running around picking up bags of ice, napkins or utensils. Make sure your catering partner handles all the details, including setup, drinks, ice, napkins and anything else needed to make the lunch a success.

5. Can you take my order?
The ordering process should also be easy. But some of that depends on what you’re looking for. Will you prefer to place your order online, or do you need to speak with a live human being? If you use the same provider more than once, will they maintain a file for you and keep a record of what you’ve ordered in the past and for whom? This step alone may help save you a great deal of phone time in the future.

Follow these simple suggestions, and you should be well on your way to providing staff members with that elusive free lunch, while earning yourself some quality face time with their appreciative boss.