November 10 2010
“Face time is crucial. There’s really no substitute for developing an ongoing relationship with people. Our office is near Shepherd’s Bush, west London, and I have lunch out at least once a week, and invite suppliers and clients to our in-house chill-out area for meetings over one of our Veg Pots about twice a week.
Our default position as a company is open and quite casual, so lunch tends to be informal. I favour nearby cafés, to support local businesses, and generally I go to Fait Maison (pictured) because the food is natural and healthy. I last went there with one of my business heroes – Tony Elliott, chairman of Time Out – as we both sit on the development board of The Roundhouse. You can choose from a dozen different salads and I find the high-fibre content provides a sustained lift and clarity of mental focus – perfect for working though to 8pm. Favourites include chargrilled broccoli with red chilli; lentils with sweet potatoes, feta cheese and balsamic dressing; or a simple avocado, tomato and onion salad. The guys there always give me a chocolate biscuit to finish – it’s my yin to their yang.
A combination of good food and proximity to the office means I also go to Café Ginkgo at the garden centre in Ravenscourt Park, where I might have lunch with Maurice Pinto, our original investor. Here you can sit outside, even in winter. Taking pleasure from the simple things in life really does reflect our business values. We also like to give something back, so at least 10 per cent of Innocent’s profits go to charity.
Sometimes it’s important to be in a non-business environment with clients. If I go to Soho House with our advertising agency, we’ll certainly have a different conversation than we would around an office table. Soho House is a brilliant members’ club: centrally located and you always get a table, whether it’s 3pm or 3am. I like its consistency and informal atmosphere. You can relax on a sofa while eating – typically, I have salmon and fresh pea salad, and a portion of fries as a treat.
Part of the same group, Shoreditch House in east London has a relaxing influence on everyone I take there. The food is healthy without being puritanical, and you can eat outside on a massive roof terrace around the pool, watching the sunset or sunrise over the city’s skyline. It’s very cool, very urban, very calming.
Meals create intimacy; and dinner, in particular, can forge an invisible bond. We had getting-to-know-you dinners with a number of potential investment suitors earlier this year. Just before we signed on the dotted line with Coca-Cola [now the majority shareholder], my co-founders and I – we’re all co-CEOs and equal shareholders of Innocent – went to the Notting Hill Brasserie with James Quincey, its CEO for north-west Europe and the Nordics, and his team. Dining together gave us a greater sense of confidence and, in a subtle way, we got a sense of their humour and values by not talking shop. We came away feeling excited about working with people we could like, trust and learn from. To celebrate the deal we took Coca-Cola and our legal team for a drink at the Paramount in Centre Point. At 32 floors up, it’s a great place for a drink at sunset.
My favourite place, though, is The Jockey Club; a beach restaurant on Ibiza whose DJs plays soft, Balearic house music. I’ve been to Ibiza with my business partners, Adam Balon and Jon Wright, every year for the past 15 years – we’ve had amazing conversations at that restaurant, taking stock. It’s a great place to reflect, dream and think up new concepts, such as the pop-up café we ran for a week in October at The Tramshed in Shoreditch, where £5 bought your “five-a-day” fruit and veg portions. Now we’re considering whether we should find it a permanent venue.”