Food | The Captain’s Table

Chris Loughlin’s dining boltholes

Chris Loughlin is CEO of Travelzoo, a global internet business with a market value of $695m. There are 22m subscribers to its published travel and entertainment deals.

April 18 2011
Helen Chislett

“A long time ago, when I was in sales, I thought that corporate hospitality was the way to get a deal done. I learnt my lesson when I invited a buyer out to dinner, who then invited practically the entire agency to come with him, sticking me with a $3,000 bill. Not only that, they all demanded limousines home. Two days later, he rang to say the client would not be advertising with us anyway. I realised then that corporate hospitality does not always mean a deal is on the table. It is about extending a relationship; the biggest benefit is that someone knows who you are the next time you call.

Taking people out is not about making everything as expensive and lavish as possible. It just needs to be good. The more genuine the experience, the more relaxing and fun it is, the better the outcome. People appreciate it if you take them to a place they enjoy so much they go back with friends or family.

Where I choose to eat depends on who I am with and where we are. In New York, I am typically doing business with bankers or investors – ties are worn and top buttons done up. In London or Munich, I am more likely to entertain people in advertising; in Palo Alto, it is usually techies. People in media, travel and technology are all ages, but they tend to be young at heart and like to have fun. There are also as many powerful women as men – possibly more.

For a power lunch in Manhattan, I go to Bice, San Pietro or Rothmann’s Steakhouse. They are all on the same block, so I often don’t decide until I get there. A completely different experience – one perfect for those in media or travel businesses – is Red Rooster in Harlem. It is off the beaten track, but has the most wonderful vibe.

In London, I enjoy The River Café and Hakkasan; and also, for breakfast, the refurbished Savoy. In Miami, Nobu at the Shore Club is always a safe bet – great people-watching – while in LA, I head for Asia de Cuba restaurant at the Mondrian hotel. Silicon Valley is home to two of my favourite places to eat: Amber India and Fiesta Del Mar – at the latter I highly recommend Enjococado (“Great-Grandmother’s Special”). I do have to watch my waistline, though, and for breakfast in Palo Alto you can’t beat the granola and berries at Il Fornaio.

My father was in the army and I spent a lot of my childhood in Germany, which has given me a fondness for German food. In Berlin, you can’t beat the view of the Brandenburg Gate from the Restaurant Quarré in the Hotel Adlon – a very formal place, but stunning. Munich is the home of my favourite restaurant, Guido Al Duomo, situated behind the cathedral. Go between late October and early December when Guido has white truffles from the Piedmont region – delicious on pasta.

It is rare that you will pull out the contract at the dinner table, but it is definitely the place to agree next steps. Having said that, Balthazar in New York was where we closed a $1m deal in 2004. More recently, I agreed a £400,000 deal while playing golf at Wentworth (where I am a member) – then we toasted it over dinner at the clubhouse.

Of course, I may be dealing with someone who is in New York with their family, so it might be a case of taking the kids to the American Museum of Natural History, then dropping into Shake Shack or 5 Napkin. In London, we might cycle through Richmond Park before stopping off for a Bavarian lunch at Stein’s. Doing something like that together can be a lot more meaningful than a fancy West End lunch. As I said, it is not so much about getting the deal – it’s about the build-up to it, getting to know people and really listening to what they want.”

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