Atmosphere, food and wine are important aspects of almost all business negotiations, and they can be an entry door to a long-term relationship. At a minimum, a great meal changes the way a meeting is conducted. I travel extensively between our 11 global offices and no matter where I am, scheduling a meeting before a lunch or dinner is very productive – and as we’re in the boat business, I prefer to dine by the water.
The Mirazur in Menton, for example, is a short drive from our headquarters in Monaco and has a spectacular view of the sea; it’s ideal for meetings. Chef Mauro Colagreco is a genius; his focus is always on fresh, organic produce. I like La Forêt – a quinoa risotto with ceps and enoki mushrooms. I’m such a fan of his food that I asked him to cater for a benefit dinner in aid of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. The Prince of Monaco was in attendance and we raised several million euros.
For a more casual but equally delicious experience I take clients to La Tonnelle, on the island of Saint Honorat, off the coast of Cannes. We’ll take a small tender to this special restaurant – the only one on the island, which is also home to the Abbaye de Lérins. I’ve conducted several negotiations here – including one with an existing owner to build a nine-figure, 90m yacht – over grilled prawns, octopus salad and a bottle of Saint Salonius Pinot Noir, made by the monks. Another nearby favourite is Le Plongeoir [pictured], which is by the port of Nice, on top of a cliff. The sea bream with green vegetable risotto and a glass of Corton-Charlemagne is a winning combination.
For me, lunches and dinners work best; the only time I ever have breakfast meetings is when I’m in London – usually at Chiltern Firehouse, because the atmosphere is lively and the lobster and crab omelette is fantastic. In New York I’ll opt for lunch with our bankers at Le Bernardin in Midtown, especially now that the cuisine has lightened up a bit. I particularly love the truffle lobster pasta, and the wine list is outstanding. As a Frenchman, I am biased towards the Château Cheval Blanc wine there. And in Hong Kong, Din Tai Fung is great for lunches with customers and potential partners. It’s the perfect introduction to Chinese cuisine, and the black truffle dumplings are sublime. Our customers are very worldly and they’ve been to many fine restaurants, so I am always trying to find places that surprise them – not necessarily fancy ones, but special places they might not already go to.
Certain clients, however, prefer a more classic two- or three-star Michelin experience. In Monaco that means Joël Robuchon at Hôtel Metropole or Le Louis XV by Alain Ducasse. Everything is impeccable at both establishments. And sometimes we go to even more effort, by entertaining clients aboard a yacht and bringing along a guest chef.
At the other end of the scale, one of my biggest deals took place over a €5 sandwich at an Autogrill near Viareggio, in Italy. I was visiting a yacht with a customer who was in a rush so we just stopped there, and that’s where the deal to buy the boat was closed. He declared: “This is the cheapest lunch I’ve ever had with a broker.” But it didn’t matter; in the end it’s all about relationships. And not just with clients; meals are also a useful time for sharing information with our colleagues in what is a very small industry. At the Singapore Yacht Show we’ll gather with our competitors, including Burgess, at Skirt, a bustling meat-centric restaurant at W Hotel, which serves excellent Wagyu steaks. The camaraderie ends, however, when the deal gets going.