After a basic trust has been established – whether it’s with a CEO or a prospective customer – I love to share a meal away from a business setting. In a relaxed restaurant you can really get to know a person, and I find that my best business development is done with existing clients over a good supper and a glass of wine. By listening to them, I know exactly what direction our company should be heading.
I’ve done many negotiations in this way and one of the most memorable was the initial deal struck with Bombardier CEO Steve Ridolfi over dinner at 40 Westt in Montreal. I still have the original note from that night, which outlined the purchase of our fleet, and it now hangs – framed – in my London office.
For casual entertaining I’ll head to Nobu on Old Park Lane where you’ll see everyone from people in jeans – my preferred uniform – to heads of state. This restaurant is very personal to me as Nobu Matsuhisa is a dear friend and I think his restaurants embody understated luxury, much like our brand. Our customers tend to be fans of the food as well – so much so that Nobu now caters our aircraft in certain markets, right down to its renowned YK35 sake. A meal here puts everyone at ease and the dishes are perfect for sharing, which I love to do, even with people I don’t know well.
When in Rome my go-to is Dal Bolognese for delicious food served on the picturesque Piazza del Popolo. Owner Alfredo Tomaselli makes everyone feel at home and the polpetti, bollito misto and fish baked with potatoes are excellent. Dal Bolognese provides the meals for our flights leaving from both Rome and Milan. It recently did this for a trip to Sierra Leone and my clients were thrilled with the salmon tartare and lasagna – both of which were unexpected and welcome in-flight surprises.
Since we just opened our offices in Hong Kong, I’m increasingly there meeting clients from the financial services and property industries. I always entertain at the China Club, where history meets the 21st century and the dim sum is spectacular. I find it easier to conduct business in this relaxed club than in other parts of China. It’s also well located for the airport, and I can bring clients directly from the restaurant to the hangar to see our newest aircraft.
No matter where I am, Italian is my favourite cuisine and Bindella in Zurich and Roberto’s in Geneva are two of the best. I treasure consistency and these two places offer traditional dishes in a setting that is warm and without surprises. I’ll often pick a Solaia wine for my guests, but I let them direct the timing and pace of the evening. In Switzerland we tend to finish earlier than in Milan, and certainly earlier than Madrid. One Italian meal – at Chesa Veglia in St Moritz with my good friend and the chairman of Moncler, Remo Ruffini – started out as a casual pizza dinner and led to the creation of over 500 stylish jackets for our crew who fly to cold places such as Russia and Canada.
New York is the most cosmopolitan city in the world and Milos in Midtown is always my choice for fresh seafood and incomparable service. After a recent late‑night flight from Nigeria, I brought some associates straight there at midnight for grilled fish, Greek salad and an Opus One Cabernet. Valbella in the Meatpacking District also works well for casual business dinners. If seated in the pastry room, guests can make the dessert, and it’s often a fun, bonding experience.
At the end of the day, our clients put a huge amount of trust in us to carry them from A to B, and I like to know exactly who I am doing business with as well. A meal facilitates this relationship in the most effective, friendly way. I find that after breaking bread together, anything is possible.