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Power breakfasts have been around for a long time in the US. But in France, they’re a relatively new phenomenon which is growing as people are trying to fit more into the workday. Even very elegant breakfasts take less time and cost less than lunch in a comparable restaurant. For one, there’s (usually) no booze.
When extremely senior French business executives and clients used to meet, more than likely they’d opt for lavish lunches. Those were the days when people felt they had three hours to sit and savor sumptuous meals accompanied by a medley of wines and possibly a digestif. You’ll still see plenty of over-the-top business lunches in Paris’s very best restaurants. But that’s usually when people are into negotiating the final intricacies of a contract or sealing a deal. And even though wine consumption is dramatically down in France, working after one of these extended lunches can present its own challenges.
Now, classy breakfasts are becoming more accepted in the world of Paris “let’s do” business. An executive confided that breakfast is a more expedient way of deciding whether or not there’s business to be done. Gerard said, “Drinks after work may be tricky – most especially if the person isn’t from Paris. At a certain hour, it may be problematic if you have to invite the person to dinner. You may want to if you smell potential business. But if you have other plans, it’s awkward.”
So for “impress you – impress me” breakfasts, here are a few suggestions.
Please note: all of these dining rooms have enough space between tables, so if you want to do something “vulgar such as discussing money,” you can do it in privacy. You’re paying not only for the breakfasts but for the discrete ambiance and the training of the waiters.
Plan on paying approximately 35 euros (for a continental breakfast) or more (40-50 euros) if your guests eat a full American breakfast. Naturally, you can opt for a champagne breakfast (a specialty at the Ritz) but there goes the budget. Prices vary from one place to another but factor in that you won’t have to pay 2 euros for the International Herald Tribune and more than likely, there are complementary issues of the Financial Times.
Hotel De Crillon: Les Ambassadeurs’ refined cuisine is prepared by one of greatest chefs in France, Jean-Francoise Piège. The dining room is nothing less than palatial; a mini-Versailles with a lighter touch. Round tables facilitate conversations and there’s nothing wrong in contemplating a business proposition with a view of the Concorde and the Assemblée Nationale.
The Hotel Plaza Athénée pays special homage to breakfast. Its pastry team, headed by the ‘2005 World Pastry Champion’ Chef Christophe Michalak, prepares homemade pastries such as the Kugelhopf and sugar tarts to accompany coffee, tea or hot chocolate. As is true in all of the palace hotel/restaurants, you can opt for a continental breakfast or an American one which includes items such as eggs and more.
The Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris is another grand hotel that makes a statement. No one can help but be impressed by any meal here and breakfast is no exception. The hotel’s flowers are some of the most beautiful in the world and have set a new standard in floral arrangements. Le Cinq (a 3* Michelin restaurant) is clearly another room that shimmers like a palace. Steps away from the Champs-Elysées, it’s conveniently located for business (or pleasure).
Walk into the Hotel Meurice from the rue Rivoli and you’ll know you’re in Paris as you overlook the Tuileries Gardens and have a glimpse of the Ferris wheel. Besides being one of the most elegant dining rooms in the City of Light, the breakfast is as memorable as the décor. Be prepared to be pampered and given enough space to do business in privacy.
Meet me at the Ritz has a certain je ne sais quoi. The Espadon Restaurant has entertained the crème de la crème and them some. Sitting under the trompe l’oeil ceiling of this dramatic dining room can make anyone feel powerful or for that matter, glamorous. This may be the right ambience for discussing a make or break deal – or a potential romance. If that’s not enough, you can walk around the Place Vendome for added inspiration.
Hotel Le Bristol, and most especially the winter dining room, reeks of power.
Located on the rue Faubourg St-Honoré, a stone’s throw from the Elysée Palace (the President’s home), don’t be surprised if you see politicians and high flying business types immersed in heavy conversation. Some hotel guests are such regulars that the hotel’s operators act as their personal assistants, tracking their comings and goings.
The Hilton Arc de Triomphe Paris is the newcomer on the scene. Many business people and others stay here. Just a short walk from the Champs Elysées, it’s a convenient stop for people who want to be sure they’ll have access to business services and be in a central part of the city. The Safran restaurant offers a breakfast where you’ll spot diners from all countries reviewing papers while eating Eggs Benedict. The hotel has extensive conference facilities, if you’re meeting bound.
If you’re looking for a less formal meeting place, consider Les Orchidées at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme. It’s an open-space lounge located in the center of the hotel. The décor is modern and the room is spacious with seating areas composed of sofas and chairs covered in sumptuous custom designed silk and cotton chenille fabrics. It’s a good place for an exploratory business rendezvous. If you’re a lover of modern design, this may well be the hotel for you.
If you want to experience a Parisian institution, all you need to do is walk into the lobby of the Hotel Raphael that was built in 1925. It has been a favorite among the French who appreciate the tradition of this family owned hotel; something that’s rare in these days of chain hotels. The dining room is very elegant and the food is considered comme il faut. Expect to see many regulars since some people eat there each weekday – and have been doing so for years.
So what do others do who aren’t indulging in “power breakfasts”? Before heading to work, many grab a café at the bar next to their offices for a last minute caffeine fix. More likely than not, they’ll stand at the bar. The morning routine is pretty much the same. They walk into the bar, shake hands with the person manning it, a coffee is placed in front of him or her and money is left on the counter. They might eat a croissant or a tartine (a piece of baguette with a smear of butter) but rarely anything else.
It’s essentially organized (and usually noisy) chaos and isn’t conducive to conversation about anything meaningful. Frequently, the bar’s clients are getting their last tobacco fix of the morning (even if they’re not doing the puffing) since many offices have the nonsmoking mandate.
Then off to work they go, making room for the next onslaught of people who’ll be repeating the same drill.
© Karen Fawcett