Business Trip Meal Podcast Episode 1
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Hello dear business travellers, this is your boarding call for the first episode of the business trip meal podcast. On the menu today, as a first course we will present your host Mario Alvarez who’s been a business traveller for the last eighteen years. As a second course we are going to tell you our definition of business trip meals. As a dessert we will comment about the business trip meal community. All passengers are invited to take their seats at our table. Enjoy the ride.
Hello and welcome to all business travellers and to anybody who likes travelling and likes food. This is the first episode of the business trip meal podcast.
My name is Mario Alvarez and I am your host at this show. I was born in Mexico to a Bolivian father and a Mexican Mother. Dad met Mum when he was studying and working as a Doctor in Mexico. Mum was a nurse. I came to this world in Mexico city and a year after I took the plane for the first time to go live in La Paz Bolivia. There I Studied in a French speaking school where I learned the language of Baudelaire. English was also on the curricula for the last four years and I learned the language of Shakespeare. When I finished high school I went back to Mexico where I became a mechanical engineer. I got my first job at a German company as a technical service representative which needed that I travel to visit customers all over the Mexican Territory and sometimes in the United States and Central America.
There was a budget to learn languages and since I already could speak english and French my boss suggested I learn the language of Goethe. After four years in that position I got an equivalent position in France based in Paris. This time I was in charge of customers in France, Italy, the UK, Spain. After three years in that position I was proposed a change to the headquarters in Germany where I’ve lived for more than ten years. I’m still travelling a lot, mostly in France, Italy and Spain and Germany of course but I also move from time to time to the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Poland, The Czech Republic, Rumania, wherever the customers need my help. As you can imagine I have been travelling non stop for almost twenty years.
Now let’s talk about business trip meals which is the focus of this podcast. As a background I must say I have been very lucky because all my life I was surrounded by people who could cook very well. My mum is a fantastic cook. She prepared always the most tasty mexican food when we lived in Bolivia. But added to that, she learned also Bolivian Cuisine which is not internationally known but I can tell you it is fantastic in taste and variety. My two grannies were, fantastic cooks and my wife is also great in the kitchen. My brothers and I are also interested by cooking and we inherited mum’s talent and dad’s gourmet taste. He can’t boil water without burning it but he is a bon vivant when it comes to meals. My first business trip was not a long one but a very tasty one. Living in Mexico means you can get mexican tasty food anywhere at anytime. In that first trip I had to visit a customer together with the logistics company that had apparently provoked a contamination of our material. After a long meeting whose result is not of interest for this show the big boss of the logistic company invited us and our customer to a great spanish restaurant where we had nice wine, some iberico ham a great paella and a fantastic dessert and coffee. That first business trip meal was a great start for what has been a glorious gastronomic adventure. Not all meals are so nice, sometimes you have to survive with a cold sandwich and bad coffee from a gas station, or with fast food but many meals can be really a highlight during a business trip. My definition of business trip is a travel you have to make to interact with people living outside of your city or country in order to make your business move forward. Since those trips can last for a day or more it’s likely you will have to have breakfast, lunch or dinner away from home. Sometimes one of the three, sometimes all of them, sometimes for many days, sometimes alone or with the customers. Sometimes they will be good and sometimes not, but always an adventure.
The business trip meal community. Business travel market numbers count in billions of dollars. A good share of that is used to feed all that people at their corresponding destinations. You can imagine that restaurants in business destinations are visited on a daily basis by people on business trips curious or scared to discover new meals, eating on a budget or with no expenses limit, inviting customers or trying to respect a diet for healthy reasons or because they are preparing for a marathon. All those people are in a way or another consuming business trip meals. All have expectations or issues that have to be dealt with. They need information or a way to share that local specialty with their contacts online. Well that is a non dismissable amount of people interacting around food. Imagine Karl from Gemany flying to Shanghai, or Ku Wan Cheng from Japan going to Puebla in Mexico.
On the second part of this show I will read a post I wrote some time ago describing seven misconceptions about business trip meals.
After so many years travelling and living the business trip meal experience I observed that people around the business traveler can have different and not always positive perceptions about that event. The first particular situation that comes to my mind is when you take a customer for dinner or lunch. Depending on your negotiation position you might be invited or you might invite…
1 That customer who thinks your invitation is a blank check.
One day a colleague and I were invited by a Tier One to a meeting; this customer needed our presence as support during a technical discussion and a dinner with his OEM purchasing contact. We were taken to a nice and expensive restaurant somewhere in the south of France. You might have had a similar experience, you see something strange in the eyes of the guest and you start to be intrigued by the way his tongue hangs. This guy was acting like he had won the lottery, he asked for the most expensive beverages and meals, the nicest wines were served and haute cuisine food was prepared. The place was so good that even if you had asked for water and bread it would have tasted fantastic and correspondingly the pricing was as high as the food quality. This customer really got away with the best and most expensive dinner ever. Fortunately not everybody is like that. The first weird perception about a business trip meal, coming from some customers is that they won a price and they take it to the limit shameless.
2 Colleagues think all your business trip meals are like a Bacchanalia.
I remember commenting stories like last one, about abusive customers, to my colleagues. Some agreed that they had experienced similar situations but some of them, particularly those who are not “exposed” to the business trip meal experience had a strange look in their eyes. I got the impression that I had left those colleagues with the feeling that all my business meals where some kind of orgy or a dinner like in “La Grande Bouffe”. The second perception from some of your colleagues might be that your business trip meals are big parties all the time. Tell them about that quick industrial tasteless sandwich you eat most of the times at the gas or train station on a hurry to your next visit, they won’t believe you.
3 What your wife could imagine about your business trip meals.
One day I was in Spain with a couple of business partners. We had to visit a customer next morning and went for dinner in the old down town of San Sebastian. The hotel was twenty minutes away walking distance and since the evening was nice we decided to go by foot. During the walk the phone of one of my partners rang; the other guy and I witnessed the following half dialog:
Hi honey… Yes the flight was OK… Going for dinner with the colleagues…
What? What do you mean another of MY business dinners? You know it’s a business trip and I told you I was meeting M. and A.
What do you mean by I always tell that story? Please we are not going to do this again!
Voices? What voices? Of course you listen to voices we are in a public area and people are walking around and talking…
Women? of course there are women, men, dogs, birds and also squirrels around!!!
No, no, no and a thousand times no! I’m only with M. and A., yes! Honey ? Honey? Hello? Hellooooooooooooo…
That man’s wife had the wrong perception about his business trip meals. That night we went for nice tapas and wine, no girls were involved but how can you prove that? Do you need to?
4 EBITDA, you are eating it.
Another time some years ago the assistant of our controller came to my office and we had this exchange of words:
J: I noticed that on your last trip you had a 37,5 dollars dinner and you were alone, how do you explain that?
M: There was no other option, I told her.
J: What do you mean by no option?
M: I mean the only place available for dinner was the restaurant of the hotel and those are the prices they have.
J: You know you should have looked for a cheaper option.
M: I always do, that was the cheapest option at that time of the day and in that area, besides the machine at the hotel where you can get chips and water. Why are you asking this? The signature of my boss is on the travel expenses report!
J: I like to double check…