Our charges often wish to dine out, either as part of entertaining or they are traveling.
Handling this common event is easy if you follow a few rules and dangerous if you do not.
Must do – know the potential choices of a restaurant in advance. Yes, choices, a plural, as events can make your first choice either excluded or not as attractive. Simple things such as running late, traffic problems getting to the location, or discovering your charge’s, guest’s new significant other is vegan and there is little to offer them at the Argentine Chop House.
Plan for three bars, three restaurants, and three clubs in order of preference. First for the night is a bar (it is there in case VIP or his partner are delayed) restaurant bookings usually are difficult to move so if anything had to go it is the pre dinner aperitif, thus go straight to the restaurant. I have had the experience while en route when the security advance team called (Melbourne Australia) and suggested the next restaurant on the list as construction crew doing road work cut through electrical cables. The restaurant had no power thus lights and no kitchen. So on to restaurant choice number two. Other reasons for a change might be if the VIP has selected the same destination as an ex spouse or ex girlfriend. All what of the ambience? There could be a noisy bachelorette party, an impromptu hell’s angels wedding shower, or it may just be empty. Club choices are made if the principal wishes to extend the evening. It is also good to know subtle things in language, such as a nightclub in UK is a discotheque in Germany and nightclub in Germany is a sex club. Also for popular clubs the use of advance party of understudies are vital to select and hold tables only to be relinquished to you when you arrive. The good bodyguard team leader needs to also have some concierge skills up the sleeve.
Also be aware that certain restaurants are watched by paparazzi, anarchists, social activists, etc… as these are the places they can find a famous person, provoke an incident and get news coverage. The paparazzi do work with protesters to identify famous people with whom the protestors can provoke into incidents for the paparazzi to sell pictures and the protestors to make the news.
Do visit all of the choices in advance and review the layout. All establishments seemed to be organized with one entrance and exit. You need to find other exits as well the obvious ones and get permission to use other exits with little or no warning. The managers need to know why you are there but not necessarily the name of your charge. If your charge is one with a famous face, you will need to work with restaurant management to point their face away from windows, and busy traffic patterns in the restaurant.
If your charge is a famous person, the owner or management of the restaurant may wish to have a photograph with this famous person for the restaurant. One needs to be ready to accept or refuse the request before one arrives. One EP professional had a standard answer for the request of a photo. “We will ask Mr. Smith after he has enjoyed his meal.” What a great position for your charge to be, truly taken care of in exchange for a photo. Mr. Smith always took photos with the owners and always sent two to the owner, one signed with a simple message on the front and the second unsigned with a much more personal message on the back.
Reservations, if they are required, should be made under a invented nom-déjeuner so not as to attract attention from wait staff looking at the name and gossiping in such a way patrons can overhear, or allowing the wait staff sell the information to paparazzi.
Private rooms are an option. They can also be the dining equivalent of a box canyon, if any event occurs – you often only have a single way out of the private room before you can even get to think about how to exit the restaurant.
Also beware of the ruse, mischief at all of the exits but one. This tactic is used by paparazzi and kidnappers to have you choose – by default – the “safe exit”. It is sometimes best to choose the path of known problems other than the one of unknown peril. It is also often a counter tactic to send out a partial team to test an exit before the full team with charge in tow exits.
Review parking choices and how close and the ability to leave. One detail in Miami scoped the restaurant beautifully. The location had a rear alley, where the car could be parked by the backdoor. It was near perfect, easy and anonymous access and egress. The only problem was between when the dinner started and wound up, local nightlife was so active the ability for the car to leave via the ally was severally hampered by extreme traffic on the road – bumper to bumper and not the moving type of traffic. This annoying error, and thankfully it was only annoying, could have been averted by just asking the manager about the location. Sometimes, the best option for all is a short walk, if permitted, to go to a location with better vehicle accessibility.
High rise restaurants pose their own problems and advantages. Often there is a freight elevator that can be accessed via an underground garage or side door. A building supervisor will often have the ability to override other floor requests and take the team to and from ground level to the correct floor on the way up and on the way down. The counter point is that there are only elevators and stairs to exit a given floor. Plot all exists out, not just to the car, but to the street and to passages to other buildings – such as through skyways.
Inebriation is sometimes a side effect of a dinner out. One hopes it is the pleasant side effect not the unpleasant or argumentative effect. But all must be planned for and honestly, the unpleasant and argumentative are the easiest to deal with. Everyone, but the imbibed, knows what you are trying to do – so it is hard to cause too much trouble. The real handful is when your charge possesses ennobled spirits and wishes to greet everyone in the restaurant or walking down the street. Truly a good use of the drink, but a handful for the EP professional, as if one is to apply our trade without some grace – we are accused of ruining what once had been a good evening!
This Executive Protection article was written or edited by Baron James Shortt, the Executive Director of the IBA. http://www.ibabodyguards.com