Looking for some guidance on creating a hospitality brand with purpose? In this article, you’ll find insights from leading hospo minds in London, as told to us a Table Talk – Mr Yum’s exclusive event series that brings the best of the industry together for panel discussions led by local experts.
Co-founder of Inception Group, Duncan runs unique bar, restaurant and club concepts across South West and central London.
As Head of Commercial for the MJMK group, Amreet knows a thing or two about launching successful restaurants and bars with heart and soul.
Founder of Indonesian supper club Spoons, Rahel has built a devoted London fanbase for her pop-up and collaborations.
From the first Blacklock chop house in Soho in 2015, to opening his biggest restaurant in Canary Wharf this spring, Gordon will speak about creating systems, processes and culture in high-growth businesses.
Build authenticity into your brand
Rahel spoke about how she built a brand around authenticity and how others can do the same when representing their cultures in London.
“I'm true to myself, I'm true to my food, I'm true to my culture. And I feel that not only those from an Indonesian heritage resonate with that, but also those from other eastern Southeast Asian heritages because – I feel and I hope I speak for a lot of those in my community – we're tired of being patronised. You know, with a pan-Asian menu, we want to know where our food comes from, and we want an accurate representation of it for us and for those we’re introducing these dishes to.”
“I think supper clubs are such an exciting way for so many people of so many different cultures, especially marginalised cultures, to start in the hospitality industry, to cook with autonomy, to be the best representation of what the food is meant to be, to defy the restrictions the mainstream normally does to homogenise those cuisines, and I think London's a really exciting place for that,” she said.
Standing out and being unique
Duncan shared his background starting out in difficult economic times and how his group managed to keep their identity as they grew.
“Yeah, so the first ever bar that we opened, we opened with about five different credit cards. You know, there was no bank at that time that would give to young guys any kind of bank loan, we had no covenant, no track, record, no history. And honestly, I don't know, if I was starting a business today, how we would do it, you know, it's tough enough as it is to make an honest buck in this town at the moment,” he said.
“I think customers and consumers are very savvy, and they can absolutely smell from a mile off when a business is third-generation private equity backed, and there hasn't been that sort of TLC from the founder who's gone off and found intricate pieces of tabletop, a novel way to build something, you know, it looks like they've just opened the catalogue, and bought a bunch of stools and furniture from an industry catalogue.”
“I mean, yeah, in my opinion, those kinds of businesses aren't going to last long. Because consumers want something that's a lot more intricate and a lot more thought out. And we've tried as best as we can, as we grow, we're no longer a small business anymore, to try and keep to those values,” Duncan said.
Put passion first and have it reflect in your company culture
Gordon came from a white-collar environment before opening up his first restaurant. Here’s what he learned from that transition.
“I think one of the biggest things I learned at the law firm was that people can do great things when they're really passionate and when they're really motivated. And that is something that inspires me all day long. And that's really why I set the company up, where our goal every day is to be a great place to work. And that comes before being a great restaurant. We passionately believe that if we do that, first and foremost and if we focus on that every day, then the restaurants will follow with some great work and operations and all the other bits and bobs, but were massively focused on that first,” he said.
Growing a brand past the start-up phase
Amreet shared his experience in growing brands and how that approach to business shifts as your business grows.
“I'm sure lots of people starting out don't necessarily think about returns on investment or the kinds of things that future investors might think about. It’s a passion project, they want to open this thing in London, they don't really care how to do it. Which is commendable. When we get to where we are now it's a much different process of thinking about exactly what are those return on investment calculations? What do we think this place is going to sell how much it's going to cost?”
“But yeah, it's kind of graduated from a fairly free-wheeling approach. And as you might expect getting to a bigger company and having external investment and things, it's a much more rigorous and disciplined process.”