Growing your business
Five Successful Restaurant Owners
Hungry for inspiration for your restaurant business? Look no further, as this week we’re sharing five of our favourite restaurateurs who are doing great things in the hospitality industry!
Romy Gill, Romy’s Kitchen
Driven by her pure passion for Indian cooking, Romy opened her first restaurant, Romy’s Kitchen, in September 2013 - making her the UK’s first Indian female chef and restaurant owner. She brought to the business all the lessons she had learnt having grown up surrounded by great food in India, and combined them with the new ingredients and techniques she was only introduced to when she moved to the UK.
When asked about the challenges she’d faced when building the business, Romy said: “I think getting my business established financially was quite a challenge and also finding the right staff. I have an amazing team now but it took time. It makes all the difference working with great people who you care about and who care about you.”
As well as running her business - and owning her own line of Indian sauces, spices and chutneys - Romy demonstrates her cooking at food festivals and exhibitions, and has made several television appearances in recent years too. Not to mention, last year she was appointed with an MBE for her services to the hospitality industry!
Ben Chancellor, Sub Cult
Before launching Sub Cult in May 2014, director Ben had had quite the career journey; working in television and comedy for several years, and dabbling in property investment and PR too. His move to food came when he discovered he had Crohn’s disease a few years back, and felt it was time he made a change to follow a real passion.
Sub Cult is a London-based street food business that, as Ben describes, has “taken the New York deli, added a bit of Anglo/French and is having a bit of fun.” Along with his business partner Gareth Phillips, the pair have crafted a range of inventive gourmet sandwiches; using the bread as “the canvas for us to paint on.”
And they’ve been doing a pretty smashing job of it as Sub Cult continues to collect industry awards as it grows, including Best Sandwich and Best Vegetarian at the British Street Food Awards. Plus their current 5/5 reader review rating on both Time Out and Facebook.
Thomasina Miers, Wahaca
After winning Masterchef in 2005, Thomasina has continued to move from one success to another; producing two series of cookery programmes for Channel 4, writing a number of cookbooks, and - most notably - co-founding Mexican street-food restaurant Wahaca in 2007, which is now in over 24 locations across the UK.
Preparing for Wahaca, Thomasina worked in Mexico for a year to gain the skills and knowledge that she would need to create her authentic Mexican menu; and over the years she has continued to seek out continuous feedback on her work.
"At Wahaca we cook fast, delicious street food, but this year three of the best chefs from Mexico have been over to cook upmarket supper clubs with me at our site in Covent Garden,” says Thomasina. “They all seemed to love our food and felt it was as authentic as Mexican got – being told by a Mexican chef that your Mexican food is good is the ultimate accolade in my book.”
Roy Brett, Ondine
Throughout his culinary career, Roy Brett has worked at some of the UK’s best restaurants, including the Savoy Grill in London and Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. And in 2009, Roy opened his own restaurant, Ondine, which fast became “one of Edinburgh’s best-loved restaurants” and led Roy to win a string of awards including Chef of the Year and the food prize at the Spirit of Scotland Awards.
Not only does Ondine focus on sustainability, sourcing its produce from local fishermen and tradesmen, but it also, rather charmingly, drives its business by its employees - or as they call themselves, “the cast” - to whom Roy is passionate about sharing his expertise.
“We are on a journey and I know it’s cliché to say these chefs are just passing through but what you learn you must pass on - hopefully in the years to come they will appreciate that,” says Roy. “It’s great to work with chefs who have the energy my team have, they work really hard. They don’t become chefs in your restaurant they become friends, not in a socialising way but in a respectful way. Some of the young chefs I have in the kitchen now, I know there will be many successful restaurants built around these guys and girls.”
Tommy and James Banks, The Black Swan at Oldstead
Earlier this year, the Black Swan at Oldstead, North Yorkshire, was named the world’s best rated restaurant in the annual Travellers’ Choice TripAdvisor awards. It’s the first time a UK has topped the world category since the awards began in 2012 too, so we simply had to note the hard work of brothers Tommy and James who run the business.
The brothers took over the pub / restaurant when they were just 17 and 19 years old, and redeveloped the establishment into a fine dining venue with a passion for locally grown and foraged food.
“I found that I was cooking nice food, but it was out of other people’s cookbooks,” says Tommy. “I started to look at the history of my family, and what we did was growing and farming, so that’s been the inspiration behind the restaurant since then.”
Chasing this inspiration has also led Tommy to become the youngest British head chef to have been awarded a Michelin star when he was aged 24.
The Hot Scots Power 40: Roy Brett, Ondine, Edinburgh - The Caterer