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Building a career with London’s Best Bars: Inception Group

Building a career with London’s Best Bars: Inception Group inploi Team | 02.07.2018

The now widely popular and award-winning Inception Group started from humble beginnings. Co-founders Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling began their business venture launching the secret speakeasy bar Barts in the heart of Chelsea. Its quick success spurred them to launch two further wildly different venues, Maggie’s and Bunga Bunga. Since 2009, the pair have built out a small empire of highly creative concept bars, now including the beautifully nostalgic Cahoots and masterfully eclectic Mr Fogg’s. The ambitious duo have worked hard over the years to maintain their position as leaders of the pack - building an ever-explorative and expanding team of talented and experienced staff. We caught up with Michele - Bar Manager at Cahoots, and Giovanni - Bar Manager at Mr Fogg’s Tavern to find out how they have developed international bartending careers, and what it’s like working for one of London’s most flamboyant and fast-growing hospitality groups.

When we met Michele and Giovanni, one thing was clear from the offset: these guys are passionate about hospitality. Both began their careers in Italy, gaining experience working in a variety of cafeterias, clubs and cocktail bars before exploring opportunities overseas. Giovanni moved to Barcelona, working as a chef; getting to grips with the Spanish language before returning to bartending. Michele similarly struggled with a language barrier when he moved to London, taking up the role of bar back: “My CV was very good but I couldn’t stay in front of the customer,” he explains, “so the first 6 months were very hard, but step by step I built my reputation again.”

With over two decades of experience between them, Michele and Giovanni now don’t need to worry so much about their reputation. As Bar Managers for Inception Group both take on a lot of responsibilities including, managing the bar day-to-day, hiring, staff rotas and most importantly, team training and development. Where they used to attend Masterclasses themselves, the pair now organise their own - often working closely with their brand suppliers to enhance their team’s knowledge. “It’s the best place to learn,” says Michele. “Everyone is really focused on what we’re doing. 1 year in London in Cahoots is more than 5 years in a normal bar in Italy.” Giovanni is also eager to get his team involved in various gin-related competitions, helping them to get to grips with Mr Fogg’s immense menu that boasts over 200 different varieties of gin! “I try to organise visits around the distilleries,” he says. “Me and the other Bar Managers at Mr Fogg’s went to Bruichladdich Distillery on the Isle of Islay* in Scotland, where they produce The Botanist Gin. It was a great experience. But there are also loads of distilleries to visit in London.”

Although Giovanni and Michele are team leaders, they equally emphasize a deep-set belief that their team members come first. The group’s Bar Managers may be the lead menu creators, coming up with new concepts on a monthly/bi-annual basis to keep customers coming back, but their team members also need to be happy with the decisions made. As Giovanni iterates: “we are a small family - we are a team.” Subsequently, the whole team is involved in tastings and honing cocktail recipes. “If someone is coming to work with us, for them it’s good to know they’re joining a family first,” Michele says. Cahoots and Mr Fogg’s are not just about the cocktails, it’s about the people and excellent customer experience. Staff training therefore doesn’t just end at mixology and cocktail skills, it includes service, cocktail presentation and being able to explain the story behind every drink. Everyone loves a good story, and these guys are master storytellers.

But the story of Inception Group doesn’t end here. “You’re not just starting in one place,” Giovanni explains, “If you want to move, you don’t need to apply for another job in another company, you can get involved with so many exciting things going on.” With four Mr Fogg’s venues now open and another three opening by October (all with their own individual story/concept), the opportunities for internal staff growth and movement are huge. It’s something that both Michele and Giovanni are excited to be a part of. “Inception give you a really good car to drive,” Michele says, “I say to the guys, ‘This is like a small Ferrari: we need to drive.’ To drive this car is not easy. But we are doing a fantastic job.”

So what sort of people are Inception Group looking for to take on the driving seat? “I’m looking for someone with personality on the bar and the floor,” Giovanni explains. “All the staff here, they are multi-taskers. They can do preps in the morning, they are versatile, and they’ll give 100% in all the different areas.” (With some drink ingredient preparation taking over 12 hours and a small team of 15-20 people between the Tavern and Gin Parlour upstairs, it’s key everyone is genned up on menu preparation, and is able to work across the bar and floor). In return for their team’s hard work, Cahoots and Mr Fogg’s offer a “family-first” environment,  a great team with supportive management, as well as plenty of fun Masterclasses, training trips and openings for career progression. As someone who loves Italy and who is eager to go back sometime in the forthcoming years, Michele happily admits that there’s something about Cahoots which keeps him from leaving London. “The last 4 years I’ve spent in the same company. It’s fantastic. I love Cahoots.”

Interested in joining the team at Inception Group? We are opening 3 new sites in 2018 and have positions for all levels of staff and management. Check out the Mr Foggs company page on inploi to discover our latest jobs openings and apply today.

*You can watch ‘Mr Fogg’s adventure to the Isle Of Islay’ here.