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Chef's Pass - inploi meets Tom George, Tim Healey and Lawrence Hartley

Chef's Pass - inploi meets Tom George, Tim Healey and Lawrence Hartley inploi Team | 20.09.2016

Welcome to inploi's Chef's Pass series. We'll be interviewing some of London's top chef and restaurateurs to give you insights into the city's hospitality industry. This week, we met with Tom George (Som Saa) and Tim Healey and Lawrence Hartley (Mustard & Joe Allen).

Ever thought about opening your own restaurant or cafe? London is arguably the most exciting place to work in the UK food industry, and with the post-Brexit summer boom in dining out, more restauranteurs are setting up shop in the UK capital. Witnessing an unprecedented rise of delivery services, such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats, campaigns are being pushed by companies like Bookatable to get people dining out more. However, what certainly isn’t changing is the city-dwellers’ appetite for the ‘experience economy’ and an increasingly diverse selection of restaurant food.

“The city is a complete creative honey trap and I have seen the food scene boom out of all recognition over the last 20 years.”

This week, we interviewed three of London’s top restaurateurs, Tom George (Som Saa), Tim Healey and Lawrence Hartley (Mustard, Joe Allen & Orso), on working in London, to find out why they became restaurateurs and to learn more about their latest ventures. 

Whether it be by accident, or due to passion or even laziness, neither Tom, Tim or Lawrence took a formal route into the hospitality industry. In Lawrence’s case, working as a bell-boy provided the perfect excuse to avoid any further education, whereas both Tom and Tim moved into hospitality at later stages in their career.

Tim Healey - Mustard, Joe Allen and Orsa

Tim Healey - Mustard, Joe Allen and Orsa

Having attended university and landed a job in advertising, Tom had a gnawing feeling that he should be doing something else with his life. One summer barbecue, Tom came across a chef who had previously worked with David Thompson (known as the Western world’s authority on Thai food). Their relationship began with one simple question: Was Andy holding the leaf of fish mint, or Vietnamese mint? By 2016, Tom, Andy and Mark (a chef who had previously worked with David Thompson and Andy), opened Som Saa, motivated by their mutual “love of food and drinks, a sense of adventure, vanity, stupidity and bloody mindedness.”

Tom George - Som Saa

Tom George - Som Saa

Opening one restaurant in London is a feat in itself, but for Tim and Lawrence, one was not enough, they and their partner Stephen Gee manage three restaurants across the city; Mustard, Joe Allens (“Joes”) and Orso. Managing a restaurant is like keeping all the cogs moving in synchronisation in a well-time watch. From chefs, and bar managers through to HR, wine suppliers, waiters, hosts and KPs. Starting from scratch to recruit a team of this size is tough, and therefore the team found having a network of contacts proved invaluable, both in founding their restaurants and maintaining their success over time.

Furthermore, to bring a team together requires plenty of “Hard work, love, patience, understanding [and] an investment in people, and involvement in their goals.” In such a fast moving industry, “many young people want to run before they can walk”, and for restaurateurs, it’s important that they understand the ambitions of their staff. Whether an employee is starting out as a pot wash or food runner, those managing them have more often than not been there themselves. These restaurateurs are then not only sensitive to their goals, but also manage people’s expectations on moving up in the industry. Tom’s advice? “Laugh with your colleagues, do your job well, be reliable, and you will be moving up in no time at all.”

Lawrence Hartley - Mustard, Joe Allen, Orso

Lawrence Hartley - Mustard, Joe Allen, Orso

In restaurant management, there also seems to be an element of tough love. Ultimately, no one is as passionate about your restaurant as you are (except the odd die-hard customer), and you therefore have to love what you do. People, including customers, investors and employees, can be difficult to manage, but its is the same people who also make the job worthwhile. After all, “a beer after service is always twice as cold and goes down twice as quick as any other”. 

We asked them what advice they would offer to those looking to work in the industry. Undoubtedly our favourite answer went as follows:

“Don't do it! It's a saturated market, rents are too high, costs are spiralling, food is depleting, there is easier money to be made! Or Love food, love people, love life, follow your instincts and work hard.” (We think we’ll take the latter advice!).

Check out more inploi Chef's Pass articles here!

About the author: Victoria Bushnell is Head of Marketing/PR at inploi.

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