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Chief Executive Officer

1. You started your career managing off-licenses in Glasgow, what made you decide that you wanted to enter the restaurant sector?

 

I was brought up in Manchester. When I was a teenager, my father went to work for a whisky business and moved to Scotland. My family lived on the border of the Scottish Highlands where I went to school. Consequently, my early jobs came as a result of our location. I wasn’t in a particular hurry to follow a career so I did a number of different roles including agricultural fencing in the Highlands and Islands and three years as a roughneck on the oil rigs.

Running off licenses in Glasgow in the early 80’s was quite a challenge but as a young man, was a good introduction to dealing with people – both older employees and sometimes extremely challenging customers. Following this, I stayed in the licensed industry and worked for several years in a number of roles for Whitbread predominantly in Marketing. Latterly, I was Marketing Director of TGI Fridays. They were hands down the best trainers in the industry and a breeding ground for some of the most influential people in the sector today.

 

2. Brasserie Bar Co Ltd consists of Brasserie Blanc and The White Brasserie Company – are there any key similarities or differences between the two brands?

 

The White Brasserie Pub Co was a natural evolution from Brasserie Blanc. The word Brasserie is the French for “brewery”. In the absence of wine due to phylloxera, a generation of microbreweries sprung up to provide drink to go with dinner. In effect, the French equivalent to the old British Pub. The two companies share the same culture, menus and infrastructure. Importantly, they share an obsession with caring for guests.

 

3. What are the biggest challenges in managing two different and distinct brands?

 

There are more advantages than challenges in operating two brands. The companies share central services such as finance and marketing while having distinct operational structures. They are competitive with each other in terms of guest satisfaction and results and encourage each other to strive to be better.

 

4. Your previous business, Loch Fyne, the seafood and grill restaurant was an enormous success, growing to 49 sites before you sold it. A lot of successful entrepreneurs struggle to find out what to do post-exit. How did you decide on your next move?

 

In the spirit of succession management, Brasserie Blanc was a subsidiary of Loch Fyne and when Loch Fyne was sold, Blanc was retained.

 

5. What attracted you to Le Petit Blanc group?

 

Petit Blanc was a four-strong group with high sales. It was an attractive business with a strong following.

 

6. You now have 36 sites across the UK and new sites seem to be popping up every few weeks. Would you ever consider expanding internationally?

 

International expansion remains a plausible option but I wouldn’t consider it without a local partner. The complexity of the UK property market is a serious barrier to entry and this is similar in overseas markets, so never say never but the UK market is significant and at 36 sites we still have a long way to go!

 

7. What has been the game-changing moment in your career so far?

 

The main game changer in my career was leaving Whitbread. After a great 10-year spell for a number of reasons my face no longer fit. I decided at that point I did not want to have my destiny in another person’s hands. Going to do your own thing is rarely risk-free but few regret it.

 

8. What has been biggest challenge you have faced as an entrepreneur?

 

It’s hard to say what the biggest challenge has been but in the early days, it’s rare to know everything so don’t worry and keep learning.

 

9. What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

 

The best advice is find someone who knows and ask them.

 

10. Finally, a bit of fun – please can you tell us your favourite app, book and holiday destination?

 

App – B@1

Book – Shatter by Michael Robotham

Holiday – Courchevel Le Praz