Today’s interview is with Will Beckett of Hawksmoor, a rapidly growing restaurant brand in London, and follows on from my recent interview: Customer service, people and how caring does scale – Interview with Gary Vaynerchuk #1aDayQandA
It was when they ranked No. 36 in the Sunday Times’ 100 Best Small Companies to work for in 2012 that I decided I’d like to find out more about what makes them tick and what makes them so successful.
This interview makes up number forty-eight in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things and helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.
Here’s the highlights from the interview I did with Will:
- Appeared in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to work for in 2012
- Company believes in encouraging their staff to embrace their individual personalities as they will be happier at work and create a friendlier and better environment for customers
- Will believes that one of the reasons behind the growth of the company (they now have four restaurants in London) is the strong culture that they have created.
- Will is aware that many of his friends are not happy at work and tend to have to ‘change’ when they ‘clock in’ to become ‘professional’ versions of themselves when at work and then revert back to themselves when they leave.
- Hawksmoor wanted to go the other way and recruit people that were different but that all worked to the same standards.
- If you work for the company you are, essentially, ask to come and be a good version of yourself.
- That means that each table in the restaurant will get a slightly different customer experience dependent on the waiter/waitress they get but the standards will be the same.
- That has helped Hawksmoor attract and retain great people
- Will believes that Hawksmoor’s primary role is to make sure their staff are happy and their staff’s primary role is to make sure that the customers are happy.
- A key part of Hawksmoor’s culture is the saying “Work hard and be nice to people”
- The restaurant industry is littered with examples of businesses that do one of those things but not both. They are trying hard to do both.
- They don’t hire anyone without a work trial
- They believe that if they find people that can work hard and be nice to people then they can pretty much teach them everything else
- One of the things that they say at Hawksmoor is that money is not the point of what we do but allows us to do what we do
- The big lessons learnt for Will from their three previously failed ventures have been getting the people right and paying attention to the business of running restaurants. They were always good at the ‘product and service’ part
- With that in mind they now train all of their staff in the business of running a restaurant as that helps them understand and pay attention to important things and drivers that make a difference to the overall business results
- Top tips: Fail quickly and early and learn from your mistakes, Don’t rest on your laurels and accept good enough, and The more you enjoy what you do the more productive you will be
- Will hopes that if listeners and readers were to visit Hawksmoor restaurants then they would experience and see what Will has been talking about
About Will (bio taken from a recent piece in The Caterer and Hotelkeeper)
Will Beckett and Huw Gott co-own the Underdog Group, which owns and operates four Hawksmoor steak restaurants in London. The group’s turnover for 2011 was £10.6m, up from £3.7m in 2010
Friends since the age of 11, Beckett and Gott first teamed up to open Shoreditch bar the Redchurch, in London in 2003. Beckett was studying for a masters in modern history at UCL at the time while Gott had managed to convince a friend to part with £100,000 to set up a business and, needing help, asked Beckett to assist. The pair formed the Underdog Group in the process and the Redchurch soon became a popular local haunt in east London.
Initially scared by the prospect of doing food, the pair were tempted into a full F&B offering at their next site, Green and Red, also in Shoreditch, following a trip to Mexico together. On their return they found authentic Mexican food hard to come by in London so decided to do it themselves, opening the bar and cantina in 2005. Next came gastropub the Marquess Tavern in London’s Islington in 2006, before the pair launched the restaurant with which they were to become synonymous – Hawksmoor, which opened in London’s Spitalfields later that year.
This was followed up by a second site in London’s Seven Dials in 2010 and Guildhall in 2011 – during which time the group jettisoned Redchurch, Green and Red and the Marquess to concentrate on Hawksmoor – before the pair added a 60-cover bar to their Spitalfields site and a fourth restaurant in London’s Piccadilly in 2012.
As well as proving very capable restaurateurs, the pair have also become highly regarded employers, and take pride in their position of 36th in the Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For 2012 list.