Restaurateur Sam Harrison opened his first restaurant Sam's Brasserie in Chiswick in 2005 with the backing of Rick Stein and Rebecca Mascarenhas. He went on to open Harrison's in Balham in 2007 and is currently looking for a third site for his next restaurant.
My big achievement
"It has to be opening Sam’s Brasserie and then Harrison’s two years later. Before that it was quite an achievement to become Rick Stein’s general manager at the Fish Restaurant at the age of 27. I spent four years working with Rick and Jill and I learned everything I know about restaurants from them."
The most valuable things I’ve learnt
"You have to constantly re-evaluate your business and look at it every day to see what you can do better. Of course, you have to give away responsibility to managers and other people, but you also have to be hands on and never forget the small details. It might be as simple as changing the brand of coffee you use, but those small details are what customers look for.
"I’d also say if you want to set up a restaurant you can’t do it on your own, you need good people around you. I'm lucky to have Rick and Rebecca helping me. They have also both been a huge inspiration.
"I think you can learn from all your experiences, so there’s nothing I really regret doing, although in hindsight I would have started working in the hospitality industry earlier. When I left university I went to work for Walker’s crisps on their graduate scheme and although it was good training and it put me into a big organisation, I realised it wasn’t for me.
"Also, when I opened the second restaurant, I wouldn’t have borrowed as much money from the bank as I did, but then I didn’t know we were going to head into a recession."
"I am looking for a third site at the moment as we'd like to open more neighbourhood restaurants like we have with Sam's and Harrison's. It will be in London. I think people like to have an alternative to the chains and I'm sure there are areas in London that would welcome a mid-market operator like us.
"I think as long as you keep your restaurants individual you can develop them without them becoming a chain. Rebecca has opened several restaurants, but managed to keep them all independent. There is a similarity to the way they are run, but all have their own individuality and that's what I'd like to do with my restaurants."