Business profile: Jonathan Kaye of Prezzo

By Paul Wootton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Restaurant

Jonathan Kaye
Jonathan Kaye
Belonging to one of the UK's great restaurant dynasties has set the bar high for Prezzo chief executive Jonathan Kaye. He's learned to move with the times - including giving his first media interview

On Prezzo's 2009 financial results:

Pre-tax profits were up 12 per cent to £12.9m and revenues increased to more than £90m in the year to the end of December.

“We are delighted Prezzo has performed so strongly and are happy with how we’re trading,”

On discounting throughout the recession:

“We’ve made this into a recession of margin erosion rather than sales decline. We think it’s a short-term thing and you just have to adapt to the climate and what it’s throwing at you. I’m not very good at predicting the economy, but in better times we’ll obviously look to achieve better margins. But now the focus is on value and getting customers into our restaurants.”

On the fact the Kayes don't seek publicity:

"We've always thought: build nice restaurants, serve good quality food and give good service and the business will speak for itself. I still think that's largely true. But the business has certainly changed over the past year or two, with promotions and marketing.

On family connections:

Kaye's family is one of the UK's great restaurant dynasties. His father Reginald and uncle Philip Kaye were early pioneers of mid-market restaurant chains, including Golden Egg in the 1960s and later building the Deep Pan Pizza and Garfunkel's brands. His cousins Sam and Adam Kaye created the Ask and Zizzi chains with their father Philip and are now directors of Tasty, the owners of the Dim T brand.

"I had an opportunity to learn from one of the masters of the business. Let's face it, some family businesses are not this exciting."

"My uncle has been able to pass on decades of experience in a much shorter period than it would have taken me to acquire normally. Having that support behind you certainly is a massive benefit initially."

On launching another Italian offering in a competitive market:

"I think the need for differentiation is exaggerated, to be honest. If you open a restaurant that looks good, serving good food at value prices, I think you're going to do well. And we've had belief in that throughout the expansion process. Choose the right site, make them look as good as you can, look after your staff. Why do I have to differ?

"You shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the reason it's so competitive is that it's so popular with customers."

On the company's culture:

Prezzo has moved with the times, making its website more user-friendly, getting a presence on Facebook and doing "more of those kinds of marketing inititatives.

"We're a very hands-on operation. All our senior operational staff started as chefs, waiters, or supervisors and have come from within. We're very restaurant-focused. Our area managers might run six to eight restaurants, which is quite a low number, I think. And that's because we want our staff to be in the restaurants. It's a hands-on culture and it's a hard-working culture."

On growing the company

After several years of expansion, no new Prezzo sites opened last year. This year, Kaye says the company is likely to open 10 (three have already launched in Crawley, Eastleigh and Beckenham).

"To some extent we've built the business on trading in smaller locations with lower rental units and there's a lot of them yet to realise. And there are some major city centres wer'e not in yet: Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, for example.

"When I see some of the competition that have businesses three times the size of ours, I don't think there's any reason why we shouldn't get to that size ourselves."

Jonathan Kaye timeline

1978 - Born in London
1999-2000 - Various management positions at Ask
November 2000 - Opens the first Prezzo in London
2002 - Company floats on AIM
2007 - Year of Prezzo's greatest expansion with 34 sites opening
March 2010 - The ninth Chimichanga opens in Peterborough
April 2010 - Opens Prezzos in Eastleigh and Beckenham, the 145th and 146th sites.

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