On working with the community
We firmly believe that being a community restaurant is a big part of what we do. We do barbecues at school fairs, we do salad stands at school fairs and we do community talks. Both myself and my head chef have gone to local schools to give career advice. In October, we are doing a local harvest fruit day in Chiswick and we will be the only restaurant there with a stand.
On being a responsible employer
We try and recruit locally if we can. Fundamentally I think its better if your staff don’t have to travel far – you have to remember people are working long hours in the restaurant industry.
We have a general policy of recruiting quite a lot of local staff without experience and recruit them on personality. 70 per cent of our opening front of house team had never worked in restaurants, but we recruited really nice, local, vibrant, energetic and personality-driven people.
On being green
Locally sourced food can be tricky in London. Our fish comes from south coast and Cornwall over night. We have also joined the Sustainable Restaurant Association who are doing good things
I think everyone has a responsibility to future generations to help the environment and do their bit. I suppose restaurants can have quite a big impact. I think environmental issues are becoming more and more important to customers, but I’m always amazed by some who just couldn’t seem to care at all.
On supporting charity
We support every local charity with a W4 postcode for Chiswick or a SW12 for Balham. We get inundated on a daily basis and people will come in and say ‘I’m a local customer and I’m raising money for a farm in Peru’ and that’s lovely, but while they are a local customer I can’t support all charity and you have to draw the line somewhere. You have to be true to what you say you do, to stay sincere.
We try to publicise our community work, but it’s not really something you always want make a song and dance about. Hopefully people in the community know what you do, and every so often someone in the community will write about it, but to me that’s just part of being a local business.
What’s the impact?
The work we do builds a relationship with the community. Our relationship with local schools means that we have kids helping at weekends.
The other nice thing is that you can have a friendship with your customers. We’ve had computers donated to us and desks donated to us and children’s books donated to us, we’ve even had a piano donated to us. Some of my staff have been invited to customer weddings, and even gone on holiday with them.
You’ve got to have a long term view of it. We work in hospitality and hospitality means being generous. I believe it is very much a two-way relationship with local communities and if you look after them, they’ll look after you.
Read more articles in this series here.