Food quality is central for us. That might sound obvious, but there are a lot of brilliant restaurants that don’t serve brilliant food. That’s an important distinction.
I was born into the food business. My father operated a major contract-catering business, which I was heavily involved with from a young age. We did everything from airline catering and schools to top-end hotels and two-Michelin star restaurants.
A Voce – our two-strong NYC Italian group – would work in London, we’re just looking for the right site. Similarly, I want to take Umu to NYC.
It’s all about location we don’t compromise on that.
The planning regulations in this country make me sad. Restaurants like ours aren’t going to cause any problems – there is no noise, no drunkenness. I don’t see why it’s so hard for professional operators to get permissions.
There is a lot coming into London at the moment: lots of new players, a lot of new openings. Many of those guys may have a hard time. It’s only the very best that will survive in the long term.
I’m very particular about my chefs. The interview is intense and I always make them cook for me. The chefs in our group tend to share a similar philosophy towards cooking.
Our new FPB bakery concept in New York – a partnership with the best-known US chef, François Payard – is doing really well. We’re about to open our third site and are looking at a fourth, fifth and sixth as I speak. We’d consider it for the UK, but NYC is our focus at the moment.
It’s very costly to open and maintain our restaurants. The décor is high-end, the staff are very good, and we are always based in prime locations.
I don’t like paying massive premiums. There’s a cut-off point, and these days that point is on the low side compared to some London operators. I don’t pay stupid money for sites. It’s not clever.
Umu might be Japanese and The Greenhouse might be French, but there are common threads to the dishes across the estate. We source the best ingredients, the preparation is technical – our chefs are very precise – and there’s a lot of respect given to the ingredients.
We’ve just taken on the former Bertorelli’s in Charlotte Street. I didn’t know what the concept would be but I just snapped it up, it’s a brilliant site.
A big difference between NYC and London is that it’s much easier to change the use of a site in NYC. In London it’s very hard to get A3 use.
MARC turned out to be a good name. We needed a name for the holding company so I suggested Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation. It got abbreviated and just stuck.
We have a growth plan but we leap into action when sites become available.
Our recipe for success is very simple to outline – quality and consistency.