Robert Cook: What the restaurant and pub industries can learn from the hotel sector

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Inn, Hotel, Public house

Robert Cook was speaking at Restaurant magazine's R200 Awards on Wednesday
Robert Cook was speaking at Restaurant magazine's R200 Awards on Wednesday
Malmaison and Hotel du Vin chief executive Robert Cook has claimed that restaurants and pubs should be applying similar business approaches and sales techniques to those used in his hotels if they want to increase profits.

Speaking at the R200 Awards on Wednesday​, organised by BigHospitality's sister publication Restaurant magazine, Cook highlighted people development and real estate management as the two most important things to drive business. He was speaking just one month after he announced he is to leave is job to pursue ‘new opportunities’ in the industry​.

“When I started Malmaison in 1994, we used people development to build the core of how we built this business over the past eight years,” said Cook. "The business is still defined as a hotel business, but it’s turnover is currently about £120m and the restaurant’s contribution to that is about £55m – a very, very unusual business model.

“But the cornerstone to our success is absolutely our people development and how we have been locked into places like Oxford Brookes and Scottish Hotel School to obtain our future employees. We have a great track record of taking young people out of hotel schools and putting them up the ladder very quickly.

“There’s such talent out there. We are stealing from big rival hotels and other restaurants and hotels should be stealing them from us.”

Real estate

Cook, who recently launched the standalone restaurant concept Bistro du Vin, went on to state that he felt the British pub industry ‘is in a mess’, plagued by ‘poor quality and big brands.’

“I’m fed up of hearing about all these food-led pubs,” he added. “They are probably food-led because they’re frightened of beer, the quality of their gin and tonic is poor and they don’t give beer the same respect as wine or they serve it in the wrong glass.”

“Pubs and restaurants should look at what I call ‘blatant glimpses of the obvious’ in their real estate. By adding anything as little as two, three or four bedrooms to your business you can really make a success of what you’ve got.

“Many businesses could use their space more effectively. I look at pubs and there’s often boxes stacked up in the upstairs windows, if you have empty space, you should be using it.”

Cook’s new job

When asked which hospitality sector his new job would be in, Cook replied: “I’m not telling you where I’m, going because I’m not allowed to! But I am going to a business that is still very focused.

“I’d like to create a branded restaurant environment where I’m going.”

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