There was no plan. When you go into this industry more than most it is very difficult to have a plan because whatever you think you are going to be doing, you won’t be doing.
During the course of my career I never really envisaged that I would be working with private equity. Private equity and leisure in those days didn’t really fit hand in glove whereas over the last four or five years they do more and more.
My history has always been in operations. You get to a certain level when if you are not careful you can lose touch with the operations and I think sometimes that may happen in very large organisations. The beauty of being involved with something smaller is that you can still enjoy the strategic moves but also you can stay very much operationally involved which is something I happen to love.
The current challenge is the same as it always is and that is finding good sites in good locations. That is always the number one criteria.
A lot of the things that some people do when it gets tough are actually counter-productive. I think it is just important to remember that the consumer we are servicing now is the same consumer we were servicing five years ago.
The London after-work drinking market is unique. There is something about being in capital cities that is exciting – you have all of the trimmings of the Parliaments and key airports, the financial sector, embassies and there is a whole load of infrastructure to do with the running of any country that is based in a capital city. That does make capital cities, generally speaking, more recession proof than other large cities that may be as big, in similar locations.
I think Tiger Tiger was a sea-change, but I don’t think we knew it at the time.
Over very many years before Tiger Tiger, people, myself included, had tried and failed to get the best of a bar and the best of a late night license club together. To try and get the club to work earlier or to get the bar to work later. It was something that occurred as a result of licensing laws and that has been part of the problem for the traditional late night club and that market is in dire straits at the moment with the history of Luminar and other people.
Almost every other operation and site you look at teaches you something. Novus Leisure does a very good job, I think Drake & Morgan does its job well, I think Corney & Barrow is a nice brand. It may be too much to say I look up to these people. but you have to look across your shoulder and say ‘yes that’s not bad’.
It is very difficult to spot future trends. I am one of the many people who have often thought that surely people have had enough of pizza now for the last twenty years but that market is absolutely as strong as it ever has been and just continues.
The idea of a decent glass or a decent bottle of wine is something that has been with us a long time and I see no evidence of that changing. Probably the pub chains would say they are selling more wine than they used to. I think the quality of wine has improved over the last ten years dramatically.
I want to achieve five new sites during 2012, which will take us up to 25. I would like to see good like-for-like sales growth but the key thing from my perspective is to still see the company grow and flourish.