Mark Derry: Pearls of Wisdom

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Loch fyne, Restaurant, Types of restaurants, Management

Mark Derry, chief executive of Brasserie Blanc
Mark Derry, chief executive of Brasserie Blanc
Industry veteran Mark Derry has built a reputation running and advising premium casual dining restaurant brands. In 2007 his Loch Fyne Restaurants company was sold to Greene King; now as chief executive of Brasserie Blanc Derry is leading the group in its biggest year of expansion converting former Chez Gerard sites.

After I sold Loch Fyne I remained with the brand for a couple of years.​ At the end of that I left Greene King and improved my terrible golf but was really keen to get back involved with Brasserie Blanc.

I love pubs.​ There are a swathe of pubs that are in the wrong places because they are remote and you can’t drive to them and that is unfortunate. The good pubs that serve the market that they want to be in properly and successfully will do well.

The original pubs came out of the old coach house model where people had bed, beer and food.​ The fact that pubs became places that were almost exclusively drink-led I suspect might have been driven by the brewers who were trying to find upstream for their product.

What tends to happen when you grow a business is management tends to get further from the rock face.​ The important thing is to hire the very best people so they are as impassioned as you are.

The best restaurants are run by restaurateurs.​ The absolute basics are that you have to serve ever-better food and drinks with great service and great standards.

My skills are more commercial and operational. ​This is Raymond’s inspiration and his brainchild – I am the guy who is trying to organise expanding it and running it. It is in his image.

I am lucky enough to be what some would call in charge and others would say doing all the stuff that no one else wants to do. ​We have got a really top quality board and management team so we have lots of good people.

The truth is it was because we grew the base business organically and successfully up until last year that we were able to attract investment.

The week after we had raised cash from Core Capital to develop the business the Chez Gerard Paramount business went on the market.​ We looked carefully at it and said we thought the London sites were fantastic and we would like to expand our business as we don’t have any great depth in London so it was a shoo-in really. We bid and won the portfolio.

Great food and great drink actually takes skill and we are embracing that.

The fundamental business – 90 per cent of it is doing the basics really, really well. ​Through the recession the like-for-like business actually grew.

It would be rare for staff to leave us and go and work for another group or chain.​ We are the last stop before you do it yourself.

My favourite restaurant is Riva in Barnes.​ It is 200 yards from my house, they are very nice people and the food is great.

London is the best place in the world to eat now.​ Anybody that argues with that is just wrong.

When I am not working I ski a lot.​ Every second I can in the winter I go and ski although that may not continue because my children are becoming better than me!

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