Paul Deeming: Pearls of Wisdom

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Hakkasan interim chief financial officer Paul Deeming says he is driven by seeing concepts expand
Hakkasan interim chief financial officer Paul Deeming says he is driven by seeing concepts expand
Paul Deeming co-founded Ignite Group, the company behind London nightclub Boujis and restaurant group Bumpkin, in 1998 and remains part-owner. He is also acting chief financial officer of restaurant group Hakkasan where he is helping to spearhead its international expansion.

It used to be that anyone could open up a bar or a restaurant.​ Nowadays you need to have passion and a vision to make it work. 

You have to give the customer what they want​, not what you think they want. I find that's a failing with new businesses and people who think they want to get into the industry. They have a great idea, or believe it's a great idea and in fact it's not what the customer wants. 

My background has always been in finance and commerciality​ so I'm always going to look at any project from that angle. Bars and nightclubs have higher risks but with a quicker return, with a restaurant the risks are lower but the rewards are lower also.

I moved onto the Ignite business full time when we'd opened our fourth site.​ I realised at that point in time that if you have a good idea with sound underlying principles then you can roll out the concept.

Rolling out new concepts and new ideas is a key part of what I do​. I like to grow things, I don't want to just sit on one operation, one business, it's all about the next stage and next level.

Boujis is in its tenth year now​ and is one of the longest surviving clubs in London and I think that's down to its offering, quality of staff and quality of service. You do have to adapt with clubs though. You need to ensure that activities and promotions are right for the young people of the time. 

We always saw Boujis with potential to be an international brand.​ We opened up an outpost in Hong Kong last year, so it's still growing and I'm still a significant shareholder in the business. It's very satisfying when you see something that you've put your blood sweat and tears into grow and get into the press. 

I wouldn't say Government policy has had an impact on the quality end of the nightclub market,​ it's more a case that the clientele are more discerning, they expect more. With the expansion of other clubs and bars out there they have more choice and they can be more discerning, so if you aren't more ahead of the game then they will go somewhere else. It's the same for the high end restaurant industry.  

If I had to choose one brand to work on now it would be Hakkasan. ​We have just opened up the largest nightclub in Las Vegas under the Hakkasan banner, we recently opened in San Francisco and we're under development with Beverly Hills and Shanghai and have three more under licence in India being opened up. It's a massive expansion for a company that started in London. 

In Vegas we're looking at developing a multi-faceted business.​ As well as restaurants we're looking at day clubs, spas and boutique hotels so it's an incredible growth story. It's a challenging but very exciting time to be with the business. 

By the end of this year Hakkasan will have 11 owned sites​ and another 10 under either licence or management agreements. A lot of that has happened over the last 12 months and I think the way some of the new openings have hit the ground running has given the shareholders an appetite for further expansion. 

There is more opportunity in London for Hakkasan​, but we wouldn't rule out other areas. London is a microcosm that has weathered the financial downturn extremely well and our restaurants have seen some excellent results. Hakkasan is a high quality brand that people aspire to come to. 

There are many excellent concepts in the market but not all can be commercial successes.​ My advice would be, before you jump in with both feet and with a personal guarantee over a bank loan you need to ensure you've undertaken sufficient research and be sure that the concept is viable. I've seen many people with great ideas but then the execution is lacking. 

I would have loved to have learnt by not making mistakes,​ but it's given me an better idea of what is achievable and I know I have a far more reasoned approach to potential acquisitions now. 

I'd love to say I'm a serial hospitality entrepreneur, but I work for a company.​ However, I do think you can be entrepreneurial within a corporate environment. If you're at a senior level then you have the ability to give input into where the company's going, but entrepreneurs can be found in every part of the business. I like to give enough rope to my staff so they can bring in their own ideas within their own section of the business or outside of it. That is being entrepreneurial too.

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