How I got here: Chris Webb, Coco di Mama

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Chris Webb Coco di Mama

Related tags: Fast casual restaurant, Italian food, R200

Born in New Zealand, Chris Webb is head of operations at fast casual pasta brand Coco di Mama, which is now operated by ASK and Zizzi owner Azzurri Group.

Why restaurants?
The variety. In an average week I’m involved in not only operations but also, finance, marketing, branding, food development, HR, design and usually still have a bit of time to jump on the tills or the pasta section at one of our sites. Few other industries allow you to be involved in so many aspects of a business.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Say what you think. Experience isn’t everything, so speak up if you think your superiors are wrong.   

What do you do in your spare time?
Predictably, I’m a stereotypical foodie so love trying new restaurants and new recipes at home. I’m a huge sports fan and watch and play as often as possible. Less predictably, I also play bass in a metal band!

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants?
The Clove Club in Shoreditch is amazing. At the other end of the market I love In-N-Out Burger and their whole story. They’re the embodiment of a company whose success is bred from peoples admiration of their values.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
My educational background is in economics so probably number crunching in an office somewhere. I'm happy that’s not the case. 

What motivates you?
The freedom to be entrepreneurial, affect change and see ideas through to implementation. One of the truly gratifying aspects of working at Coco di Mama has been seeing our ideas come to life and being able to measure the impact they’ve had on the business. 

Where was your last holiday?
A road trip through the southern states of the US: Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. Beautiful scenery, questionable food. 

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
The founders of Coco di Mama were a great example of exactly how much commitment and drive is required to build and sustain a successful business in the food sector. 

What keeps you up at night?
Nothing! When your alarm goes off at 4.30am every morning and you have a 12 week old baby you sleep soundly whenever you can. 

Worst business decision?
End of day discounting at Coco di Mama. We ended up creating significant demand resulting in margin erosion.

Best business decision?
Removing the requisite for experience as a criteria for recruitment and progression in the business. The only aspects that can’t be trained are work ethic, desire and common sense. Being a true meritocracy also significantly aides motivation at all levels of the business.

What are you reading at the moment?
‘Eating the big fish’ by Adam Morgan.  A great tool to help you look at things through a different lens.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?  
Don’t be afraid to be bold or to try new things. Good employees are knowledgeable and consistent but great employees have ideas.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
The industry has a tendency to be inward looking leading to businesses continually recycling the same ideas and people. The true market leaders look to often unexpected sources for inspiration and ideas.

CV

1983 Born Tauranga, New Zealand 
Studied MA Economics, University of Glasgow
2011 -2012 General Manager, The Black sparrow, Glasgow
2012 – 2014 General Manager, Coco Di Mama – London
2014 – 2016 Operations Manager, Coco Di Mama - London
2016 – Present, Head of Operations, Coco Di Mama - London

Related topics: People

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