When I left university I ended up in finance, not through a lifelong desire, but by default and almost by accident. I learnt lots, but after ten years, I became fixated with what success looked like for me and at that time, it was not an institutional career. I didn’t want to look back when I retired at a life of unfulfilled ambition. Banking had left me with a desire to set up my own business and I’ve always loved food and restaurants. It’s a very tough sector in which to build a business, but most hospitality workers are passionate about what they do and where they work, which is often absent in other industries.
Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Focus. The world is full of talented people. Focused people are the ones that experience the most success.
What do you do in your spare time?
Exercise, albeit less of late as we’ve been opening a restaurant. I also love eating out, but I’m sure every restaurateur on the planet says that.
What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
JKS, operator of Gymkhana, Trishna and Brigadiers, amongst others. I spent a few months in South India when I was 19 and I returned with a love of the food. I’ve not been to a JKS restaurant that isn’t infuriatingly excellent.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
Still in finance in some capacity and less fulfilled for it.
What motivates you?
A successful business, career and personal life. My partner makes me very happy and having a great life with her is just as important as work.
Where was your last holiday?
Puglia, too close for comfort to our restaurant opening, and cut short because of it. We went to Polignano a Mare, a small town, no bigger than where I grew up, with more good fish restaurants than I’ve found in the whole of the UK. I loved it.
Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Simon Binder has been wonderfully supportive and influential. An experienced restaurateur, he’s been my mentor since we launched B&B. I’m continually surprised at how much time, effort and personal currency he invests in us. He does it because he believes in what we do and ultimately, because of our relationship and that is very validating.
What keeps you up at night?
Restaurants and being a business owner are both stressful ways to make a living. Combined they lead to the odd restless night.
Worst business decision?
Being my own front of house manager when we opened. You need a pro.
Best business decision?
Hopefully our second site, but only time will tell.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading two books at the moment, both more slowly that I’d like. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier and Crashed: How a decade of financial crisis changed the world by Adam Tooze.
What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
The same as my earlier advice: decide what you want to achieve and stay focused on it. If your ambitions vacillate, you won’t achieve any of them.
If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
In many kitchens there is a culture of exploitative, semi-military working practices that are rooted in the history of kitchen culture and ultimately economic necessity: to make money in restaurants you need to keep staff costs to a minimum. In our business, like so many others, we want our staff to be valued, have a good work-life balance and be fulfilled in what they do. That’s not always easy, and I do not claim that we are perfect, as there’s always a tension between necessity and values. However, I hope that we can provide a good working environment and that over time, it improves across the sector.
1979 Born in London
Studied politics at University of Southampton
2004-2014: Various roles in banking and finance, predominately at Santander. Initially managed real estate transactions but switched to company buyouts in 2010, where as a director Nathan focused on private equity investors and latterly corporate owned entities
2015: Launched Beef & Brew in Kentish Town with former Murano chef Jessica Simmons
2018: Launched a second Beef & Brew in Haggerston