How I Got Here: Paul Hopper

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Paul Hopper HOP Vietnamese restaurant London

Related tags: Fast casual restaurant, Vietnamese cuisine, London

Paul Hopper is the founder and managing director of five-strong City-based grab-and-go group HOP Vietnamese.

Why restaurants?
It’s the classic tale of investment banker gets bored and goes travelling to “find themselves”…which almost always ends in banker thinking they can open a restaurant.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Whatever you think it’s going to cost and however long you think it’s going to take to launch, double it and you’re still probably wrong. Be patient and raise more than you need.

What do you do in your spare time?
Spare time?

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
I’d have to say Dishoom – it’s hard to fault them.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
I’d probably still be in banking working myself to the bone for someone else’s bonus.

What motivates you?
I’m motivated by anything people say is brutally difficult to do. I’m incredibly competitive and love nothing more than seeing a competitor snooping around one of my shops.

Where was your last holiday?
A two week trip to Mauritius with my girlfriend. Bliss.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I’m lucky enough to already have lots of experienced industry folk around me even at this early stage of the business. My non-exec Josh Wyse is an ex-operator and has helped me immensely through the endless highs and lows of this crazy business. I don’t think we would be where we are today without Josh’s straight talking, no bullshit advice.

What keeps you up at night?
Not much actually – I sleep like a baby

Worst business decision?
We dipped our toe into having our own central kitchen a couple of years ago. It was way too early for a business of our size and ultimately resulted in having to grovel to our (somewhat annoyed) suppliers to take us back almost immediately. Quite an embarrassing turn of events.

Best business decision?
In our new flagship restaurant I decided to dedicate around 20% of the space to build a head office for my senior management team. It might sound crazy to not use that space for customer seating but the decision has transformed the way we work as a team. We used to all work pretty independently from coffee shops and the like but now we’re all around the same table bouncing ideas off each other all day long. It’s a real privilege to have that so early on in our journey.

What are you reading at the moment?
Honestly – I’m not really a reader!

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Self confidence is paramount. Find your way of cutting through the noise otherwise you will never move forward. Also – don’t work with arseholes.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
I’m not sure I would to be honest – it’s the perfect playing ground for those who love to be challenged.

CV 

1984 Born in Hartlepool 
Studied Financial Economics at Leicester followed by an MSC in International Securities & Banking from ICMA Business School
2006 – 2012 M&A Analyst, Investec, London
2014 – Present Founder & MD, HOP Vietnamese, London

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