How I Got Here: Lawrence Mallinson

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with James White Drinks managing director and owner Lawrence Mallinson

Related tags: Supply chain management, Drinks

Lawrence Mallinson is the managing director and owner of James White Drinks, makers of the Beet It, Big Tom and James White juices.

Why restaurants? 
I am a supplier to restaurants - not a restaurateur myself.  And was happy to be that side of the fence even in normal times – let alone during the Coronavirus lockdown. The immediacy of having to be at the top of your game every single day deterred me from being a restaurateur.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Whilst taking advice is a good idea, trust your own judgement when making decisions.  Do not rely on others to make important decisions for you especially if you do not understand the issue fully.

What time do you wake up?​  
Working day – 7.25 to listen to the sports news on Radio 4 – at least when there is any sports news. Rather later if not at work.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
Currently definitely Made of Dough in Peckham - best pizza in London.

What motivates you?
I have always said that I am on a 500-year world conquest plan. I am in year 30 now and am looking on track.

What keeps you up at night?
When cash was tight, I fretted constantly. Fortunately that was a long time ago, and I now generally sleep well.  Running a business involves successes and disappointments. I have learnt to take the rough with the smooth, but it has taken many years.

Coffee or tea?​  
I'm a man of habit: Earl Grey tea at breakfast; coffee (instant acceptable) with milk all day whenever offered; Earl Grey at tea time; and peppermint tea late at night.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
As a mentor running my own business it has to be Philip Hulme, founder and managing director of Computacenter and an early boss of mine. He built his micro-computer dealership company in the 1980’s from scratch to be the largest in its field in Europe at breakneck speed with minimal capital backing. It was an astonishing feat.

How often do you check your email?​  
Too often – I have to go somewhere on holiday without the internet to truly get away from it. At least I am not into social media otherwise I would have no time to do anything else.

Worst business decision?
If you judge it in terms of financial consequences, walking away from share options in Computacenter (1987) and not investing in Fever Tree (c2003/4) despite helping them in their pre-launch days. But no regrets – really!

Best business decision? 
Ultimately it has to be founding James White Drinks, but it has taken 30 years to get where we are.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?​  
Parmigiana, though I have to admit this is really my wife’s. 

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?​  
Propose marriage. I woke up one morning and thought it was a good idea. So I proposed immediately, and it was a good idea.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business? 
I suspect I was not a very good rung climber. My solution was to start my own business and arrive immediately at the top rung. But you have to then be prepared to hang on extremely tenaciously.

What are you currently reading?​  
I have just read a couple of terrific books I would recommend to anyone. 'Where the Crawdads sing' by Julia Owens, and 'American Dirt' by Jeanine Cummings. Both well written and gripping stories.

What boxset are you currently watching?
'Call my agent' (or 'Dix per cent' as it is in French). Superbly French and very funny.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
I would like to see fewer massive chain groups and more individual restaurants and small groups of restaurants run by people personally invested in them.

What was your dream job growing up?​   
Running my own company. Got that one right!


Having studied Law and History at Jesus College Cambridge, Mallinson went on to train as a chartered accountant for what is now KPMG (then known as Peat Marwick Mitchell). From there he went on to spend a year working in corporate finance for Robert Fleming & Co; and then as financial controller for computer services company Computacenter. In 1987, Mallinson was a co-founder in New Covent Garden Soup Co, where he stayed for two years as finance director. Finally, in 1989, he founded James White Drinks, which was originally a purveyor of single variety apple juices, but which now owns a drinks portfolio that includes eight different juice brands including Big Tom and Beet It. 

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