How I Got Here: Jonathan Kaye

pub & bar

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with Jonathan Kaye general manager of the recently-opened Jolly Gardeners pub in London Vauxhall

Related tags: Pub & bar, Front of house

The general manager of the recently-opened Jolly Gardeners pub in Vauxhall on the importance of offering a great front of house experience, and changing people's perceptions of the sector.

Why hospitality?
My love for food and drink means I don’t really find this a ‘job’ I find myself super lucky. The buzz and atmosphere of a good service is hard to match. Maybe that’s just me. It’s an industry that's so competitive, but also so friendly with those competitors. Any restaurant or bar you are in and they find out you work in hospitality, you will always find an extra drink or dish appearing at your table. There's an unwritten rule that we all look after each other, and I love that.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Make time for yourself and maybe save some of your tips, try not spend them all in Soho. Oh, and buy comfortable shoes.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
Kiln, Towpath Café, Normans, Brawn, French House, Elliot’s - any one of these on my day off and I’m happy.

What motivates you?
You never know who you’re going to serve. It could be an individual looking for someone to invest in, it could be someone who has saved up six months to come to your restaurant. They all need to have the same great experience. A new starter in hospitality is always great, knowing that I could help these people form their career path and watch them grow into something special.

What keeps you up at night?

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I’ve had a few. Ross Gailer (director at Sky Garden) who I was under at Oblix completely changed my mindset and approach for the better; Angel Alleyde (Zuma) gave me the 'get it done' attitude; and Jeremy King obviously gave me the ultimate experience in hospitality.

Coffee or tea?
Oatmilk flat white. Yum.

How often do you check your email?
Way less now. Previous jobs would be crazy with the emails, but now I’m happy that I’ve got more focus on the floor.

How do you let off steam?
Large glass of Japanese whiskey and some fried chicken.

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
Night out exploring a new area or bar in London.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Roast dinner. I cook a mean slow-roast pork shoulder.

Typical Sunday?
Would be heading off to the butcher / market for Sunday roast ingredients (I like to pretend that I’m in cooking shows and pick up veg to compare them). Then cook a nice roast with a few friends and family round. Finish the evening off with nice bottle of something orange from Top Cuvée.

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
Purchased a round the world ticket with one of my best mates, Jack. Was initially meant to be for three months but ended up being almost a year and a half. I worked in bars while going round to fund it.

Favourite holiday destination?
Italy - great food and culture, and the people are outstanding.

Best business decision?
Opening a pub in lockdown with five friends.

Worst business decision?
Opening a pub in lockdown with five friends.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Have fun and work hard. While you’re at work be interested in what you are doing. find a positive out of everything. 

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
People’s perception of the industry as a whole. It’s still not looked at as a ‘career’ and I’ve always usually been looked down on or spoken to badly as I was coming up through the ranks within hospitality. I’ve never understood why someone would shout if they didn’t get their way. Imagine if that would happen in a supermarket or a clothes shop. The idea someone wanting to grow up and run a restaurant usually only happens now if it's a family business, we need to expand this. We need to have more representation for the front of house, the same way you do with chefs.


Born in Essex, Kaye went to university in Southampton to study sports science, and initially worked in sports injury and massage. His first role in hospitality was as restaurant manager for the Big Easy group. From there he went on to become general manager of Oblix East at The Shard, and later assistant general manager at The Delauney, working under Chris Corbin and Jeremy King. Then, in June this year, he went into business with four childhood friends and took over The Jolly Gardeners pub in Vauxhall, which he oversees as general manager.

Related topics: People, Profiles, Pub & Bar

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