Having a clear cut vision for your business

Why Tom Byng - founder of Byron - doesn't plan to expand beyond London

Three years after opening the first branch of his Byron hamburger restaurant business, Tom Byng has just opened his tenth. By the standards of many of the more aggressive chains in this business, that is modest progress. But it is enough of a challenge if – like Byng – you are trying to keep a close tab on operations and keep to the original ethos, to simply make “hamburgers the way they should be”.

Having previously run such Notting Hill favourites as Zucca and 192, Byng is under no illusions about what it takes in terms of attention to detail and energy to be successful in the restaurant business. For this reason, he has no plans to expand Byron beyond London. Canary Wharf, in London’s Docklands, is a great place to be on account of the essentially captive well-heeled clientele but it is about as far as he can stretch to and still keep to his aim of being able to visit all his sites in a day.

Many small businesses are able to develop into fairly large organisations in terms of turnover without increasing their staff to a great extent, and so avoid the regulation and administration associated with increased employee numbers. But the restaurant business is necessarily labour-intensive and at the same time highly dependent on the quality of people it hires. Byng says: “If you hire the wrong restaurant manager and they don’t recruit properly – they let a few people in - because they are short-staffed - who are not quite right – you can quickly turn a good restaurant into a bad restaurant.”

To this end, he is quite clear about the sort of people he wants working at Byron – they have to be the sort of people who enjoy doing something well, who are charming and smile a lot and who also value being efficient and working in a team.

One might say that most employers would want that sort of person. But Byng also believes that it is about getting people that fit the business. He points out that it is essential to have “a very clear-cut vision for your business” – in his case it is to make the best hamburgers in the world. This has to be “quite stretching, quite ambitious and really simply articulated”. Where big businesses sometimes struggle is in articulating what they are about – and so cannot always attract the people they want.

Essentially, Byron is a reflection of Byng himself and of those he has hired. They then hire similar types – people who, in his words, are “quite obsessive, like to have fun, don’t like being corporate and distant and are engaging”.

In an effort to make this happen, each general manager is given £100 each quarter in order for them to take their staff out. There is no stipulation as to what they should do with the money, other than that they spend it. In fact, if they cannot produce the receipt to prove they have spent it at their own appraisal, the money is taken out of the managers’ bonuses. In addition, there are events in the summer for all staff and a Christmas party for which the whole chain closes down so that everybody can attend.

Ninety per cent of the workforce turn up and 90 per cent of them are still there after the free bar finishes, he claims, suggesting that this is evidence that the “work hard, play hard” ethic he is seeking to instil is working.

Similar challenges confront Dom Lake, Cass Titcombe and Patrick Clayton-Malone, the founders of another small restaurant chain – Canteen. The business, which celebrates its fifth birthday in September, currently has four sites around London and so is also growing at a modest rate. Lake, who developed the business plan with Clayton-Malone before they brought in Titcombe for cooking experience, says this is a result of them having to raise the money themselves because they were not independently wealthy. They then found backers who empathised with their desire to grow organically rather than expand quickly before selling the business on as is frequently the case. This approach also fit with the idea behind the business – to raise the quality of food in affordable restaurants. There was a lot of talk about food quality in supermarkets and at home, but little attention to it in ordinary restaurants, says Lake, adding: “The cornerstone of Canteen is quality.”

But even with this restrained growth, canteen has had to do a lot of recruiting. There are currently about 180 employees because the restaurants open from 8am until 11pm. “The people part of the business is fundamental,” says Lake. Like Byron’s Byng, he and his colleagues hire as much based on attitude as skills on the basis that they can teach somebody to carry a tray but not how to smile. “It’s ultimately about culture. How do we create a culture?”

He and his colleagues have decided the answer lies in communication and training. When they started they would hire somebody who seemed “capable and nice” and within a short while they would be serving tables. Now, all new recruits go through a two-week training scheme so that they will know where the meat comes from, that the kitchen has vegetables and will accommodate people’s wishes.

“It’s empowering individuals with information – giving them more confidence. But it’s expensive,” says Lake. However, he adds that – difficult as it is – the approach seems to be working. “We’re finding that as we are growing and getting more experienced that the culture starts to stick.”

A rather different approach is taken at the male grooming products company Bulldog. Founded in 2006 by Simon Duffy and Rhodri Ferrier, neither of whom had any experience of the sector, the company has grown to the point that it is the fourth largest skincare brand in the UK with its products using natural ingredients sold in more than 2,500 supermarket outlets and Boots and Superdrug stores around the UK. In addition, it has expanded into Scandinavia and is about to move into the United States and Japan. And yet it still has a full-time staff of only four.

As Duffy says, the company thinks creatively about human resources. There is a skill about finding the right people and then deciding whether they need to be brought on to the payroll or whether those costs can be avoided by having them as a partner. Accordingly, rather than hiring expensive specialists in fragrances and the like it uses them on a part-time basis. In addition, everything is done in the UK, with partnerships for manufacturing and packaging, so that the company can meet its ethical aims and avoid excessive shipping.

Overseas expansion has been done through careful selection of partners. The first move came in Sweden when the founders met some people who totally understood what Bulldog was trying to do and shared the philosophy. Sweden was chosen as an initial export market because logistics from the UK were relatively straightforward. But Japan and the United States are more complex and for this reason the company is starting slowly, although both markets are, of course, potentially huge. In the United States, for example, the company is starting around the Boston area and serving stores from a warehouse in New Jersey. Interest is being activated through social network marketing campaigns. “We’ve found local people with product expertise and people who buy into our values,” says Duffy, adding that it is “about working as closely as we can together.”

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

BA/PM,EMIR/Dodd-Frank,London,£450-650P/D

£450 - £650 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Senior Analyst - ALM Data - Banking - Halifax

£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Analyst, ALM Data, Halifax, ...

Java developer - Banking - London - Up to £600/day

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Java developer - Banking - London - Up to £600/d...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star