Who's the food mogul sitting at the top table?

Market leaders pick their market leader;

Ian Eldridge

Pizza Express

I HAVE a kind of philanthropic view of what we do at Pizza Express. The Pizza Express culture means that people who were pot washers some years ago are now in senior posts, masters of their trade. I find that aspect of the business extremely gratifying. It is important to be honest with your staff and for your staff to be honest with you, otherwise so much time is wasted; if you foul up, it's important to admit it and move on. If you take the whole thing too seriously and focus too much on failure, your world is liable to cave in as every day brings factors which could cause problems. But it is important to realise, in all levels of the restaurant trade, that you can always do better; it is important to do more than just cope. Increased competition keeps us on our toes.

I admire anyone who aims to serve the customer, and serve the customer well. Julian Metcalfe, chairman of Pret a Manger, has done wonders within the market he chose to serve. Chez Gerard is also a company I admire: they do what they do well. Ultimately if you're a success, it's thanks to your staff.

David Williams

Chief Executive

Chez Gerard

THE RESTAURANT sector is an extremely exciting and dynamic one. At the moment it is growing at high speed. To stand out you have to maintain a high standard of service and of food. You have to have a passion for the food, the customer service and the environment you create in your restaurants. In order to keep the business working, you need determination and consistency and a strong belief in the development of your staff. I think Pret a Manger and Pizza Express are both successfully running businesses based on quality food in closely targeted markets. Both businesses consistently deliver what they promise: quality products. Then of course there is Terence Conran who brought a new focus on image and design to the market. He raised the profile of restaurants in London to a new level.

Ivan Taylor

Chief Executive

Passion for Food Group

IN THE restaurant business, food and quality of service are what count. People are impressed by what the restaurant looks like for the first few visits but by that time, it is the food they are coming for. Pizza Express proves this point. We also are interested in delivering the highest standards of food and as a result one of our restaurant chains, Pizza Piazza, is currently changing to Pizza Organic. We're not out to prove a political point, we're just out to deliver good food. Pret a Manger is similar as all their products are labelled chemical-free.

As restaurateurs we are dealing in people's enjoyment and excitement; it is important to meet their expectations and to aim to exceed them. As a service industry we are tied to the public purse but it's important to stick with it through thick and thin.

For sheer ability, I admire Luke Johnson, now chairman of Belgo Group; he worked wonders with Pizza Express. Roger Myers stands out for me too. He started up Cafe Rouge. It is important to be innovative and always thinking ahead. You've can't just stick with the field, you've got to be leading it.

Tony Hughes

Operational director for restaurants, Bass

I LOOK after all sorts of different chains for our group: Harvester, Browns, Vintage Inns for example, all very different and I enjoy the variety of challenges that throws up. But what I really enjoy is seeing our people succeed. I am afraid I am a bit of a bad loser, so competing and winning is what I am about. It is a satisfying industry because, unlike manufacturing, you are given instant feedback: if the customers aren't happy, they complain and they don't come back.

It's important to be enthusiastic and have the energy to inspire your staff, and you have to have the humility to realise that you don't actually know everything. One man who encapsulates this is Julian Metcalfe of Pret a Manger: I love his principles, his heart and his passion for what he does.

James Naylor

Chief Executive

City Centre Restaurants

I AM frantically busy on a daily basis trying to liaise with all our operators; we own a range of mid-spend restaurants such as Garfunkels, Wok Wok and Cafe Uno. The restaurant industry is very much the fashion industry, it is all about keeping up to date. It's important to be willing to explore new avenues and it is of paramount importance to have your staff behind you.

I've been impressed by Peter Dickson, chairman of Yates' Wine Lodges, because he took an old fashioned family business, turned it around, and made a success of it. I would also pick out Julian Metcalfe, of Pret a Manger, for identifying a niche in the market and going for it.

Enzo Quaradeghini

Managing Director

Etrusca Group

I THINK it is a shame that the large restaurant culture of the past few years puts less emphasis on the customers. With our string of restaurants including Carravagio and Il Convivio in London, we try to look after our customers. It is impossible for me to do it single-handedly, so I have to instil the importance of "front of house" into our staff. If the restaurant is buzzing, the customers are more likely to return. I find it difficult to delegate, but it is important to let staff put their own stamp on each restaurant. I admire the dedicated in our industry: Marco Pierre White puts in the hours and runs his restaurants with the "my way or no way" attitude. [Terence] Conran took a big risk with his restaurants and it paid off. Whether I agree with what he does is irrelevant; I admire his consummate business skills.

Andy Bassadone

Chief Executive

Belgo Group

OURS IS a creative business the essence of which is the execution of an original idea. We find an interesting building, we imagine what it could become and then watch that idea come to fruition. It is a very exciting process and I enjoy working with the different people who help it come together - the architects, designers and so on.

I love the instant gratification that a restaurant can give: your customers are either happy or they aren't, and they will tell you. It is of fundamental importance to maintain consistency in standards, gimmicks are no longer enough. People no longer come to Belgo to see waiters in funny uniforms, they come because we serve good food and a wide range of Belgian beer. I know people like to knock [Terence] Conran but he really has reversed people's perception of London food. He has established new standards.

Mike Johnson

Managing Director

Pelican Group

I TRAINED as a chef and waiter before I swapped the kitchen for the suit and I regard that experience as standing me in good stead now looking after chains like Cafe Rouge, Dome and Bella Pasta. It is critical that whoever is in charge understands restaurants at every level. You also have to be creative and bold in your view as that will have a knock-on effect on your staff. If your staff are enthusiastic, the customer will pick up on it and enjoy coming back. I admire Jeremy Mogford who started up Browns, where he is now non-executive chairman. He invested time and commitment in getting Browns right; he had an eye for buildings and an empathy for the space of a restaurant. Similarly, I admire other smaller concerns run by families who quietly get on with their cooking.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power