Me and My Partner: Terry Pullen and Arendt Chiverton

Terry Pullen, 35, sold financial services and ran a hairdressing salon before raising £1m to open 10, a London City restaurant. He hired Arendt Chiverton, 30, as general manager and they have three more restaurants, with a projected turnover of £10m
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Terry Pullen: I met Arendt in 1998 when I was looking for the person who could grow with me. I was introduced to Arendt by a colleague of his at Quaglino's and thought he had great presence for such a young guy, plus incredible enthusiasm. We got on straight away, which is critical, and he began working for me five lunchtimes a week.

Terry Pullen: I met Arendt in 1998 when I was looking for the person who could grow with me. I was introduced to Arendt by a colleague of his at Quaglino's and thought he had great presence for such a young guy, plus incredible enthusiasm. We got on straight away, which is critical, and he began working for me five lunchtimes a week.

It had taken a while for me to realise my dream of running bars and restaurants. I had wanted to be a professional golfer but wasn't up to the grade. The club captain introduced me to a new career, selling graphic reproduction to advertising agencies. I did well quickly and by the age of 19 I had bought my first house.

Then I travelled around Australia and took my first waitering jobs in some fantastic Italian restaurants. I'm hyperactive, always have been, and one night I sleepwalked over a balcony and fell six floors. I was pronounced medically dead but I wasn't going to give in that easily. I had a collapsed lung and a brain haemorrhage, but the surgeons rebuilt me, and I flew home and spent a year convalescing. With these terrible injuries, I realised my destiny was at my fingertips.

A great friend, David Francis, had money to invest but no time to do it, so I put together my first business plan for a restaurant and he put some money up. We bought the freehold of a hairdressing salon in Hayes, Bromley, but got turned down for planning permission to turn it into a restaurant. We still had a salon on our hands so we redesigned it and I ran the business. I even went to hairdressing college but I wasn't good at perming.

During that time, I set up a couple of sandwich bars in Bromley but my real apprenticeship came when I ran a wine bar in south London called the Lazy Toad. This was in 1992, and I had also been selling financial services for a couple of years. A client told me he was going to buy this wine bar which was fraught with all sorts of trouble. I told him he shouldn't get involved, and that as a City trader he should stick to what he was best at. Finally I said: "Give me half of it and I'll sort it out." Six months later, he sold me the other half.

I'd discovered a huge problem in London when I socialised. If you weren't in the in-crowd, you took the risk of being left outside in the rain if you were wearing the wrong clothes. That was ridiculous. I couldn't stand nightclubs, and the only other place you could go was to a holding bar at somewhere like Pont de la Tour or Quaglino's. I wanted to capitalise on my experience, take what I had locally into central London.

My clients from the City used to travel down to Beckenham for the evening. They told me: "If you put this on our doorstep, we'll back you." In 1996 the bar and restaurant market began to go through the roof, so the timing was difficult. I finally found our site in Devonshire Square and went back to the people who said they would back me and persuaded them to invest. I sold the Toad, took a back seat in financial services and drew up a plan to create something special.

Then Arendt came on board as my first restaurant manager, and I got funding for the next bars. This year, Arendt has come in to manage our new Covent Garden project. It's been one of the most challenging years of my life, and it would have been a lonely path to walk on my own.

Arendt has enabled me to get through it. The man's stamina and commitment have been phenomenal. When you both work a minimum of 50 to 70 hours a week, social time together is nigh-on impossible.

I found the site by walking the streets, because there isn't the space available in Covent Garden. Raising £1.5m in a restaurant market that's getting negative was tough, and we were facing sophisticated investors who knew the right questions to ask. Also, some of the practical issues in converting a building that dates from the 18th century were a challenge.

People say, it sounds great, but can it be delivered? Arendt is not just enthusiastic and passionate but, as a former chef, he has the technical ability to convince people. Usually the best chefs are not good communicators, and the best wine buffs tend to be snobs, but Arendt has that front-of-house ability to talk to people. One thing I've done for Arendt is to give him belief. My philosophy is that if you believe you can, you can. If you believe you can't, you're right. Now we're focused on creating a global brand. We have synergy with something like the Schrager Hotels and our plan is to open next in New York and Scandinavia. It may be that we go to Edinburgh or Dublin or Paris first. But we won't be going to Bromley - we've been there.

Arendt Chiverton: My father was an interior designer and always loved cooking, so I developed a passion for food as a child and liked entertaining. I was brought up in Brisbane, Australia, and my family wanted me to train as a lawyer but instead I became a chef. After a while, I got bored and wanted to be out with people rather than in the kitchen.

I came to London at 22 and was offered a job at Quaglino's restaurant as front-of-house manager. After that, I was offered a job doing the same thing at the Oxo Tower. I always wanted to run my own restaurant, because there aren't as many barriers in this industry as there are in other professions. In this industry you create your own destiny if you have the ability, and I believe Terry has done just that.

I met him through the assistant general manager of Quaglino's and he inspired me. He's one of those people who doesn't have any show about him. What you see is what you get. We spoke a lot about the industry, and we also found we were similar in lots of ways, in our upbringing.

Terry has confidence in abundance, but it's not only that, it's a belief that he's doing the right thing and a vision for expansion. We both feel people won't stand in our way, because we won't let them. He motivates me, enthuses me, and I felt: "He's going somewhere and I want to go with him." I had a lot to offer on the technical side, and he is very good on the people side. Some would say he's arrogant and rude but it comes back to honesty. He says it how it is and people respect him for that, and nine times out of 10 they like it. I came on to this Covent Garden project in January and worked through budgets. Lots of surprises popped up. We budgeted £200,000 for air-conditioning and our first quote for it was £880,000. The building is next door to the New Connaught Rooms on Great Queen Street, and was the back-up location for Parliament, although it was never used for that. The fire department and environmental health officer have been helpful in getting the building up to standard, but there have been delays and it's been structurally challenging. Instead of three weeks' digging for drainage, we have had six months.

Mark Twain said that to be successful, you have to find out what people want and get there first. I think we've done that with the concepts we've come up with. In our restaurant, Kitchen, we're empowering people to have what they want to eat.

I've spent most of my time in the industry educating people to have three courses and to have red wine with red meat. Now we're saying that's crap: eat because you're hungry. We won't have starters but if you're a smart diner, you can order a small portion and still have three courses. Or if you want to pay £10 for chicken and chips, do that. It's going back to basics, yet that's what so many restaurants are getting away from.

We're creating an area called All About Eve, a women-only members' bar. At the beginning of the last century it was all about gentlemen's clubs. This century, we're starting with something for the sophisticated working woman. Men can come in only if they're invited. Another concept is Purity, a non-smoking environment in a bar. The idea is for people to come in and enjoy pure ionised air, refreshed by pillars made of Polish salt crystals 250 million years old.

In an over-populated restaurant market, the key is value for money. When you're eating out four or five times a week, late at night, you don't want to be spending large amounts of money and be pressured by a waiter, you just want the door opened.

I've had constant support from Terry. When I thought I couldn't make it, he was there saying: "You can." There's nothing reactionary about our partnership, no red tape in the company. The attitude is: if it's wrong, fine, do something else. I've learnt to be much more direct from him. Terry works well under pressure but I think, since I've known him, he's become more determined and his goalposts are moving because he's proved he can do well.

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