The next chapter 6 December 2019 Lexington managing director Julia Edmonds on taking the helm at the boutique caterer and her people plans for the future
In this week's issue... The next chapter Lexington managing director Julia Edmonds on taking the helm at the boutique caterer and her people plans for the future
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Time for the details

01 January 2000
Time for the details

I get to work at about 9am, having driven from my home 10 minutes away in the West End of Glasgow. It then takes me another 10 minutes to find a parking space.

First, I deal with the mail and get any phone calls out of the way. Then I write up the lunch reservation sheets. It's a problem fitting people in where they want to go - the restaurant is split between the more formal ground-floor restaurant and the funkier basement - but we always manage to sort it out somehow.

We hold a quick management meeting at 11.15am to discuss menus, what's available, what's not, party bookings, special dietary requirements and so on. I then pass on to my staff details of the menu and any potential difficulties.

I appointed the 14 front of house staff - six work during each service - for their smiles and personality. About 50% are career waiters and the rest are students who will only be here for a year or so.

My philosophy is that if the staff look good, they will feel good and therefore approach customers in a better frame of mind. They all wear the same uniform - even their socks and shoes are the same. I hate going into a restaurant where the entire effect of the waiting staff's uniforms is spoilt by a collection of different shoes and trainers.

I wanted the staff to look fairly formal, but not too stiff - black trousers, black aprons from Florida (which I first saw at the Soho Grand Hotel, New York), grey flannel ties from Paris, and white shirts from Marks & Spencer. I tie the knot of every tie myself to ensure uniformity.

I wear a fairly smart, but a bit wacky, suit and tie, either black or grey. I particularly like Japanese designers and spend far too much on my working wardrobe.

Lunch service starts promptly at noon. My role during service is very hands-on. I hate managers who just walk around the tables. I tend to meet and seat most customers and take orders. Playing an active role during service motivates the staff. I wouldn't ask them to do anything I couldn't do myself. As a result, we have a very happy team. I think I relate well to the staff, though most of them are half my age. They just think I'm barking mad.

After lunch services winds up at about 3.30pm, I spend the afternoon ensuring that the four bedrooms we have upstairs are ready for guests, and doing the flowers. I redo the arrangements once a week, and revamp them daily. I like to splash out and make a statement with the flowers. They are usually white and green and a bit wild and modern - nothing funereal.

Evening service kicks off at 6pm and we usually do two sittings - 120 covers. I don't usually get away until 1am. We've been packed since we opened and are now taking Saturday evening bookings four months in advance.

Most customers come to enjoy themselves and have a good time, but you do get some people who are out for blood. Because Nick has a high media profile, many customers have very high expectations and can be difficult from the moment they step through the door. It is our job to make them feel relaxed.

Even when the restaurant is closed on Monday I might be here, as there is usually something going on. A recent Monday was taken up with Nick filming a charity appeal for the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen with actor Robbie Coltrane, and a fashion company taking over the ground floor for a designer sale.

When I do get a day off, I like nothing more than lying in bed until midday, and spending the afternoon drinking tea and reading magazines.

Interview by Janet Harmer

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