Celebrated restaurateur Jeremy King has urged hospitality operators to be "ruthless in the pursuit of excellence rather than in the pursuit of profit".
Speaking at The Caterer Summit at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower, in London, on Friday, to an audience of 200 delegates, the co-owner and chief executive of restaurant and hotel operator Corbin & King, said the moment an operator looked at a guest as a source of income, they were doomed.
In the keynote interview with The Caterer editor Amanda Afiya, King, who with Chris Corbin runs six London restaurants including the Wolseley and the Delaunay alongside the Beaumont hotel, commented: "If you see a person walking in as an opportunity to give them a good time, you will have a full restaurant and happier staff - and you will make money."
Speaking on issues that peppered the summit throughout the day - on tipping and the soon-to-be mandatory National Living Wage for workers aged 25 and above - King said they could be a "massive problem" for some operators, and were not easy to solve, not least because the industry lacks unity.
"There are threats ahead and we need to be ready. We need consistency on pricing and tipping, but who's going to lead? I don't know what the solution is, yet."
Sharing the secrets of leadership during his successful restaurant career, which will see Corbin & King open Bellanger in Islington, its seventh restaurant within the group, shortly, King admitted to being a "benign dictator".
And though not a technophobe, he said he believed technology should only be used to enhance a hospitality operator's ability to look after their guests.
Speaking later in the day, Peter Davies, a former Inland Revenue investigator and now tax expert with accountants WMT, told delegates that, in order to remain cost neutral after the introduction of the National Living Wage, operators will have to increase costs to customers by 21.43% to cover PAYE, National Insurance contributions and VAT, if restaurants abolished discretionary service charges of 12.5%.
"The National Living Wage will have a knock-on on the way up the line as employees seek for [pay] differentials [from lower-paid colleagues," he added.
King and Davies were joined by an all-star line-up of speakers at the event, which was sponsored by Babelle, KoppertCress, Ten Acre, Wi-Q, WMT and Zonal, including MasterChef: The Professionals co-host Marcus Wareing, Newcomer Catey award winner Red's True Barbecue, Dan Doherty, Will Beckett, Chris Galvin, Clove Club director Daniel Willis, and hoteliers Justin Pinchbeck of the Berkeley, David Taylor of Starwood Capital, Sharan Pasricha, who overseas the strategy for the Hoxton and Gleneagles.
** Read the full summit write up in the 4 December edition of The Caterer*.**
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