The chef with no name 24 January 2020 How James Cochran lost the rights to his own name, and his triumphant comeback with Islington restaurant 12:51
In this week's issue... The chef with no name How James Cochran lost the rights to his own name, and his triumphant comeback with Islington restaurant 12:51
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Words from the wise – Nigel Johnson

03 February 2012
Words from the wise –  Nigel Johnson

Nigel Johnson, joint managing director, Catermasters, shares his business secrets

Always believe in yourself Richard Moody and I built Catermasters from absolutely nothing back in 1989. We put everything on the line to make it happen. Things were tough in the beginning - we couldn't always pay ourselves, we had to top up our income by doing other jobs and we travelled to sales appointments on the bus - but we never lost our belief and determination. The setbacks just made us stronger and everything eventually came together. Looking back, it was an amazing journey.

Value your team
The catering industry is well known for its high staff turnover, so it's imperative that you look after your people. By offering various benefits, generous pay and opportunities for career development, a business will always retain its best people. We want to be a great company - much like John Lewis - where staff are engaged and success is rewarded and celebrated.

Invest in the future
Planning for the future is key to the success of any business and don't be afraid to spend some money to make things happen. It's vital to get the right team structure in place and to gradually build the right culture for the years ahead. That's why we launched our Chef's Academy. If any of the staff that we have in the business show a flair for cooking and food we enroll them on our academy course and give them the opportunity to try and forge a career with us as a chef. It's a great opportunity for them and also an investment in our future.

Listen to your customers
Customers will always give you feedback and you ignore it at your peril. They want to be assured that you're doing the best possible job for them and that you know and understand their business. That entails continually taking your food service forward, adding to your menus, assembling the right team on site and helping to develop their business. You must visit your clients regularly and be visible. Listen to what they have to say and make sure you remember the conversations you've had with them - even the smallest details.

Get out of your comfort zone
This often involves going the extra mile but it's often worth it. Don't just sit back and relax. Take risks, fight hard to win new business and do everything in your power to retain the business you already have. Nothing will land in your lap. Use your appetite and drive to go out and get things. Don't be afraid to lead from the front and get your hands dirty if necessary.

who do you most admire?

That has to be Richard Branson. I have yet to meet anyone that has not been impressed by what he's achieved during his career.

You have to remember he's a guy that left school with little or no qualifications, but has managed to build up an amazingly powerful global brand and diversified into a wide variety of sectors with his determination and strong business sense.

I admire the way he challenges the norm, shakes things up and takes risks. They say that fortune favours the brave and that's certainly been the case with Richard Branson.

1980-83 Worked as a chef in various restaurants
â- 1983-86 Operations manager, Compass Group
â- 1986-89 Sales manager, ABM Catering
â- 1989-now Joint managing director, Catermasters

To do what you do well, you've got to love what you do. If your heart's not in something, there's no way you'll be able to deliver the best results.

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