As Pied à Terre reaches its 30th birthday, David Moore is ready to make some changes.
I have been reminded over these last few weeks of the great many characters who have helped shape what Pied à Terre is today and have helped us reach our 30th anniversary.
I have been looking back at all the dishes, reviews, guidebooks, menus and interiors that map our history, as we start putting together a book to illustrate the past 30 years.
Hamid Chakkour, our very first kitchen porter, always said it was the hand of Allah that brought him to Pied à Terre. He had been praying for a job in the mosque on Charlotte Street; five minutes later he passed Pied à Terre, where he saw a note in the window saying ‘KP wanted'. He stayed with us for 14 years and was the unofficial sous chef when he left. He was a fabulous character, and he now drives the number 24 bus.
A note in the window – that was how we recruited. It was for a long time the best recruitment tool we had – and we call them the good old days.
I had my own hand of God moment recently. On the evening that Boris announced the 12 April opening for outdoor dining, I saw the opportunity to look again at the street food idea that we had run in Dinerama several years ago. We still had the drum barbecue from that time on the front step and I sat up late thinking how we could run it.
That very night the barbecue was stolen. The CCTV showed three guys loading it onto a rickshaw and cycling off down Charlotte Street. The hand of God! No barbecue on the front step, no 12 April opening. You don't mess with decisions like that.
I worried about the Budget, especially after seeing Rishi Sunak on The Andrew Marr Show, saying that the grants were covering most of the hospitality industry rent, with an average rent of £16,000 to £18,000. I was wondering what planet he was on – certainly not inside the M25.
But, considering the state of the nation's finances, I think we got as much as we could reasonably expect. We always want more but, in fact, everything on my wishlist was there: furlough extension, VAT reduction continued and tapered reintroduction, and business rates discounting – they're all really essential in helping us get back. But let's not forget that the business rates system is a broken one; if the high street and hospitality are to have a fighting chance, it needs reform – not just a discount for a year.
Grants have been most welcome, but also so arbitrary: a ridiculous rateable value cap to start with, and then varying amounts paid with no explanation. A local business person, close to Charlotte Street, told me about his grants. It was twice what Pied à Terre had received, but his rent is a fraction of mine. He has furloughed his staff and is set to make a profit on the back of grants; I'm happy for him.
It's tricky to keep focused in these lockdown days. Looking back on our 30 years has been fun, but it's focusing on the future that's really important right now. It is a time for change; there will never be a better time to introduce new ideas, formats, even opening hours. Everything should be up for grabs.
It is a time for change; there will never be a better time to introduce new ideas, formats, even opening hours. Everything should be up for grabs
Take control of the change, drive the change and don't become a victim of change.
A word of advice
My tip of the week is R&D tax credits. If you know this, and it is on your radar – great. If not, you need to get with the project. HMRC gives back tax paid on proven R&D developments. I have received a very handsome and much-needed payout and know others who are receiving six-figure payouts. Do ping me if you want a steer on this.
You need to be a premium member to view this. Subscribe from just 99p per week.
Already subscribed? Log In