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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Iain Donald, Individual Restaurant Company

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Iain Donald, Individual Restaurant Company

Overall ranking: 76 (NEW ENTRY)

Restaurant ranking: 22 (NEW ENTRY)

Iain Donald is the commercial director of the Individual Restaurant Company, (IRC) which operates 33 casual dining restaurants trading under two formats - Piccolino, and Bar & Grill, which trade variously as the Restaurant Bar and Grill, Zinc Bar and Grill, and Bank.

The business was created in 2006 through a reverse takeover by the Bank Restaurant brand. After several years of strong growth which saw its restaurant numbers expand, in common with other operators IRC found the market tougher, and group turnover in 2010 was £51.3m, down £2m on 2009.

In June (2011), an offer for the business from W2D2, a newly-incorporated company formed by a consortium including Iceland founder Malcolm Walker and IRC chief executive Steven Walker, was declared unconditional. This will see IRC delisted from the Stock Exchange and move into private ownership.

Iain Donald - Career guide

After training at Aberdeen College of Education, Donald initially worked as a chef at Gleneagles, and subsequently in five-star hotels throughout the world, including a period at the Dorchester under Anton Mosimann.

He joined Compass Group - in 1995 in a management role, and later moved to restaurant business Est Est Est. Donald was instrumental in the expansion of Est Est Est to 25 restaurants, and on joining IRC put the same skills to work on rolling out the group's two brands.

Iain Donald - What we think

The branded premium/casual dining market is a tough arena to compete in, requiring an operational combination of menu flair and commercial discipline that many operators find hard to balance.

Both at Est Est Est, and currently at IRC, Iain Donald has demonstrated that he understands both disciplines, developing menus and formats which have a strong consumer appeal and stand out in a crowded market, while delivering the necessary service discipline and operational controls needed to turn a profit. The influential restaurant formats developed by Donald have been much copied but never quite equalled.

Coming from a farming family, Donald learnt early on that every penny counts. He told Caterer and Hotelkeeper in 2010 that his father "was a typical Scottish farmer and didn't pay well, so I joined a local hotel to help out in the kitchen".

He described his three years at the Dorchester, London, under Anton Mosimann - as his "finishing school", where he learnt the importance of taste, preparation and presentation. He subsequently broadened his experience in hotel kitchens in Switzerland, South Africa and Jamaica.

He cut his operational teeth with Scandinavian Service Partner, then part of Compass Group, at Manchester Airport, and was approached by Est Est Est founders Derek and Edwina Lilley to take on the operations director role which was essential for the rollout of the brand,

With IRC, Donald has been instrumental in the roll out of the group's two restaurant formats, but recognises that team effort is essential to success. After winning the Restaurateur of the Year - Group Catey in 2010, he said: "the award is for so many people besides myself: the people who have achieved so much with me along the way. It's also for my family, who have had to sacrifice a lot over the years."

The decision to take IRC out of the glare of the Stock Market looks sound in the current climate, allowing the business to regroup and resume expansion when conditions allow.

Iain Donald - My Life in Hospitality >>

Delisting is on the menu for Piccolinos group >>

Individual Restaurant Company website >>

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