Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Nick Jones, Soho House Group

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Nick Jones, Soho House Group

Overall ranking: 21 (ranked 9 in 2010)

Restaurateur ranking: 6 (ranked 2 in 2010)

Nick Jones - Snapshot

Nick Jones is chief executive and 20% shareholder in the Soho House Group, which runs nine private members' clubs in the UK and abroad as well as London restaurants including the Dean Street Townhouse Dining Room, Cecconi's, Electric Brasserie, Hoxton Grill, High Road Brasserie, Boheme Kitchen & Bar, Café Boheme and Pizza East.

Nick Jones - Career Guide

After leaving school, Jones joined the Trusthouse Forte training scheme in 1980. He spent eight years with the group, rising to marketing manager at the Grosvenor House hotel in Park Lane, London, before leaving to launch an ultimately unsuccessful restaurant group called Over the Top.

In 1992 he launched Café Boheme in London's Soho before, three years later, opening the Soho House Club above the restaurant. The club quickly became the trendiest haunt in town for media and creative types.

In 1998 Jones acquired Babington House in Somerset, which offered hotel rooms, a private members' club and cinema but, unlike Soho House, opened its restaurant to the public.

In 2003 he opened Soho House New York - with 24 bedrooms, a cinema, bar, restaurant, Cowshed spa and private members' club - along with the Balham Kitchen & Bar, later sold to Sam Harrison. In early 2004 Jones took over the daily operation of Mayfair restaurant Cecconi's , which was reopened in late 2005 after a complete makeover.

In 2008 Richard Caring agreed a leveraged buyout of 28 small investors in Soho House, taking 80% for £105m, with the remaining 20% held by Jones, who remained chief executive. A five-year agreement between the pair matures in 2013. A clause in the deal is that one is then able to buy the other out, assuming certain price conditions are met.

Jones has also taken Soho House outside the UK. In 2010 he opened clubs in Berlin, West Hollywood and the Soho Beach House in Miami. He opened a Hollywood branch of Cecconi's in 2008.
Similarly, Jones has been busy in the UK. He has launched a clutch of venues in the past four years, including Soho Houses in Chiswick and Shoreditch. He also launched the Pizza East restaurant in Shoreditch in 2009, and in 2010 the Dean Street Townhouse.

In 2011, Jones is opening a second Pizza East is opening in London's Notting Hill.

Nick Jones - What we think

Nick Jones has come a long way since his first foray into running hospitality businesses, the Over the Top group of restaurants in the 1980s. He cheerfully admits today that they were "rubbish", but he clearly learnt from those mistakes, as virtually everything else he's touched has been hospitality gold.

Soho House in London set the standard for private members' clubs in the 1990s, and Babington House in Somerset confounded the expectations of critics who claimed a private members' club could not work outside London. Opening the restaurant to the general public proved to be a master stroke at Babington.

Back in the UK, in 2009 Dean Street Townhouse, a boutique hotel and restaurant, and Pizza East both launched to critical acclaim. The Times food critic Giles Coren summed it up in his review of the latter as "absolutely bang on the money."

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph last year, Jones provided an insight to his success. "I don't ever try to be hot, because hot goes cold, so I'd rather stay warm," he said. "I hate overcomplicated food and pretentiousness. Nobody ever needs to walk into a hotel room and turn on a blue light."

In April 2011, majority shareholder Caring denied reports that he was ready to sell Soho House and has been reported in London Evening Standard as saying Soho House can expand aggressively to 60, 70 or 80 properties if it embraces the franchise model adopted, for example, by Four Seasons hotels.

However, other reports have hinted that Jones has different ideas, preferring to expand through wholly owned properties and it remains to be seen which path is chosen.

Nick Jones' ranking in the Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 >>

Soho House sale called off >>

Soho Beach House Miami >>

Soho House Group to open second Pizza East restaurant in West London >>

Profile: Nick Jones >>

Soho House Group website >>

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