Cateys 2011: Restaurateur of the Year – Group – Jonathan Kaye

15 July 2011
Cateys 2011: Restaurateur of the Year – Group – Jonathan Kaye

Sponsored by Bunzl Catering and Hospitality Division

Few in the hospitality industry could fail to be impressed by any restaurant group that has emerged from recession stronger than it went in.

But that is exactly what has happened to Prezzo. The group is run by Jonathan Kaye, cousin of Sam and Adam Kaye, founders of the Ask and Zizzi dynasty and major shareholders, so perhaps it's no wonder that this chain has that magic ingredient. It should be noted, however, that Kaye has brought his own talent and hard work to this enterprise.

Having worked his way up through the ranks from kitchen worker at 13, he gained a solid foundation of experience in midmarket hotels. He co-founded Prezzo in 2000 at the age of 22, floated on the AIM in 2002 and was promoted to chief executive in 2003.

Over the next few years he expanded the company out of its London and South-east heartland, opening restaurants as far-flung as Hull, Falmouth and Cardiff during 2007. The company now has 160 restaurants and counting.

In fact, its hunger for new types of site was revealed earlier this year when Kaye bought the 26-bedroom George Hotel in Bishop's Stortford with a view to converting the ground floor to a Prezzo.

So what's so special about Prezzo? Well, arguably, it's the company's reputation for producing tasty stone-baked pizzas, calzones, pastas and risottos at an average spend of £14 a head that has seen it through some of the most difficult years of trading. The financial results show that in 2009 operating profit was £10.1m, up from £3.7m the previous year, on turnover of £91.0m (2008: £85.9m), while last year the company had enough confidence to open 20 more outlets.

But it's also Kaye's ability to understand his customers. He is very hands-on, taking overall responsibility for the day-to-day running of the restaurants and the longer-term strategic direction of the company. One of his big initiatives during recession was to embrace promotional activity, launching on Twitter and Facebook.

James Horler, chief executive at 3Sixty Restaurants, was clearly impressed. "Jonathan has proved that to be successful you have to have self-belief, self-confidence and self-discipline," he said. "All of these qualities have enabled Prezzo to weather the recession and come through it, returning to growth and delivering outstanding performance through focusing on the basics of delivering a systemised offering consistently."

He also attracted the respect of Robin Rowland, chief executive of Yo! Sushi: "Jonathan is a true group restaurateur, passionate about Prezzo's food, standards and service, with an acute eye for restaurant detail. He is a savvy commercial operator, but never forgets his guests are the kings and he and his team are there to serve. Not swayed by fads or gimmicks, Prezzo consistently delivers and Jonathan's tireless energy and enthusiasm is no doubt the driving force behind this company's well-deserved success."

Praise indeed…

ShortlistedChris Benians and Andy Bassadone, directors, Côte Restaurants
â- Simon Blagden, managing director, Jamie's Italian
â- Jonathan Kaye, chief executive officer, Prezzo

The JudgesMark Derry, director, Brasserie Blanc
Iain Donald, operations director, Individual Restaurant Company
Jonathan Doughty, managing director, Coverpoint Catering Consultancy
Paul Ettinger, development director, Caffè Nero
James Horler, chief executive, 3Sixty Restaurants
Simon Kossoff, managing director, Carluccio's
Robin Rowland, chief executive, Yo! Sushi

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