Cateys 2016: Restaurateur of the Year – Group

08 July 2016
Cateys 2016: Restaurateur of the Year – Group

Sponsored by Bunzl

Thomasina Miers and Mark Selby

Both Mark Selby and Thomasina Miers have taken unconventional routes into the hospitality industry, but have accrued valuable experience in entrepreneurial activities and financial management along the way.

Selby's working life encompassed Merrill Lynch, easyCar and developing restaurant models with the Capricorn Group before he decided to open his own affordable Mexican restaurant in London.

Miers was winner of BBC2's MasterChef in 2005. Her background had been in VAT consultancy, digital strategy and marketing before studying at the Ballymaloe Cooking School in Cork, Ireland, in 2001. She opened a large cocktail bar in Mexico City in 2003, and then spent nearly a year in Mexico, learning about Mexican food. In 2005, following her MasterChef win, she spent six months at the Petersham Nurseries Café, working for head chef Skye Gyngell.

In August 2007, Miers and Selby jointly opened Wahaca, a restaurant serving fresh food inspired by the food markets of Mexico, using free-range meat, sustainable fish and with a commitment to recycling.

Today, the restaurant group, backed by Capricorn Ventures, has 22 restaurants. It also has two DF/Mexico sites, at Hanbury Street in the east end and on Tottenham Court Road in central London, offering a fusion of US and Mexican food, with plans to open more soon. Turnover for the year to 28 June 2015 was an impressive £36.2m, with a pre-tax profit of £1.46m, according to the latest accounts available from Companies House.

Miers has also released a series of cookbooks, including Wahaca: Mexican Food at Home, which is still in the top 50 of restaurant cookbooks on online retailer Amazon's chart, despite being published back in 2012.

Miers is well-known for promoting the use of food from sustainable sources, as well as getting behind a campaign last year to allow food waste to be fed to pigs. The business has helped pioneer the sustainability agenda by taking brave steps such as putting Wahaca up for third-party sustainability assessments on restaurant builds (pioneered with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors), recycling 90% of its waste (as certified by the Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method) and educating customers on sustainable practices and encouraging them to grow and cook at home (it has given away 10 million packets of chilli seeds to customers).

It's no surprise then, that the business has picked up a slew of sustainability awards, including the SRA's Sustainable Restaurant Group of the Year award in 2012, as well as the Sustainable Business Award at the 2015 Cateys.

Now Miers and Selby can add the Group Restaurateur of the Year Award at the 2016 Cateys to their collection.

What the judges said

"Wahaca stood out from the rest in terms of longevity, ability to continually innovate the offer, and success in countrywide expansion."

John Nugent

"Mark and Thomasina have demonstrated how to make a business successful through hard work, creativity, relevance and leadership. They thoroughly deserve this accolade."

James Horler

"The detail behind this brand is amazing. It's of real credit that their systems and team have grown such quality to this scale."

Simon Kossoff

The shortlist

  • Tom Byng, Byron
  • Will Beckett and Huw Gott, Hawksmoor
  • Thomasina Miers and Mark Selby, Wahaca

The judges

  • Iain Donald, Director, Iain Donald Restaurant Consultant
  • James Horler, Chief executive, 3Sixty Restaurants
  • Simon Kossoff, Chairman, Carluccio's
  • Paul Newman, Head of leisure and hospitality, RSM
  • John Nugent, Chief executive, Green & Fortune

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