Overall ranking: 51
Restaurateurs ranking: 16
Mark Derry is the chief executive of Loch Fyne Restaurants, a rapidly-expanding and profitable chain of seafood restaurants. The group also owns a majority stake in Le Petit Blanc, a small chain of brasseries created by Raymond Blanc (who retains a 25% stake) in partnership with Orient-Express Hotels.
Mark Derry was born in 1960 and started his working life as an agricultural fencer. He moved into the catering world in 1983 when he became marketing director of the New Ventures Group at Whitbread. Here he helped develop the Henry's Café Bars, Hanrahans and Palio restaurant brands before moving to the role of marketing director of Whitbread's fast-growing TGI Friday's restaurant chain in 1988.
In 1994, Derry joined homeware distribution company Glenchewton, where he led its acquisition of Country Style Inns, a chain of 16 food-led pubs based around the sous-vide (or boil-in-a-bag) restaurant style.
After Country Style Inns was sold for a profit to the Old English Pub Company in 1997, Derry teamed up with Ian Glyn, who had been part of the management team at Country Style Inns, to launch Loch Fyne Restaurants as a sister company to Scottish oyster, mussels and salmon supply company Loch Fyne Oysters. In 2003, the restaurant company bought Le Petit Blanc from its administrators and Derry changed his role from managing director to chief executive.
What we think
In 1997 Derry perceived a gap in the market for a good seafood restaurant chain and joined forces with Loch Fyne Oysters. The supplier had opened its first restaurant in 1987 at its loch-side base in Cairndow, Strathclyde, and added branches in Nottingham and Peterborough in 1991 and 1992, but was now seeking a partner to develop the concept.
Loch Fyne Restaurants took over the Nottingham and Peterborough restaurants and added a third in Cambridge in 1999. In the past five years, the group has swelled to 30 restaurants (five of them Le Petit Blancs), with 11 opened in 2001 alone.
This phenomenal rate of growth gained recognition in the Sunday Times Fast Track list of Britain's 100 fastest-growing businesses for two consecutive years. In 2003, Loch Fyne Restaurants was rated the fastest-growing restaurant business in the UK and the 10th fastest-growing company across all sectors. While the rate of openings has since settled down to around five a year, the company was still ranked second in the restaurant sector in 2004 (after Carluccio's) and 53rd overall, thanks to annual sales growth of 88.77% and turnover of £21.8m in 2003, when it served more than one million customers.
The healthy-eating seafood concept proved a winner in the midst of the BSE scare, but Derry believes Loch Fyne has a more timeless appeal that is not a hostage to fickle trends. "The overall offering is appealing to customers; we have a fantastically good product and an appealing environment," he told Caterer in 2004. "It's not fashionable but it's comfortable, and very good value for money. You can eat here for £10."
Long-term, Derry is looking at a potential 100 Loch Fynes and around 20 Le Petit Blancs in the UK, and is also considering branching out into airport concessions and overseas.