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Olivier Lavigne du Cadet – My Life in Hospitality

24 September 2010 by

Olivier Lavigne du Cadet is the owner of My Dining Room in Fulham Broadway, London.

Olivier Lavigne du Cadet, a native of the Loire Valley in France, learned his passion for hospitality from his mother. "I love to cook and have been doing it since I was very young. That part of France offers good wine, good food, good cheese and good farms," he says. So it was no surprise that he should choose to undertake a formal training course at a hotel in Strasbourg where he did a degree, followed by another on hotel and restaurant management.

From there, Lavigne du Cadet entered the trade with a French company called Flo. He went into the brasserie side of the business and stayed for eight years, two of which were spent working on franchise deals in Japan. "I loved it. I was very close to the owner of the company, Jean Paul Bucher, thanks to my time in Japan. He was a really big mentor for me and taught me how important the customer is," Lavigne du Cadet says.

Flo next dispatched him to London to open a chain called Cafe Flo in the late 1990s, where he took up the position of managing director and set about trying to creating a synergy between a French company and its UK operations. Soon he was called back to Paris to take on the management of La Coupole, which at the time was the largest restaurant in the French Capital, with 400 seats. But after just a year, he was back in London. "I was really missing London, I fell in love with the city when I was there and I decided to come back and change company," he says.

The company he chose was Conran Restaurants, a job which saw him help to open Bluebird - now owned by D+D London - as its deputy general manager. Soon, however, he was on the move once again, this time to Dublin to help Irish coffee and tea firm Bewley's transform its site in Grafton Street into a modern brasserie. The move did not go well (see lows) and within six months he was back in London and moved into project finance.

But it wasn't too long until Lavigne du Cadet wanted to get back into the restaurant trade again, taking on a role at Algerian restaurateur Tony Kitous' Levant Group, where he ran two operations - Pasha and Kenza - for almost two years. And after opening Daylesford Organic's flagship store in Westbourne Grove, he decided that it was finally time to start his own operation, rather than running them for other people.

"I wanted to be able to establish my vision and my sense of hospitality with no compromise," he explains. He took over the My Dining Room site in August 2009, opening it in February 2010, and has "had very positive feedback from reviewers and customers which is a good sign".

Highs… After the stress of spending two years looking for the right site to start his own business, Lavigne du Cadet was "extremely glad" to sign the lease for the My Dining Room site in Fulham Broadway with Enterprise Inns. "It was very stressful beforehand because we had almost reached a deal on another venue but it fell apart at the last minute. So when we finalised it here I was very, very happy," he says.

Lows… Lavigne du Cadet attempted to transform a site in Grafton Street, Dublin, belonging to the famous Bewley's tea and coffee company, into a brasserie using his experience in the field. But all did not go according to plan. "It was extremely difficult and the lowest part of my career," he says. "Why? Because we tried to turn something that was very famous for coffee and buns into a restaurant and it was totally rejected by the people. I was a Frenchman at the head of an Irish institution and it was not at all well perceived by the locals. I took a lot of abuse. It was six months of hell."

Recession-busting tip

Be flexible and try to remember to deliver what the customer wants. If you have got the product just do it. It doesn't have to be on the menu

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