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The Caterer

Richard Muir – My Life in Hospitality

05 August 2009 by
Richard Muir – My Life in Hospitality

From humble beginnings peeling carrots and potatoes in a hotel restaurant kitchen, Richard Muir has worked as a chef, managing director of contract caterer Sodexo's UK corporate businesses, launched Gary Rhodes's London restaurants City Rhodes and Rhodes in the Square and, most recently, opened his own restaurant, Café Fish, in Edinburgh.

Muir believes surrounding yourself with good advisers and working with a competent team are crucial factors for business success.

"It's sometimes important to seek appropriate guidance and to take advice from those who know better than you," he says, adding: "A lot of people believe they have skills that they don't and view it as a slur on their own ability if they need to ask for help, but recognising your own weaknesses is often a strength as you can bring in a team to compensate."

Muir says it is very important to respect the people you work with.

"I've had fearsome verbal fights with the chairman of a business we took over called BFG but it was for all the right reasons and I have huge respect for him," he says.

He adds that in business it is important to seek out opportunities.

"You have to take calculated risks, watch out for pitfalls and other people looking for a slice of the action. It's also important to manage the profile of your business and make sure there is a reasonable debt-equity ratio."

HIGHS… I achieved more than I ever thought I would at Sodexo. I wanted to reach a very senior manager position in the company but I didn't pursue that with disregard for everything else. It was about being in the right place at the right time and taking opportunities.

I bought a company called Restaurants at Work and completed a takeover of an A-listed company BFG which we then floated on the stock market at the end of last year. That was a massive learning experience and a great achievement for me.

Another high has to be setting up Café Fish restaurant in Edinburgh with my wife, which has been our burning ambition for years.

LOWS… I regret falling out with my previous business partner who worked with me in buying and refurbishing the Carmelite hotel in Aberdeen. We had worked together previously in a corporate environment but the shift in responsibility was different and we had different styles of working. I was the major shareholder and wanted to run a business with half a dozen hotels, but it was never going to happen the way we had it structured so I moved on.

Another low was working in London for the best part of nine years when my wife and family were in Edinburgh. But it was the right thing to do at the time and it was also right for me to leave corporate life in 2003.

Age 51
Family Married with two sons
Favourite holiday South Florida, Miami and Key West with the family
Drives Range Rover Sport
Motto Never sweep problems under the carpet - address issues head on


CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

2009 Launched Café Fish restaurant in Edinburgh
2006 Bought and redeveloped the Carmelite Aberdeen hotel
1999 Appointed UK managing director of Sodexo's corporate and specialist businesses
1999 Launched Gary Rhodes's restaurants City Rhodes and Rhodes in the Square, plus brasseries in Manchester and Edinburgh

RECESSION-BUSTING TIP

It's important to understand the recession cycle and ensure you are in the right position to react to change. Don't believe that what you are seeing today will be correct tomorrow. Keep an eye on the balance sheet and don't get too indebted to the banks.

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