Simon Kossoff: Catey Restaurateur of the Year - Group
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The past 12 months haven't been easy for Britain's group and chain restaurant sector. The financial downturn and the consequent drop in consumer spend, the poor summer in 2007 and the smoking ban all conspired to make things tough for many operators.
One company that has continued to flourish despite challenging trading conditions is Italian restaurant chain Carluccio's. The group has not only consistently rolled out new outlets across the UK and Ireland but, more importantly, continued to show steady financial growth. At the group's helm is the 2008 Restaurateur of the Year - Group Catey winner, managing director Simon Kossoff.
The seeds of Carluccio's Caffés were planted back in 1991 when Antonio Carluccio's wife, Priscilla, opened the Carluccio's food shop and deli next door to Antonio's fine-dining Neal Street restaurant in Covent Garden. This was followed by a wholesale arm selling a range of Carluccio-branded regional foods and fungi from Italy. Priscilla detected a gap in the market for a chain of restaurants with adjacent shops (such hybrids had existed previously only as isolated individuals) combined with an opportunity to take the Carluccio's brand to a wider audience in a more informal setting.
Kossoff has headed up the operational aspects from day one, with Priscilla overseeing plans and designs and Antonio handling menus and staff training. The combination of café-deli-grocer with an all-day opening policy proved a winning formula.
Judges praised Kossoff's commitment to Carluccio's, with Mike Smith saying he had a belief in the Carluccio's concept from day one "when others were not sure".
"Despite initially struggling to raise finance he kept faith and eventually got the backing the business needed," Smith added. "From that point on, Carluccio's has set a benchmark standard in its sector and has enjoyed sensible and sustainable growth with the turnover per store of £1.7m being nothing short of incredible."
Last year, Carluccio's saw its turnover increase by 18% to £54m, with pre-tax profit up 66% at £5.3m. The group exceeded its openings target in 2007 with six rather than five new restaurants and has already opened three outlets in 2008, bringing its portfolio to 38. Two sites have been secured for 2009 but despite its consistent roll-out the group has maintained high standards.
"Carluccio's carefully measured approach to roll out and its relentless drive on standards has proved that becoming a chain does not need to mean a compromise on quality," said Paul Ettinger.
Simon Dobson added: "The Carluccio's brand has found itself sitting very comfortably across a number of markets, from airports to shopping centres and the high street. Simon should take much credit for ensuring this level of diversity."
And beyond all that success?
"Simon personally is modest, measured and understated, a man who knows his craft as a quality multi-site operator," said Robin Rowland, last year's Restaurateur of the Year - Group winner. "Carluccio's is Simon's baby that has grown into a beautiful business."
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- Richard Vines, London food critic, Bloomberg News