Paul Goodale is director of restaurants at iconic London department store Harrods, where he is in charge of 30 restaurants. He famously organised the French Laundry pop-up with Thomas Keller, for which he won the Independent Marketing Campaign Catey, sponsored by Kraft Foods, last month. He tells Kerstin Kühn about the challenges of his job and the lessons learnt from working with some of the industry's biggest restaurateurs
When did you decide to go into hospitality?
Originally I got confused between staying in nice hotels and working in them. As a teenager I decided I wanted to go into luxury hospitality after staying in a wonderful hotel during a family holiday to Asia.
When I was at school I did work experience at the Strand Palace Hotel, while everyone else was going off to the local industrial estate. I got to travel to London each day, wear a morning suit and eat an English breakfast which was amazing.
After that I went to hotel school in Glasgow and did my graduate training at the Dorchester. I was given a napkin by the then food and beverage manager listing all the jobs I needed to have done before I was 30. I joined Hyatt and all of those jobs except food and beverage director happened for me there. I then went on to work for Terence Conran.
You worked at FishWorks before it closed, which must have been tricky. What was it like working with Luke Johnson?
I learnt an incredible amount - you always do in difficult situations. Luke Johnson is famously effective at running businesses and delivering financial returns so it was a fantastic experience to work alongside him.
Up until Harrods, I'd always done turnarounds. Even when I was working for Conran I was doing the more difficult sites outside of London in places such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester. You learn clean, pure discipline on financial control and operational details.
You've worked alongside some incredibly influential people. What were the biggest lessons you learnt from your mentors?
From Terence Conran I learnt putting people at the heart of design, which is what he's all about. Working on 13 restaurants with him was a real privilege and with him you know that you're working alongside a legend. His psychological insights are amazing.
Designing for people is what I do here all the time, looking at how people will react and feel. From a food perspective, I learnt the importance of keeping things simple, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. And doing deals with people you enjoy working with; deals that will be both fun and equitable, which is really important.
From Luke I learnt the importance of making an impact and how to turn things around as well as the importance of non-verbal communication. Des Gunewardena taught me how to do a good deal and the value of never giving up on something.
How has your past experience helped you at Harrods?
Joining an organisation like Harrods has been amazing because there is incredible demand as it benefits from such strong footfall. When you pull the same levers that I've always pulled in the past in a business that is already extremely successful, the effect is incredible.
When I was brought in I was briefed by the then owners that they wanted 30 world-class restaurants. We have sought to bring the quality of all these restaurants up very fast and have changed the businesses very quickly over the past two years. When you put a really strong offer or concept in a space like this, the effect it has in terms of numbers is phenomenal.
Can you give an example of this?
One of the first things we did was move the ground-floor pizzeria up to the second floor. It was an incredibly successful business and we felt that it was destinational enough to work higher up in the building. We made a list of the charming design elements that we didn't want to lose but added a 100-seat bar counter. So we took the concept, moved it and now it works just as well but on a much bigger footprint.
Do you think that until recently Harrods lagged behind Selfridges and Harvey Nicholls a bit as far as restaurants were concerned?
From my perspective, having worked in the London restaurant scene for 15 years, I hadn't appreciated the range of restaurants at Harrods. It's pretty much the largest food and beverage site in the world.
There was definitely an opportunity to amplify the restaurants and match them to Harrods' reputation as a leader as a fashion retailer and to bring the restaurants to the same world-class standard - which is what I've been trying to do. It has been amazing because Michael Ward [Harrods' managing director] makes me feel like the managing director of my part of the business and is massively supportive of everything I do. He's a great foodie, which helps, and so far he has not said no to anything I have suggested.
What's the set up at Harrods?
We have 170 chefs who work across one big central kitchen and another five kitchens with catering facilities and all the restaurants also have their own kitchens. The bakery downstairs makes all the bread and every piece of pâtisserie in the building.
It very much has the feel of a hotel food and beverage business. But it's absolutely ancillary to the activity of selling fashion. So it's quite a dichotomy as you have my side of the business, which does 55,000 covers a week with 600 staff, but we are a tiny piece of a much bigger business, which is all about luxury retail.
Tell us about some of the recent openings.
Galvin Demoiselle opened in March in the Fruit and Vegetable Food Hall. I've known Chris Galvin for many years - we used to work together at Conran - and I have admired him for a long time. When this opportunity arose I thought the space would really suit the Galvins but it has turned out to be much better than we ever thought it would.
In April we launched Mango Tree and Pan Chai with Ian Pengelley involved as a consultant. Mango Tree is an established brand in its own right but the menu here is exclusive to Harrods and everything is made on site. Both these restaurants are a good example of partnerships that work well - they have been very well received and the existing teams here at Harrods are learning from working alongside industry leaders.
What about the forthcoming restaurant with Richard Corrigan which opens next month?
It will be a Bentley's restaurant housed in the current Sea Grill in the Meat and Fish Hall. Richard is a fantastic partner for Harrods because - like the Galvins - his brand represents top quality, luxury, simplicity and elegance, which is exactly what we are looking for. Design-wise Bentley's lends itself very well to the Sea Grill space and it'll be a brilliant addition to Harrods.
How do you strike the right balance between all the different restaurants?
My ideas are based on a combination of instinct, observation and market research. We have a lot of data available on what our customers are choosing to buy and what they would like to buy. For instance, the idea for the steakhouse came a third from Michael Ward, who'd seen the queues at L'Entrecôte Relais de Venise, a third from our butcher in the production kitchen, who loves to talk and is such an interesting, enthusiastic man, and a third from my love for Hawksmoor. So bringing the three together - using the queues, which we have a lot of; putting the butcher in a front-of-house role; and offering the quality of a Hawksmoor restaurant - has worked brilliantly well.
The French Laundry pop-up with Thomas Keller was a phenomenal success, winning you a Catey. How did you feel when you won?
I'm so humbled that we have been recognised by such an incredible group of peers. I'm delighted for Harrods and for Thomas Keller and want to thank everyone who was involved in putting on the French Laundry at Harrods. It was an incredible undertaking and I'm delighted that it has been recognised.
How did you make the French Laundry at Harrods happen?
We just looked up Thomas Keller, called him and asked. He took a while to be convinced that I wasn't completely insane. When he realised I wasn't just some nutter and that with the infrastructure at Harrods we could actually do it, he got quite inspired.
Will you do something like that again?
Never say never but I'm not sure what we could ever do to top it and I would hate to be looking over my shoulder or have people compare it to the French Laundry. It was such an unusual thing to achieve, the pure way we did it, with 90% of the ingredients being brought over, it was like a dream. I don't think I would ever be so bold to try and improve that or have a second go because it pretty much panned out exactly the way we wanted.
Paul Goodale: CV
2010-present Director of restaurants and kitchens at Harrods
2009-2010 Head of restaurants (consultant) at Harrods
2007-2009 Chief executive at FishWorks
2006-2007 Chief operating officer at FishWorks
2005-2006 Operations director at Bank Restaurant Group
2001-2005 Group general manager at Conran Restaurants
1999-2001 Pre-opening F&B manager at Great Eastern Hotel
1994-1999 Stewarding manager, cost controller, room service manager, assistant F&B manager at Hyatt Hotels Corporation
Cucina Toscana dei Frescobaldi, 50 seats
Ca'puccino, 50 seats
Mango Tree, 21 seats
Pan Chai, 21 seats
Galvin Demoiselle, 60 seats
Rotisserie, 27 seats
Sea Grill (soon to be Bentley's), 21 seats
Caviar House Seafood Bar, 27 seats
Caviar House Oyster Bar, 19 seats
The Steakhouse, 21 seats
Ladurée, 120 seats
Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar & Restaurant, 37 seats
Pizzeria & Canti Prosecco Bar, 105 seats
Ice Cream Parlour, 56 seats (pictured)
The Tea Room, 120 seats
Godiva Chocolate Café, 100 seats
In Q, 20 seats
Caffè Florian, 90 seats
YooMoo Frozen Yogurt, 60 seats
The Diner, 140 seats
The Georgian, 240 seats
Terrace Bar, 80 seats
The Tree House Family Café, 150 seats
Mezzah Lounge, 200 seats
Caffe Espression Lavazza, 43 seats
East Dulwich Deli, 45 seats
Catey Comment from kraft
Kraft Foods was proud to sponsor the Best Independent Marketing Campaign award at the 2012 Cateys and congratulates the French Laundry at Harrods. The marketing campaign really puts Harrods back on the fine-dining map, delivering a world-class gourmet experience and helping to build the company's reputation as a food destination.
Susan Nash, trade communication manager, Kraft Foods