Words from the Wise – Ben Fordham

10 August 2012 by
Words from the Wise – Ben Fordham

Ben Fordham, director, Benito's Hat, shares his business secrets

Customer service is key
Whether you offer fine dining, take-away, dive bar or event catering, customers deserve to feel special and valued. However, so many businesses neglect this essential element. Our smiling and knowledgeable staff are fundamental to our success. Whatever your business, make sure that your staff welcome each customer with warmth, kindness and respect.

Trust the people
In the past five years the UK has experienced a huge boom in Mexican food, and we are really excited to be at the forefront of that. However, high-quality Mexican food is still new to the British public. You have to expect that people will sample the market but I also believe that, if you stick to producing a high-quality product, they will come back to you. The British public are discerning about what they eat, and we will keep on serving high-quality ingredients and freshly cooked food - and let the guy down the street serve a poorer product for 50p less.

Follow your passion
If you are entering a world that demands long hours and will frequently do everything it can to make you want to quit, you had better be passionate about what you do. That means that it can't just inspire you on day one, but you must have that same level of passion weeks, months and years in. Figure out the key elements that motivated you to start your chosen business, write them down and regularly check them to be sure that they are still a focus of the business. You have to adapt and change, but don't lose sight of why you got into this industry.

Value your staff
It is always a challenge for a small business to pay the top market rate for its staff. However, your staff will go the extra mile if they feel appreciated and inspired by your passion. You may not be able to give the bonuses you would like in the beginning, but ensuring that good deeds do not go unrecognised and taking the team out for drinks after a particularly high sales week go a long way. Show your staff that you care and they will repay you with loyalty and hard work.

Cycle to work

Career highlights
â- 2000 Arrived in Texas and fell in love with real Mexican food and my wife
â- 2007 Travelled to Oaxaca to go to cooking school with the incredible Pilar
â- 2008 Benito's Hat restaurant opens in Goodge Street, London
â- 2009 Benito's Hat first birthday party closes down Goodge Street
â- 2010 Second Benito's Hat restaurant opens in Covent Garden
â- 2011 Third Benito's Hat restaurant opens at Oxford Circus
â- 2012 Fourth Benito's Hat restaurant opens in King's Cross and we launch breakfast offer

Best piece of advice
Keep it fresh. Constantly assess what can be tweaked or developed to make your product even better and to keep challenging yourself.

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