Minute on the clock: Leonid Shutov, founder of Bob Bob Ricard

22 September 2022 by
Minute on the clock: Leonid Shutov, founder of Bob Bob Ricard

The founder of Bob Bob Ricard speaks about sourcing ingredients from Russia and that head chef advert

Bob Bob Ricard made headlines after advertising a head chef position with a £91,000 a year salary – how is the staffing situation looking now?

In the past two months we've seen a dramatic easing of the situation, so we now have a substantial amount of candidates responding to vacancies. We are seeing good quality candidates. The whole staffing difficulty was a major cause of struggle for restaurants straight out of the last lockdown, but that seems to have finished now.

What did you think about the attention the advert garnered?

I think it got a lot of attention because it seemed like a huge salary. Our issue was merely getting the right applicant. We found there were very few applicants and the ones we had were not really experienced enough to lead a restaurant of that size. So, the role was filled when we got lucky and had the right person apply.

Why do you think things have changed?

I can't quite tell. It's possible there is less work out there as we're seeing more restaurants running on limited schedules. Not every restaurant has reopened after the pandemic and the industry is going through a very difficult time – worse than what is being recognised by the government and HMRC. People are looking for restaurants that are likely to be more secure employment opportunities, that can genuinely sustain the level of remuneration that has been established.

There has been a general cost increase for hospitality in every department. I think some restaurants will struggle to deliver on the promises and pay offered to attract that talent six months ago.

Have salaries risen across the board at Bob Bob Ricard?

They're substantially up on last summer and in line with the industry. We're not immune from the same issues that every restaurant in the UK is facing. You have to be efficient so you can be profitable and commercially viable at that level of pay. There is no magic solution for any one restaurant.

Bob Bob Ricard has a policy of limiting the mark-up on fine wine to £50, is that staying in place with inflation?

Yes. It's even more important in times like these to stay focused on delivering value to customers. In all fairness, £50 is a substantial mark-up on a bottle of wine, substantially more than the mark-up on a bottle of house wine. Everybody is more cost conscious and we're focused on delivering good value. A lot of what we offer is below retail prices, let alone other restaurant's prices.

As a Russian-inspired restaurant, has the current political situation put you under any pressure?

Of course, there's anxiety. Even though our connection to Russia is only by virtue of inspiration and recipes, it's a deeply concerning time and something we think about every day.

We have customers who ask about our caviar and if it's from Russia, and some wish to know more about the background of the restaurant itself, which is understandable and commendable under the circumstances. I think it's the right thing to do.

All we can do is explain where we stand and who we are and try and put their mind at ease. We have never sourced anything from Russia except vodka, and we are in the process of switching to a Ukrainian vodka supplier.

Bob Bob Ricard ran a fundraising dinner to benefit Ukraine and donated £1 from every bill to the Ukrainian Red Cross, did you feel it was important to do this?

It felt like the right thing to do. Personally, it felt important to me. I'm a British national but was born in Russia, so I do feel a degree of closeness to the situation.

It's more painful in the circumstances given there is such a close connection between the two countries, culturally and historically, and I think personally for most people. My family is 50:50 Russian and Ukrainian, split exactly down the middle.

Are you still planning to open Bob Bob Ricard in Tokyo?

It's behind schedule for a variety of reasons. A lot of the development time we were in lockdown and Japan was closed for travel. Some of the simplest things in this post-Covid world are a challenge, but we're working on it and we are very excited.

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