David Layton is the founder and managing director of the BAR Project, which operates the Brick & Liquor brand. Following the opening of its first site in Tooting, London, in 2016, the brand has just launched a second in Clapham.
When did you start in the industry and what was your first job?
When I was 17 I was a glass collector in a nightclub in the North East, and then I worked lane service at a bowling alley in Leeds. My first proper job was when I managed to talk my way into a bar supervisor role at a brand new club opening in Sunderland, when I was fresh out of university.
We started looking for our second site a few months after we'd opened our first in Tooting in October 2016. The whole process, from venue acquisition to launch, can take a long time, so we wanted to get started straight way. Fortunately, we found a great site quite quickly, a vacant estate agent on Balham Hill by Clapham South, and we opened a year later.
What drew you to Clapham?
It has the same appeal as Tooting. They're both great local communities full of discerning young professionals who appreciate quality hospitality, but who don't have anything on their doorstep.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned over the years?
The 'return on investment' from a smile is greater than you can measure! I always hire smiles and personalities - fundamentally, the entire industry centres around helping people having a good time, and human interaction is at the very centre of that.
How has the industry changed compared to when you started?
It's much less about hospitality these days and much more about the bottom line. It seems that anyone with a few million can open a venue in a prime location and simply focus on volume rather than quality. When I started, we were taught about customer experience and we mapped the whole customer journey. Sadly, that seems to be lost nowadays.
What was your biggest challenge?
Prior to opening Brick & Liquor, I was an area manager for a large leisure operator. Leaving a secure job and throwing my life savings into what was, at the time, only a dream was the biggest challenge. When I look back, it's the best thing I've done. After all, yesterday's biggest challenge is one of tomorrow's biggest achievements.
What are the fundamentals for operating a successful business?
Talented, enthusiastic, passionate people.
Do you have any words of wisdom for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
You'll spend your entire life waiting for the right time and there is no such thing. Decide what your strengths are and just do it!
What is the best thing about your career?
I've worked all over the country, won awards and managed glamorous venues, but the thing I'm most proud of is the hospitality model that we have created for Brick & Liquor.
Have you achieved your dream?
We're just starting episode two of the series - there's plenty more to come.