New Opening: M Bar & Grill

16/11/2017 14:01:40

Martin Williams, founder and chief executive of M Restaurants

M Restaurants now has two landmark London restaurants for what Martin Williams describes as his “multi faceted dining venues” in  Threadneedle Street and Victoria and last month opened its first M Bar & Grill concept in Twickenham.

Can you explain the concept of the M Bar & Grill?

M Bar & Grill is a local, accessible and 100% British offshoot of our award-winning flagship venues: M Victoria St and M Threadneedle St. Whilst the original M venues boast a wine bar and tasting room, cocktail bar, private members lounges and two restaurants; RAW (gluten free) & M GRILL, featuring the best steaks from around the globe, in M Bar & Grill we are focusing on those two key elements, whilst maintaining the other facets (albeit scaled back).

Ultimately we want to offer the same key values of heightened hospitality and the finest ingredients we can source. With M Bar and Grill, the focus has been to do this in a local sustainable way to allow us to bring a cool hangout to the people of Twickenham.

What was the inspiration for this concept?

 Habits have changed, people enjoy a central London restaurant during the week and something special closer to home at weekends. Everyone is bored of chain restaurants locally so we wanted to tap into this new market and extend the brand.

After Brexit, all imports went up by around 15% making an international offering unsustainable in a local environment so we went British. All the reasons you used to go to a gastro-pub in a much more lounge led clubenvironment, with an outstanding food offering.

What steps did you have to go to get to the build stage? 

 We had planned a final equity raise in October 2016, but rather than only go to my current investor pool, I decided to offer equity via a crowd-funding platform; principally to gain PR and as a marketing exercise (which was very successful) and also to build the community of M regulars, with a new group of equity holders. We raised over £1m on the Seedrs platform in a day and £1.6m in a week.

What would be your elevator pitch to describe the outlet you have created? 

A modern and brilliant British version of a Bar and Grill, containing lots of cool, techie elements that stimulate the guest and create an experience whilst embracing the community. For example, our electronic wine machines and room service app have been quite a hit. Executive chef Michael Reid’s food is inspired by comfort food (evoking memories of youth) served in a quality, clean, modern manner with clever twists!

What challenges did you have on the way? 

Keeping the project to budget. We had to put many elements of the build out to tender, when I would have rather have simply used previous suppliers. This saved us around £300K – so made the CROCI (capital return on capital invested) more attractive and confidence in expansion more viable.

What advice would you give other operators looking to do a similar project?

Have an amazing team on the journey with you. Andre Mannini, operations director and Chef Michael Reid are the best in the business, so I am very fortunate to have them.

Which suppliers did you work with for the fit out?

Hannah Contracts for the general Fit out, project management and joinery. The best in the business. Style Matters and Hillcross for excellent quality furniture. Caterer for kitchen and bars, Oaks for electrical, C&B for mechanical equipment. All were very good and delivered the project on time and in budget.

Why did you work with them?

A mix of positive previous experience and cost. No regrets.

What makes a good supplier stand out for you?

Quality, minimal hiccups, delivery on schedule minimal amounts of questions -  I have a business to run and am not interested in the flow of wiring, or drainage schemes.

How is it going?

A great start and now we are into the rugby season, followed by the festive silly season. So all is tickety boo. The other venues are flying now too, so we seem to be butting the overall trend of restaurants struggling. The team are enjoying some fruits of the past three yearshard work.

Ready for the next one now?

Not quite! We have the festive season to get through first. Then we breathe and plan further growth there are a lot of opportunities out there at the moment.

With your specialist menu, what considerations did you have to take when purchasing catering equipment and what items were a must have for you?

So much of our cooking is based on fire and smoke so the grills are always our first purchase. I have a great relationship with Whites Food Service who custom make our bespoke grills.

What is your favourite piece of kit in the kitchen that you can’t live without?

Besides the grills, would have to be our dehydrators.

How important is it to have good technology to support the smooth running of the restaurant?

Imperative.

What payment systems do you use in order to ensure efficient turnaround? 

Tevalis – EPOS... 

Merchant Hub – for payment services. 

What reservation partner do you work with for the restaurants or do you have a mix of reservation and walk ins? If so how do you manage this effectively?

Open Table, we also have a strong relationship with a number of booking affiliates, most importantly Bookatable, which whom we partnered with to create the UK Young Chef of the year competition.

We also receive a large amount of referals from hotel concierges. We manage 'walk-ins' with a big dose of charm, usually a small wait time and a ton of outstanding hospitality.

How do you get a good relationship between your food and drink suppliers with your chef and the drinks team?

Like anything in life it’s all about communication and plenty of contact time in our restaurants so they understand our business better and realise the importance of the part they play in our succes

What do you look for when selecting an ingredient supplier? You mention that people are bored of the chain restaurants locally, to what extent do you use the locality of a restaurant to change what is served on the menu?

I have never believed in chain restaurants that just roll out the same offering all over the country. To be honest I think it is slightly arrogant to believe that they have created something which will be an instant success everywhere. We build our menus around the demographic of where we open. M Threadneedle St versus M Victoria St are very different in demographics, our city based restaurant is much more masculine which the food reflects, whilst Victoria is much more mixed so has a softer touch on the menu, more elegance.

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