New Opening: The Prince

28/11/2017 11:13:40

Charlie Gardiner, Director of Incipio Group, specialists in developing and promoting food and drink venues on The Prince eating and dining concept in London’s Earls Court.

Congratulations on your recent opening. can you explain the concept of what you hope your outlet can offer?

Thank you very much, well we have taken over an empty pub which was called The Prince of Wales and the 5 buildings next door to it, we then renovated the pub and buildings, subletting the buildings to 4 london restaurants who in effect become our kitchens.

We then gutted the gardens behind and created a sort of woodland garden that seats 450 people and then built a raised deck so you can access the restaurants and the pub in the same place. We have sort of created a new high street and connected them as one venue under one guise. All self service and you can eat from any of the restaurants anywhere in the venue in short. Seating 800 people.

What was the inspiration for this concept?

The inspiration came from our two other sites Pergola on the Roof and Pergola Paddington, but the main inspiration for all of the sites was to make going out less informal, easier and cheaper. We sought to take over dead and under utilised space, then we fought hard to turn them into something exciting.

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

We take under utilised spaces, create unique concepts and build them into beautiful settings. some describe it as the pub garden for the modern age, a blend of festival, bar, restaurant and club.

What challenges did you have on the way?

Alot! planning, building it, connecting it all, heating it, making sure it was airtight and creating a venue for 800 people that flowed easily! I would be here for days if I went into all of the issues we encountered.

What advice would you give other operators about to do the same?

Do your homework before you go into a venue of this size, planning is 90% of it, running it is the easier part. 

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?

Absolutely vital, from reporting to ordering without the right kit you can’t collect data meaning you don’t know what works and what doesn’t.

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, with 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.

We also built our own in house reservation system and we have a team of 3 people who run it, as we do quite a lot of volume most off the shelf systems don’t work for the scale. In an average week we will book in 12,000 covers.

How do you pick your drink suppliers?

We go out to tender in the year and then let them come to us. We are quite lucky as we do a lot of volume, so we work with all of the major suppliers and see what the best price is on the products we want.

What sort of relationships do you look to have with your suppliers?

Good, I hope. It’s been a crazy journey for us all but we’ve built something we’re really proud of – and they’re a huge part of that. 

How do you ensure a good relationship between your food & drink suppliers and your 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 success.

What do you look for when selecting an ingredient supplier? 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.

How is business overall...what challenges and opportunities are you seeing?

Its good, we have had a very good year. Challenges are amount of choice for the punter but that is a good thing for the consumer, for the operator it can be hard to keep up.

We always have the mentality if all you worry about is the quality of the venue and that the consumer enjoys it, word of mouth happens and then everything else follows. You can pretty much correct any problem other then getting bums on seats, if you don’t have the consumer then something is wrong with the product.

Charlie Gardiner
Director | Incipio Group

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