We’re foodies. So we found the opportunity to chat to seven of Britain’s most eminent restauranteurs, about their branding, pretty delightful. All at different stages, this is a story in two acts: The Small Budget but Mighty Ambition and The Tale as Old as Time.
These restaurants don’t have the luxury of being able to invest in professionals to harness their branding from the off, but they have a heap of gusto. They busily piece together a reactionary tale. Getting by with a jigsaw-puzzle brand, they are suddenly pushed into the spotlight. Now is the time for them to invest in their branding, complete the jigsaw and BOOM!
Alex Bond donned many hats to bring Alchemilla to life, from scratch, on a shoestring budget. He is The Good Food Guide’s Chef to Watch for 2019 as his best mate Gareth Ward bags Chef of the Year (but we’re hearing from him later). We ask him how he went about branding the restaurant from the off:
By the end of his opening night he’d been awake for 70 hours, working flat out. Just nine months later Alchemilla was thrown into the spotlight. Here goes:
Alex knew that this achievement, alongside the glowing reviews they were receiving from national press, would bring in new customers, and that their first port of call would be his ‘wobbly’ £700 website. Time to bring the brand together. Establishing his core value as his desire to create dishes that people will remember; to reintroduce them to a vegetable that they think they hate, Alex started by correcting the original design mistakes, and is now expanding his proposition. A roof terrace, complete with Nyetimber bar and greenhouse, is creeping into fruition:
James and Fjona Hill started with a blank canvas; a Manor House that needed to be turned into a business asap. Fjona explains:
Then in 2016 the Manor’s restaurant, Peel’s, was awarded a Michelin-star, Michelin’s Welcome and Service Award and their fourth AA-rosette within the space of two weeks. Time to pull the strings of their business together under one unified brand. Their new brand model informed a new website, print material, copywriting, interior design, uniforms, renovations… you get our drift. The re-branding process cumulated in a commissioned piece of art, The Table, depicting the heart of their brand; to facilitate memorable moments around the table. James expands:
Today, the Manor is blossoming as they renovate their gardens and outhouses; a huge investment guided by their strong brand identity.
New ownership provides an opportunity for new authorship. When a renowned restaurant changes hands, or a renowned restauranteur changes restaurant, an exciting opportunity is catalysed. How much will these new ventures be given a sensory and emotional narrative?
Glynn Purnell put Birmingham on the foodie map of Britain. Fact. But having brought the city its first Michelin-star as Head Chef of Jessica’s, Glynn felt compelled to move on. To open a restaurant that captured the spirit of the city, he needed full brand control. Ownership of a new venture brought him new authorship:
Branding, for Glynn, meant creating a strong identity for both his restaurant and city by webbing together a story that evoked emotion.
By the time Glynn had become a household name through his cookbooks and TV appearances, he was seeing the fruits of his brand commitment with Purnell’s reaching global renown:
Ynyshir was given a whole new lease of life when Gareth Ward and Amelia Eiríksson took over the running of the business. Aware that the architecture didn’t make the most of the incredible building and its surroundings, the chefs didn’t stick around, and the food didn’t demonstrate Gareth’s potential, they took a big risk and rebranded the business. Amelia reflects:
With a heart of the brand that lingered in the surrounding Welsh countryside, Gareth started to delve deeper into a new style of cooking. He spearheaded the ingredients led menus that almost every modern London restaurant now attempts to emulate. Ynyshir’s Michelin-star and five AA-rosettes would suggest he was onto something:
Today they boast a waiting list for staff, are swimming in awards and have a list as long as Gareth’s legs of plans in the pipeline.
Michel Roux Jr’s story is a little different. When he was entrusted with Le Gavroche in 1991, he inherited a mighty brand whose strength lay in its consistently excellent standards and a history entwined with Britain’s fine dining renaissance. So, although he has made the dishes slightly lighter and dropped the jackets and ties rule, Michel’s art lies in his ability to withstand change and keep this brand heart alive:
With values rooted in elegance, luxury and comfort we ask Michel how this materialises in terms of the restaurant’s interiors. It seems like a place where time has stood still, like the pristine furnishings would have a culture shock if they stepped out onto Oxford Street today. A very deliberate choice, as Michel explains:
And is he likely to bend with upcoming trends?
Now, that is something the Le Gavroche has by the bucket-load.
Few restaurants are able to invest in their branding from the off, but every restaurant comes to a place where they can no longer afford to not. Fjona surmises for us:
Have we left you on tenterhooks? Thank you so much to Alex, James, Fjona, Glynn, Gareth, Amelia and Michel for telling their tales to us. Each restaurant’s story is so much richer than this short piece can give credit to. Check out our insights in June to find out which restaurant encourages you to shit in the woods.