Hawksmoor is a British steakhouse and cocktail bar chain founded by Will Beckett and Huw Gott in 2006, after they set out in search of the perfect steak. Fast forward to today, they run nine steakhouses based in London, with a recent new opening in New York City. Will joins the show to share how they have built a business that they are proud of.
This is a truly enlightening conversation where we explore how Hawksmoor makes their customers feel special. We also discuss prioritising your staff, his management and leadership philosophies, how he finds balance – and what we can learn from table stakes.
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Michael Tingsager 4:25
Welcome to the show Will - exciting to have you here.
Will Beckett: 4:32
Thank you so much for having me and for a very nice introduction.
Michael Tingsager: 4:36
Well, we had a couple of conversations before but I really looking forward to today's conversation because we of course we're going to be talking about Hawksmoor journey there but also like your recent opening in New York and it's always interesting when people go outside the market so from the UK to New York, New York is like a daunting place for many people when they open restaurants, it's like the mecca of restaurants for many, where you have the big Danny Meyer, and so on, so we will come back to that. But for people out there to have, you know, never been to Hawksmoor or know what Hawksmoor is all about, can you tell a bit about your background? And how Hawksmoor actually started out and where you are now?
Will Beckett: 5:20
Yeah, absolutely. And I'll try and give you a potted version. So I don't use up the whole of this telling some telling a garbled life story. But I started Hawksmoor in 2006 with my best friend Hew. And we've known each other since we were 11 years old. And we've done a couple of things in hospitality beforehand, which were different shades of failure, we'd had a pub and a bar, and we had a Mexican Bar Restaurant. All of them had. All of them had kind of they'd been they've been good in some ways, but they would always, we'd always been quite thoughtful I think with the food and the drink and the customer experience. But in lots of ways they were. I mean awful, awful. They weren't good businesses, they lost money. For the most part. They weren't good employers. We opened Hawksmoor in 2006. And we opened a small at the time small British steak restaurant, I think it had 80 to 100 seats. Everything on a real charcoal grill. It was in Shoreditch in East London.
And probably the first thing we got right was we just thought very carefully about the meat. We thought very carefully about sourcing and how we how we'd find steak, because I think we had a memory of, of how good steak could be from our childhoods. But that had, it's sort of the most steaks we had didn't really live up to that experience. I think it was kind of a time in the 90s, early 2000s when you went to a restaurant and had a steak and it was bit underwhelming. And so we just tried to do that. And we and we also just tried to have a really kind of casual environment people were happy to work in. So it was super relaxed there.
And that was 16 years ago. And I mean, the business has been through many sorts of phases, if you like since then. But if you came to a Hawksmoor now. I mean, you'd see a much more kind of grown-up company, I think we've got 10 restaurants, most of them in London, we've got some in Manchester, Edinburgh, and as you said, one new one in New York. I think really, they're quite special. They're quite special destination restaurants. And they're a really weird combination, I think of really, really high standards, with a really kind of casual vibe in the restaurant. And you see that when you look at the people that work there, you know, love, just really, really lovely, hardworking people, they are exceptional at their job. But you look at them, and they're just you know, they're just people in jeans and a shirt and that they are casual. And it's somehow it comes together, I think, to make this kind of quite special experience that people seem to really, really love.
Michael Tingsager: 8:19
And what was the light beside you know, you wanted to get the meat right, but what was the purpose of Hawksmoor, especially when you've done other businesses? There's always like, this little seed of purpose if they follow the founders in what they do.
Will Beckett: 8:35
Yes, interesting. I mean, I, you know, I know, you're like this as well, you're interested in business books, business people, you know, I read a lot of people's stories, and I think you quite often hear a story, don't you about? I just started off with a vision and a purpose. And Hawksmoor interestingly, now definitively is a business with a vision and a purpose. But I think possibly, arguably, it wasn't in those days. We always had a few small ideas that were really important to us. You know, it mattered to us that we did things the right way. We used to say that was our expression for all the time trying to do things the right way. If we're gonna do a restaurant, it's just trying to properly let sauce the way we think the restaurant should source. lets you know if we're going to sort of have staff that's just trying to make sure that they're happy and we treat them properly.
But it wasn't really a restaurant that was opened with a purpose. Excuse me, by the way for the pots and pans clashing in the background. It wasn't really a restaurant opened with a purpose. I think probably at that stage, having had three failed businesses or running who was still running three failing businesses. Really just having one that worked was a good start and mean you said before, something about talking about right trying to run a business that you can feel proud of. And that is, you know, it's absolutely at the heart of everything we've done for many, many, many years. But for that to work in the first place, you have to have a business. And really the ones that we didn't, that didn't succeed, didn't really meet that criteria. You know, they didn't, they didn't make any money. So I think probably at that initial stage, just trying to open a good restaurant that worked was pretty key for us.Michael Tingsager::
And it's really interesting to say, you need that, you know, baseline foundation of a business that works to be able likely to live out the purpose, I believe you need to develop a product that people want, and people care about, and also a place people wants to come in and eat and work. Because when you get that right, exactly there. That's the starting point for what I hear you saying, you can start actually living out your purpose and do all the other things than just running a business and getting results.Will Beckett::
Yeah, that's absolutely right. But you've got to have that baseline, you've got a business that works, customers like that keep coming back to, you've got to be able to run one first, which took us a very long time before we felt comfortable saying that. And, and you know, of course, you can start with ambition in terms of purpose, but you can really develop that and make things happen from that kind of foundation.Michael Tingsager::
One of the interesting things now you are, you know, you're on an incredible journey, you as you said 16 years, and you could almost see and you're like, wow, it's 16 years since we put those seeds down and started. But now you're also doing more than just running a business, you're involved in all these, you know, giving more than than you take in a way you are giving money to people in hunger, you're involved in making the industry better. Was that always you know, maybe you didn't know the course that I put in? But it was was it always between you and Hew an ideal world where you could do that and run a business at the same time?Will Beckett::
Yeah, I think it's in both of our kinds of makeup that we want to try to do things that are good. And I, you know, maybe from sometimes from a kind of the slightly selfish point of view, help us kind of feel that we're, we're doing something good in the world. And we've always tried to do it. And we've always tried to do it in a way that's appropriate to scale.
Because, you know, there's no doubt whatsoever, we can do more now than we could 16 years ago. So one thing is the ambition and one thing to scale. And we have tried over time to do more. And I think maybe in the last. In the last few years, we've sort of embraced a little bit more. The idea that actually, I think some restaurants in particular restaurants and hospitality in this country and UK, do look at Hawksmoor and think, you know, I like what they're doing. And they inspire me to do something else. And I actually feel as I say out loud, it feels a bit awkward saying that, despite, by the way knowing it to be true. But I, you know, I think we take that quite seriously. Now, when we started, I think there was a sense that if you were if you had a small business with integrity, that as you grew, you would have to start making compromises, whether that was around the standards, or the purpose, or whatever it was, your integrity, your integrity would sort of diminishing as you grew.
And by the way, there is clearly some truth in that, you know, lots there are restaurant groups that have followed that path. And no, it's a fear for a lot of, for a lot smaller independent restaurateurs, amongst whom kind of account a lot of my friends in that part of the industry. And I hope that Hawksmoor is a really good example of not having to do that. That actually, as you get bigger, you can sort of double down on those things. I think Hawksmoor is a better restaurant now than it was 10 years ago. I'm absolutely sure that we do bet we do more with purpose now than we did 101-5 years ago. So I hope that these fantastic small, independent businesses with integrity can look at Hawksmoor and think, actually, we could do it. And I also hope maybe that some of the bigger businesses look at Hawksmoor and think, yeah, we, if they can do it, then we ought to be able to as well. So I hope, I hope Hawksmoor feels like a business that embodies that spirit of kind of integrity and scale at the same time.Michael Tingsager::
You know, is it easy? It sounds a bit like when you're saying and also it takes a lot of effort to make, you know, giving more than you take happen as well. Because, of course, you said at the beginning you need to get the business working. But does it really takes effort, I guess as well doing that. It's not just saying you want to do it. There's also a lot of doing that comes.Will Beckett::
I mean, 100% I mean you've got to want to do it. And you've got to do it. And it's of course it's hard I mean that there isn't much I don't think in business and running a business that is not hard. It's difficult. It's a difficult thing. If it wasn't more people would do it. But, you know, and I think, by the way, everyone, anyone listening to this, and you certainly I could think of businesses where, you know, some of the people inside the business who do the work, are desperate to do this kind of stuff, and maybe don't have buy-in from the top. And equally, I think we've seen businesses where the person at the top is really keen on getting it done, but they just can't seem to get the work done as well, which, which it requires, so it is, yeah, it's hard. And as you grow, the challenge is just to change a bit, don't they? And I think probably a good part of the reason that Hawksmoor is is good at it, I hope is that there are people who work in hawks more who are exceptionally good at it. So in a way, it sort of feels easier for me, because there are these fantastic people who've joined us along the way, who are exceptional, and who believe in kind of the integrity of walks more and doing it at scale, and they make it happen.Michael Tingsager::
That lead me to actually dive a bit down into it, there's no doubt about people feel is a unique place to come to and you touched a bit in the beginning as well that we've created this unique combination of different places where you get dif get a very different experience than what you expected and in a good way. But what is it that makes you so unique? Do you have like an idea about what your algorithm is? You're opening restaurants, or you're taking it one by one? Or what is it that makes you so unique?Will Beckett::
The answer that I'd give you is changed over the years. So you know, there was definitely a stage where we took it one restaurant at a time. And we were very, very close to the heart of it all in terms of you know, the day-to-day running of any individual restaurant. And we, you know, Hew and me, but also, you know, a small group of people we'd worked with for many years, just had a really great instinct for the answer to your question and kind of what made it special, maybe without ever really being able to kind of articulate it properly. And I think we've got better at that over time. And, you know, as we've started talking about kind of the values that underpin hawks more or we started looking at the brand and talking more kind of rationally to the people who love hawks more from a customer's point of view about what it is that they love, we have started kind of pinpointing, okay, it's about this.
And I think in the end, we spend a lot of time talking about the words special that were special in this, you know, trying to create something special, because I think that's, that's the experience of a lot of our customers coming to Hawksmoor is to feel special. In a, in a really, really lovely way. You know, not that kind of off, we're going to a fancy dinner and we'll all you know, kind of dress up and it'll be a bit more expensive. So we'll know it's special. Not that necessarily, but just a special occasion, especially and feeling special when you're there. And for the people inside Hawksmoor who work there. I think the sense of trying to create something special that you can look at, you know, even after you've left and feel like yeah, I was part of that, and I'm really proud of it has been a big part as well.Michael Tingsager::
You talk a lot about the people that work in the business and your customer and there's no doubt about I noticed over the pandemic, you're very active in communicating with your customers, what you did, what your perspective was, what your approach was, what your thinking was about what was going on. And I could I definitely got a feeling it was like a very community-led business as well, because you work with the customer at the same time with the feedback they gave you about the whole situation and Pandemic was a complicated thing. But many businesses actually did the opposite in my view, not only in hospitality, actually, they shut down to the outside world and dealt from the inside out instead of on the outside in when it comes to listening to the customer base and building a community around it. Is that like really is that by you know, instinct you have always been very focusing on communicating with customers and the community or is that a choice because you could see that's a benefit for the business.Will Beckett::
I mean, there's definitely some instinct in it. I think when you go into times of crisis or stress, you tend to kind of reach for your natural strength. That's a fairly well-understood kind of response and probably, the thing that I'm most naturally reached for is communication. You know, I enjoy talking to people I enjoy trying to kind of get people on the same page and I like it I just like people, I like talking to them. And so I think I probably just reach for that because of it slightly. That's what I think I do well. But there was a logic behind it, I suppose, which was internally where we were communicating if we communicated a reasonable amount externally, we create communicated a lot internally. To high-stress moment, isn't it? I mean, I think a pretty good definition of leadership is optimism. And, you know, when I think optimism is the opposite of worrying, and I think in those really high-stress moments, March 2020, being a really good example of that, I mean, there's, there's, there's just a sea of worry and anxiety about the future.
And I think it was important for us to give to show people, some kind of optimism, and I'm not saying that we were kind of saying, this is all gonna be okay. We weren't actually if you think that the early stage, we were communicating, this is a problem. But what we committed to was, you know, as we go through this, we're going to do everything we can, which doesn't necessarily mean it's enough everything we can to help people. We're going to communicate with you openly, we're going to let you know what we're thinking. So you've never got that feeling from us that like what's happening behind that closed door, and should I worry about it, you'll, you'll never need to feel that. And then I think we felt probably our customers, many of whom I think feel a connection to folks. And to the people who work here, actually, we get more feedback about people who work here than we do about steak.
So they, I think we felt they deserved our communication and deserved honesty and openness and wanted to know what was happening to the people they care about who work here. And then finally, you know, my, my phone was ringing a lot from friends of mine, who run smaller businesses with a version of the question. I don't know what to do, what are you doing? And I think we felt that it was important for us to kind of be on the front foot a little bit with, let's just be really transparent about the decisions that we're making. And I have subsequently actually, I've heard a lot of people say, we, we didn't really know what to do. And so we sort of tried to follow Hawksmoorâs lead on it sometimes. And again, I'm sorry, if that sounds self-aggrandizing. I don't mean it to but I know that some people felt that, okay, there's a bigger business doing it, we'll just try and do that as well. So, I wanted us to be open.Michael Tingsager::
And you had some, you know, incredible feedback for that. I noticed that and how the customers connected with they just wanted to know, when can we buy some food again, in principle, lots of them, were really, you know, wanted to connect with you do the food and the direction was there straight away? Because I guess as you said, there is a human connection into the business, the local waiter or general manager or chef or whatever they build a connection with when they come and visit your restaurants and that's already done prior to a crisis. Going in to look a bit like inside your business, talk a lot about the people that work there. What is the leadership philosophy behind Hawksmoor, because you're won, some incredible awards as well. And you've been part of the great place to work for almost a decade now. And every year, you are, you're doing quite well there?Will Beckett::
Yeah. Yes, we are. Yeah, we've spent a decade in the best companies to work for in the UK. And we've had various other bits of recognition as an employer and hospitality. And so I think there's a difference between leadership and management. You know, I'm, I'm conscious that lots of people are both. But and, you know, when I talked about earlier about leadership being optimism, I think there's a lot of that in Hawksmoor. But I mean, I think you can be, you can be a waiter and be a leader. I mean, I can, I could rattle off the names of people who've been here for a long time, who haven't sought that career path of kind of promotions.
But their leaders, there's no doubt about that whatsoever. People look up to them, they look to them for direction and guidance. And I really love to see that in Hawksmoor - and I think we spend a lot of time thinking about the management of just how do you get the best out of other people? And I mean, our answers are by no means revolutionary at all. There's nothing I don't think that we do that is kind of, you know, a clever, a clever new idea of management. We just tried to do the basics really, really well. We try and support people. We try and treat them as adults we treat them as individuals. And we give people who manage here a lot of training because the hospitality industry is young, isn't it? The workforce of the hospitality industry is young. And I think we owe it to young managers, and the people, they manage to give them the tools to look after people, because you know, you could be 26, 27 years old and have 30 people working for you. What are the chances that you're equipped to do that? 26, 27 it's low, isn't it? So we think about that a lot. And we and we try and put a lot into management, maybe more than we put into leadership.Michael Tingsager::
Is there any like specific things, you're doing your thing that that works really well for you, because you talk about, you're talking about life skills here, because even if they didn't stay in the restaurant sector, learning the things you know how to get the best out of people, is a skill you can use in any aspect of life.Will Beckett::
What I mean, funnily enough, actually, that's good, that's a good example of one of the things that we tried to do that I think works really well for us, which is, when we do training, and we do a lot, certainly, pre-COVID, we did a lot, and we're trying to get back to doing a lot conscious during COVID, it was a little bit on simmer if you like, but when we train people, we think about that point, specifically, which is let's make sure we're giving people skills, and not just techniques. You know, not just this is how you deal with an ex situation, or this is the knowledge that you need. But these are skills that you can take away from Hawksmoor and do other things.
And I've always liked the idea in Hawksmoor that we would be a place eventually, with really amazing alumni. There are a small number of businesses in hospitality, the old Caprice Group was one of the Pizza Express, has been one of them. You mentioned Danny Meyer, Union Square Hospitality has absolutely been one of them, where you meet a lot of people who came from that business once, and they've gone on to do amazing things inside or outside this industry. And I really like the idea that Hawksmoor is that and that training people with skills, life skills, not just job-specific skills is important.Michael Tingsager::
That's super interesting because I totally agree with you, you know, spending more than a decade with McDonald's, that was not because it was McDonald's, it was because it gave me a skill, and I could see that are getting transferable skills, and it didn't matter when I left, I will be ready for something better, I could go out and do things I would never have thought about. And you're spot on. And I think that's a really, really good message. In this situation where we're really, you know, struggling as an industry would getting people to come back and work in the industry. How has that situation actually impacted your situation as well of, you know, being able to come back? Have you seen the same challenges many others with the staffing crisis?Will Beckett::
Yeah, of course, it's not a situation that anyone I think is immune from. Since we reopened in May, we've hired hundreds of people. And it's been difficult, you know, and we've taken the view that we would only ever open the restaurants, on services and with, with the number of customers that we can do really, really well. And I think I'm probably right in saying that most of our restaurants are still slightly hamstrung by staffing numbers, or, or, or skill levels, because as well as a labour shortage has been a skill shortage. And I, I think, you know, we're working through that really, really well. But we haven't been immune to it at all. And it's just it's been a huge priority for us. It's just trying to get in great people and then training them to deliver hawks more standards in a Hawksmoor way.Michael Tingsager::
What about you opened in New York, in, you know, in the midst, or in the end of the pandemic? That was part of one of your growth plans. It'll be interesting to hear why you made that decision to go to New York? And also, what is your view on growth in general? Because 16 years 10 restaurant, it's not like you're going crazy, but you the feels like it's very considered growth, in my view.Will Beckett::
Well, thank you, I hope I hope so. I hope it feels considered because we've certainly considered it very hard. And I've got two answers for New York. I've kind of got the the the business answer that you would tell investors and I've also got the personal answer from my heart. And, you know, the first one of those, which of course is also true is that it's a conscious business decision that you know, we're not going to open restaurants, on and on and on forever. This is a business by the way that neither here nor I think many of the senior people have got any intention of kind of leaving anytime soon. But we're not going to just bang, bang, bang more restaurants in, for example, London, we've got seven already. And we've we wanted to try and do something that sort of opened up a bit more space for us to, to open the kinds of restaurants that we think will resonate with people.
And New York was kind of the first, the first step of that. The more personal decision, which also has a lot of truth in it is, that we've been to New York a lot. We started going there about 2009, and 2010 before we opened our second restaurant, Seven Dials. And, you know, we've been to all the steak restaurants and bearing in mind as me and my best friend, you know, who started all this, we'd have that conversation. Can you imagine? Imagine if, we had a restaurant here amazing, wouldn't it? That sort of conversation sort of feels a bit like, you know, opening a restaurant in New York would be like scoring gold and a cup final or something, you know, what you what you'd like to do as a kid. And so there's something in there and New York, almost all knew or didn't happen, almost didn't happen many, many times. I mean, including, by the way, the pandemic we were supposed to open in March 2020.
But at one of those times, I can't remember whether it was that one or a different one. I remember saying to Huw, you know, we have just been through the long meeting of kind of, you know, weighing up pros and cons and spreadsheets and analytics and whatever. And I said to Hew if we don't do it? Well, you always wonder why. always wonder what would have happened? And if we do it and fail? Will you regret that we've tried? He said, No. I wouldn't regret that we tried, I'd always want if we didn't do it always wonder what would have happened. And in a way, that kind of was at least as important as the two-hour-long analytics meeting because just that's how we felt about it. It was just it was a particularly meaningful opening for us. And getting it open finally, and having received some really good reviews and read last week that it's considered New York's hottest Steakhouse. And just in a way, it feels cathartic to us. That kind of a life ambition is fulfilled, and it's nice.Michael Tingsager::
Congratulations on that. And it's a tough city with the reviews they are. I know in New York more than any place in the world, your reviews really set the tone for the success of a restaurant. So so congratulations on that. What about like growth in general? As I said it feels like considering growth. How do you actually do you have like a philosophy for how you want to grow the business really interesting. You said we're not leaving anytime soon. That's not the plan.Will Beckett::
We're in the early days. It was quite easy, really the thought was if we had restaurants that bought in one restaurant, initially, that was oversubscribed to have more people wanting to eat there, then we could fit in. And if we had really good people who were ready for, you know, a career, or to move on and develop, then let's open another restaurant and see what happens. That was kind of the initial view. And obviously, now we're a bigger company, and we have a strategy and thoughts. But I think in a way, it's it, it still kind of goes back to some basic fundamentals, which is the questions. What can kind of growth can you achieve? Where you not only don't dilute on standards, the quality of people, the kind of specialness around hawks more, but actually, you enhance it. Because you know, last year we opened New York and wood dwarf our biggest ever restaurant. She has fought but we'll have 400 covers by the time we've finished with the terrace and stuff.
And I think we've got better as a result of hawks Morris got better, more exciting and interesting to me, by the way, National Review came out for Hawksmoor today. There's another one in the off, and that hasn't happened at Hawksmoor for a while. We've enhanced Hawksmoor by growing. And I don't know what the answer is all the time, by the way to that question, how, what can we do without making those compromises? In fact, what can we do and enhance the business? But I think that's the kind of that's the nutshell of the conversation that we're having back and forth is how do we how does it get better if it gets bigger? And I hope so far that's happenedMichael Tingsager::
And that's super interesting because you're saying that like growth is something is a positive thing, but it has to make you better not dilute your self as an organization 100% when you grow a business because there's been a lot of you know, the pandemic brought the whole digitalization in into the hospitality sector and lots of people say, now there's like one of the key drivers for successful hospitality, businesses, people and tech. So what role does so people definitely play a very big role in the success of your business. But what about tech? Is that because you know, you're creating this very human experience in your restaurant? Is tech a key strategy for you as well to look at?Will Beckett::
I mean, the answer in its way has to be Yes, I suppose. Although for me instinctively, as I said, people person, so I'd love it if the answer was no, but I'm conscious that there's something kind of slightly stubborn about the restaurateur who says no to tech, everything must happen on paper, or whatever with people. Because that's not, that's not the reality, and it hasn't been in reality for a very long time. As you, as we develop, as people become more used to using tech themselves, and as kind of efficiency gets more difficult in the restaurants, Tech has to be part of the answer to all of that. The thing that really struck me, during the pandemic, about restaurants and tech, was if you think about the way you tend to use your own personal device. It places you at the centre of the world, doesn't it? If you want a book, or some food, or whatever, a present for someone, where when do you want it? You want it now, immediately, and you want it wherever you are, you know, you are at the centre of everything.
And that is very different to how restaurants operate, isn't it restaurants place themselves at the centre of everything? What do you want? When can you have it? Well, you can come at a time of our choosing more or less because we can't do your eight o'clock Friday night slot. But you can have Saturday at six or something or you want to go to Seven Dials, but that's busy, so you can have to go somewhere else. But you have to come to us. And when the restaurant industry shut down, I think a lot of brands started to work out if they could kind of do something meaningful in the space where customers are at the centre of everything physically. And I think there's probably quite a lot of future there. Although at the moment, it's in flux, isn't it People loved coming back to restaurants. That's been really, really amazing to see. And we certainly feel that in the short term are kind of our growth is not driven by tech, it's driven by restaurants. But there's something there, there's a change there that I think is irreversible, that people are going to be the centre of a thing and not, not restaurants.Michael Tingsager::
And that's a super interesting way you're looking at an athlete, what you can learn from the technology, and what the power of it is. And that's, you know, that's the Amazon model. They, they, they bring everything to you with one swipe.Will Beckett::
And so is so easy as well. And that's the other thing you know, you see it in restaurants, you know, as a customer, you see it, you'll see it as an operator. How difficult can we make restaurants sometimes you know, you've got a book, but before you book, you've got to like, log into the system? And then when you do you got to enter your credit cards like oh my god, no one cares anymore. Just swipe, click done and finished. That's, that's how things need to work. And it's difficult, I think, for restaurateurs to get themselves into that mindset, sometimes including me.Michael Tingsager::
Yeah, and I guess also if you look at other industries, the ease of doing business, retail has probably led that for years, you know, and that's the one-click thing is the ease of doing business with people. And so you actually can just be in that moment. So you don't have to sit with the payment that didn't work or the order that didn't work.Will Beckett::
And I think the magic is because what if that's the area that we haven't been great at, traditionally, super, super easy, putting customers at centre of the world, what we have been exceptional at is experience and how you make people feel and it's how you marry those two things over time, isn't it? How you tried to give people the best of both worlds, whether that's in a restaurant or not. And, you know, I'm not sure if I could point you towards the perfect practitioners of that at the moment. But it's definitely I think, on people's minds of how you marry those things.Michael Tingsager::
Taking a bit of status now, we talked a bit about the journey, what you've been through in the pandemic, and your new openings, so what is your biggest priority as a business now, right now?Will Beckett::
Oh, it's people. I mean, I know I'm conscious that there were priorities that never stopped being priorities like standards and people and then there are things that come around and hopefully will go again or will slip off the top priority list. Dealing with a pandemic, for example, little whatever. But people are both of those things at the moment. You know, it's all it's a constant always-on priority fork more, how do we do the best job we can for people? But right now, you know, the question of how do we make sure that all of our restaurants are staffed with excellent people who know what they're doing and are happy in their job. And I think that's a particular priority at the moment. So it's something that we spend a lot of time thinking about?Michael Tingsager::
And what are your main barriers to achieving that and getting your restaurants full of people that just love and support you?Will Beckett::
Good question. I think probably the answer is, although, although it ought to be a late market because like the market is, is difficult, as you know, it's, if you think culturally, before the number of people who now in 2022, worked at Hawksmoor, in 2019. They're the last proper pre-COVID period, it's about 40%. So 60% of people more or less, have never had any experience of working in this company outside of a pandemic. So they don't instinctively know what it's like, they don't know how good it can be that by the way, because I, you know, I'm first so we haven't been, I think, by the way, we've been very good, considering the pandemic, but we haven't been as good as if we would have been if there hadn't been one. And they don't know what the best of Hawksmoor is they don't know what it looks like when Hawksmoor is absolutely heaving at Christmas. They don't know what the opportunities can be like here, the sense of camaraderie, etc, so our job really on our biggest kind of hurdle to getting to the thing I've described, which is, you know, all the restaurants full of people who are happy and giving their best is creating an environment for them, where they feel where they can thrive, and getting them aligned with Hawksmoor on how we do things, and that there's no quick fix for that just take some time. Because usually, any given period, the answer to how many we've been here for more than a year or so, is, you know, it's way more than 50% of people. So you've usually it's the majority of people who understand hawks more on how we do things and a minority who don't. And at the moment, it's the other way around.Michael Tingsager::
So what in principle, you're saying is also getting the culture back to where you could never get things back to the evolves, but a new version of that a new, you know, culture, winning culture that works for you, because you need all these people have never really, you know, you haven't been able to have them together in the same way you did pre-pandemic before now.Will Beckett::
Yeah, absolutely. Right. And by the way, that's, it's another interesting point in your question, which is, you know, you even a good culture, you can't keep it the same. You know, you've got to keep learning. I mean, I'm 44, whatever. Let's just say the average age in our company is 26, 26-year-olds are not like they were when I was 34. And I'm pretty sure they're not going to be the same when I'm 54. Although I hope I will still be here. You know, you've got to, you've got to kind of keep up and make changes, and there is no point kind of wishing it were otherwise. Which, by the way, I don't. But, you know, I do hear people kind of saying, I just just just Do you remember, back in the day, when people were a bit more, or a bit less, that was the point that people are just who they are. And you just got to create the environment for those people to do an exceptional job.Michael Tingsager::
That it's so interesting one, I read a book, once about the Chicago Bulls and Phil Jackson's, you know, 10-year period where they won six rings, six championships, and he talks a lot about every season, we build a new team culture and assault. Why would you do that if you were winning, because you just take one play out, then the culture is different. And we need to build a new environment. So of course, there are some fundamental things to keep the same. But you need to adjust that because there's a new person with a new history with a new agenda. And you need to get all those things working together. And there needs to be that mutual respect for that.Will Beckett::
You don't know this, but you've inadvertently sent me on kind of a learning path in the last month or so. Because when I first spoke to you, and I asked you which of your podcasts you thought I should, I would most enjoy. One of the ones you sent me on was Chip Conley, who I like very much read his book Peak a long time ago. But it made me read his new book. Which is about kind of modern elders and being in your mid in your midlife and looking after people and I found it really interesting and inspiring for me actually of my life stage. Because I haven't because it was helpful to realize I didn't need to find it depressing feeling quite middle-aged but actually he asks a question in the book, and he asked it of course. In a very American way, which I would struggle doing a normal conversation, but his question he says to people, is, what can I do to support you to do the best work of your life here? And while I can't ever imagine using those exact words to people, but I mean, that's a great question, isn't it? Inside that question is that thought of? The answer is going to change it's gonna change over time is going to change person to person? I think really, that's the question that hawks more try to ask the people that work here. What can we do to support you to just do exceptional work here and feel happy? And I, I think we probably need to learn a little bit from the 16 people who are new about how the arts can change.Michael Tingsager::
And it's very interesting, that exact question he took into Airbnb. And that was how they build their performance culture on Airbnb. And it seemed like it worked because they built quite a successful business that people wanted to join and stay with. And also, of course, pre-pandemic, and all that put into the equation but he was there for six, seven years before he ventured out and did his own business again. Yeah, but credible, I will say that book is an incredible book, advise everyone to read it no matter what age you're in, because there's some really good reflection about a man has been, you know, most of your life building marriage, successful businesses, really thinking about the human factor of building business.
What are your thoughts about the future will in hospitality, the crystal ball moment, if you could like say, you know, we come out of the p&l, we come to the phase in the pandemic, where we are not really impacted on a day to day basis by it, but there's still they're probably in some kind of way. But what's going to happen in the next 18 months?Will Beckett::
It's an interesting question. I, I'm going to rely on someone else's wisdom actually, for because a friend of a mine American friend of mine, called Michael Markowitz uses a phrase called table stakes. And when he talks about things that you do that you think you do, well, sometimes he praises them. And sometimes he says, aha, yeah, but that's just table stakes. What he means is, I don't know if you've ever played poker. But broadly, when you play poker, and you have to put in a small amount of money to play the table stakes, the amount of money you have to pay to play goes up all the time. If you can't just sit on your hands and stay in the game, you've either got a win or eventually, you will lose.
That's the point of rising table stakes. So for example, we went carbon neutral in November.
Does Michael think, Wow, that's fantastic? What a wonderful, unique thing for your company. He just thinks no, you're just ahead of the game, or table stakes are table stakes. Eventually, everyone's going to have to do that. If you don't do it, you're out to forget, it is no good. And in a way, I think that the table stakes are indicative of future hospitality because I think it's getting more difficult. The things that you have to be or do to really thrive on are getting, you know, the standards are getting higher. I think that the days where you could do something that is okay, it's kind of good enough and you're trying to scale it out are probably gone. That's not entirely true. But I think you need to be really good at some things.
And you need to have, you need to make sure that you know what the table stakes are that you're playing, because I think we're going to have to, we're gonna probably see fewer hospitality businesses in the near future. It's just difficult for some people, some people are thriving at the moment, some are just sort of surviving and hanging on and some are really struggling. And I think the table stakes are going up and up and up. And the good news for that is if you do it at a time of kind of financial difficulty, or if the entrance if coming into market opening your first restaurant starts to get cheaper, I think you'll start seeing some really exciting, good, interesting, progressive new businesses come out of that. And I think for everybody else, there's a general realization that they're going to have to up their game, not necessarily to win, just because it's table stakes. You have to get better to state to sort of keeping your head above water out.Michael Tingsager::
And I guess that's evolution. This and many different things. I'll use NBA basketball agaib. If you see how they play today vs how they played when Michael Jordan played. Michael Jordan probably wouldn't be that icon playing in the same way. You know, he definitely had to up his game to play in the speed that is a football is another one Champions League looks very different than it did in the 90s.
So on this journey, there must be some people that really inspired you and who to do this. And, you know, you talked a bit about before as well, like, you know, you had a couple of failures. And I guess failure is part of the entrepreneurial journey. But like, with any people you looked at and said, we either we want to become like them or that business is an aspiration force, or?Will Beckett::
I mean, so many. Over the years, I find myself getting inspired. Almost, like kind of, you know, sort of intense love affairs, you know, I just I get obsessed with a certain business. I mean, everyone's everyone seems to have been through a Danny Meyer phase. I've been through a Danny Meyer phase. Actually, you mentioned McDonald's, I've been through McDonald's phase. Been through a Corbin and King phase, you know, Jeremy King and, and Chris Corbin and some of the stuff that they do. I know Huw and I both kind of draw a lot of inspiration from smaller businesses. But at the moment, I, my kind of current obsession, if that's the right word probably isn't. Is JosÃ© AndrÃ©s. A Spanish guy. And he runs a series of restaurants around DC.
But in response to the earthquake, I think, the hurricane a natural disaster in Haiti 10 years ago, he founded World Central Kitchen. And I mean, that's an absolutely incredible, incredible thing. You know, I feel proud of the hospitality industry because WWorld Central Kitchen exists, you know, that and the speed, for example, with which they turned up on the, on the borders of Ukraine, and cooked for refugees, I think, yeah, JosÃ© AndrÃ©s at the moment is kind of my poster boy for inspiration.Michael Tingsager::
I love that because he is he's often not mentioned in a lot in Europe, but he's very well known in the US for his work and what is his does so, so there's a credible guy, I must get him on the show, he is on the shortlist of coming here on the show as well as I bet. Yeah. So what do you do well, to you know, Founder and CEO of a fast-moving business, how do you show up pro every day it's been a tough time and you know, how do you find the energy and being in the right state of mind and, and the balance and all that stuff you need to be in to make better decisions?Will Beckett::
Well, I mean, for starters, I don't show up pro every day, sometimes I show up, messy and a bit useless. I think I've got a pretty good idea of what you know, in normal times what the things I need to do or that keep me in the best space, I can be, for example, you know, I try to exercise I try not to drink too much, sometimes with without much success. I read a lot. And I've definitely learned about myself that I need, I need time kind of in my own head and read in difficult times, I kind of took it up a notch to meditating as well. And I need to have some fun, I mean, whatever and mess around my kids or see some friends or just be my own unvarnished kind of self not kind of a person who people need to rely on sometimes which you are if you're in charge of a company or your father, mother. I just need to be an idiot sometimes. And I liked those moments very much but the times when I know I'm not a pro you say is that your description turning up pro.Michael Tingsager::
The best version of yourself we can call it.Will Beckett::
I noticed that my resilience and optimism go down. That's my kind of that's my sort of red, red light if you like flashing red light that if I start talking in a way that is pessimistic it feels really unnatural to me. I know aka I need to intervene if I feel like why am I letting that get to me when usually things that are 10 times worse than that don't bother me at all. So another good sign of like, I need to intervene myself here. And I've got really good people in my life to talk to I mean, my wife's amazing and extremely understanding but also my HR director Carrie and one of my friends Luke who comes around and trains me on boxing pads, but really I think of it as kind of its therapy, but with a little bit of physical exercise thrown in. I need that a lot as well, just sometimes you need to talk. So yeah, there's a variety of things. But I think, by the way, it's such an important question. I've learned to know myself well enough to know kind of what you need to be your best. And I don't think I really thought about it until maybe the last five years.Michael Tingsager::
Yeah, I guess, although that you know, where the red flag is, I think, knowing for myself and other leaders like knowing when I need to step back and don't show up. Now I really need to, just to get balanced or calibrated is like a key thing, because there's not enough to know how you show up. And also when you do not have to show up. That was one of my learnings throughout my career, definitely. Because almost you could almost be like this, you know, you know, almost domino effect of negativity that runs through the organization if you show up that day because it's better to stay away.
What advice would you give other leaders out there right now, there's also looking in, as you said, yourself, they're looking at what you are doing, they also want to accelerate their businesses, they want to grab the opportunity. That is right now because it looks like you're looking at there is opportunity in all this chaos?Will Beckett::
I think probably. I'm sure that the answer changes over time as well, in terms of you know, what, what the advice is, so I can only really give you the one that's on my mind most at the moment, which is, I think a lot of us if you run a business or whatever you're you're, you're good instinctively at thinking, what are the barriers to be doing better here? The external barriers, you know, the things, the things I must overcome in order to succeed? And I think I've learned more recently that it's probably at least as good a question if not better, what are they in my own head? What are the things about me and the way that I've been brought up in the way that I think is stopping me from being more successful or achieving my goals or whatever it is, without the kind of wanting to slip into sort of psychobabble? But that, you know, I've definitely learned that and I do some business coaching and have had that pointed out to me, it's actually as much as anything, you'll probably in your own way here. And I think probably realizing that and trying to get through it was at least as helpful to me as all sorts of actual obstacles that we've overcome over the years.Michael Tingsager::
That's super interesting advice. For you guys out there. That's a good question to write down and come back to tonight and tomorrow because we often are in a way for our own success, even though we can't see it. We just have to keep on asking that question.Will Beckett::
Coaching and Mentoring Coaching and mentoring, by the way, I think other ways of getting that working out what the answer to that question is, although there's a Peloton instructor when I ride the bike, who just as when it gets the most difficult point in the ride? just screams at the screen? Get out of your own head? Get out of your own head? And when she does it. I'm like, Oh my God, she's right. I am at the moment in my own head, telling myself to stop. And it's helpful. Just get out of your own head.Michael Tingsager::
And just do it. Where can people find you? If they want to know more about you know, Hawksmoor about yourself? Where's the best place to go?Will Beckett::
I think probably the Hawksmoor websites, the ice. And we've got a blog on there that we update sporadically with things that we're doing as a business. I tried to do the same things sometimes on LinkedIn, I'm sure you could find me on LinkedIn. But I mean, if you were to find me on Instagram, for example, you just see me posting ridiculous jokes or moments in my life, and it would have nothing to do with business whatsoever. So yeah, I think probably I'm also by the way on the Hawksmoor London Twitter accounts. I would say anything that is not obviously like sensible marketing, am I talking rubbish? So I'm there as well.Michael Tingsager::
Great, great. We'll put some of those links in the show notes for people to find out that. Will. Thank you so much for showing up and sharing your very honest story and your learnings and your advice to other people out there. We send you you know, power and energy to you and the team for the journey ahead. Very exciting.Will Beckett::
Thanks. Thanks, Michael. I appreciate it.