Welcome to our little series of mini-interviews in which we take a shallow dive into the deep waters of different careers to give YOU a little insight into what the industry looks like from all sides.
Representing the world of restaurant owning is Bash Redford, of Forza Win and Forza Wine. Inimitable in his energy, kindness and enthusiasm, he cares deeply about creating a progressive, inclusive, positive work environment – oh, and about making sure you eat a really nice tea. The very lovely and critically acclaimed Forza Win shut its doors last year, but Bash never stops moving and there are exciting things ahead. Forza Wine still basks in its glorious views across London, great drinks and delicious, impeccable cooking.
- How did you come to own your own restaurant?
Ha. Well there’s a funny story – I guess it depends on how you define ownership. I was wrongly paid a tax rebate and took that as a sign from on high that I had to do something that I actually wanted to do with my life. At the time I was working behind a desk in an arts charity, managing their communications. With that job, I’d been for a meeting with a company that had a roof garden they didn’t use (Pulse Films) and I asked them whether I could lease it for use as a ’supper club’. That was me, Thom and James (now Pizza Pilgrims). We had no idea that what we were doing was completely illegal and we were shut down two weeks after we opened, but I still ‘owned’ a restaurant.
After that my first bricks and mortar site was actually a really, really knackered old warehouse in Peckham – when we signed the lease it had a hole in the roof (AKA extraction) no toilets, very little electricity and the dodgiest landlords known to man, but it was ours, and we had a legit booze license. Myself and a group of friends built the first iteration of it, which was ‘rustic’ (you got splinters in your arse sat on the benches) but the food, the drinks and general atmosphere BANGED.
- What advice would you give to someone who wanted to open up their own place?
Stop planning for every eventuality that you don’t understand yet – give it a whirl. I wouldn’t advise as extreme an approach as I took, but people get so caught up in the details that they end never getting round to serving someone their tea, which when boiled down, is exactly what we’re all doing. Even if it goes completely wrong, you’ll learn from those mistakes and it’ll become something else, or you’ll learn that you shouldn’t have given up your day job. You can test things so much more simply now, without remortgaging your life in the process. Just get it done!
- What’s the worst bit of your job?
Time management. I hate it, am shit at it, and am always looking for a better way to do it. Tips welcomed.
- What’s the most unexpected thing, the thing no-one would know unless they owned their own resto?
That when someone misses the toilet and poos on the floor by mistake, that it falls on you (the owner) to clean it up. I wasn’t about to ask any of my employees to do it (what kind of boss would I be?!) Sorry, that’s gross but it also happened.
If that’s too much, I guess a more succinct way of putting it is that very few people understand the feeling of ’steering the ship’ – it’s exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure – ultimately the ship pays everyones rent, mortgage and otherwise, so you can’t let it sink.
Also, that reviews – whether you’re a ‘we don’t listen to them’ person or not – they really matter. You can be the most cocksure person in the universe, but when someone takes the time our of their day to share their opinion of the thing you created, be ready for it to matter.
- What do you love most about your day-to-day?
How varied it is (but this is also probably why i’m terrible at managing time) one minute your having a meeting with your business partner, then gardening, then talking to an investors, then mapping out the future cashflow, then helping the chefs pick an insane amount of parsley because they’re behind, then going home and trying to make a 2yr old eat healthily when all she really wants is crisps. It’s chaos, but I love it.
- What was the best piece of advice you were given when you started out?
It’s a pretty basic one, but one I always remember – my Dad said “Don’t waste time doing things you don’t like” – I took that quite literally and quit uni after 3 weeks. I’m not sure whether this part was a quiet rebellion or just find what it was I actually liked doing, but I tried about five different things before ending up in restaurants, which i’ve been doing for ten years now, so I guess i’m still listening to that advice.
- What do you wish someone had told you before you set out on this journey?
That being the solo driver of a business is really fucking hard. Find a partner who wants to share your vision (in this case, making restaurants) I got into partnership with Michael (business partner, head chef) about three years ago and what we’ve achieved in that time is pretty phenomenal. It’s not always rosy, but having another person to share the burdens with is immeasurably great.
Oh, and if I may be so bold as to add a second thing – that none of these things would be possible without Lerryn (of Peckham cafe fame) who is the best partner, mother, confidant, calmer downer etc anyone could ask for. So get a business partner, sure, but make sure your life partner is a boss too, that really helps.