When he’s not busy running M Restaurant’s launch site in Threadneedle Street in the City, Zack Charilaou is happy relaxing with his young family and chilling out to Luther Vandross. Here he shares what he has been up to this summer and how he is enjoying living up to the challenge of constantly finding new ways to give his guests fresh experiences and ever better hospitality.
Zack Charilaou is very aware of finding new ways to excite and go the extra mile for his customer’s at M Threadneedle Street as the competition in the Square Mile hots up even more. He explains how he is looks to put hospitality, service and offering new experiences above even the food and drink offer.
We are well in truly in to the second half of the year so how has 2017 gone for you so far?
Very good! Going very much against the trend of the industry and showing significant growth on last year, in a time where a 5% drop in sales vs 2016 seems to be the ball park pattern across hospitality.
What have been your best moments of the year so far – business wise and personally?
The best moment of the year for the business has certainly been the addition of a new restaurant to our little empire we are pushing to create (M Restaurants is this week opening its new Bar & Grill concept in Twickenham) . Growing the brand is extremely satisfying and seeing us thrive where others seem to be struggling highlights what a driven, passionate, hard working and knowledgeable team we have.
My personal best moment has been my promotion to restaurant director. It feels amazing to have gone from a 15 year old bar back washing glasses to running one of the most popular, successful and awarded restaurants in London.
Most challenging moments of the year – business wise (and if you want) personally?
The most challenging part of this year has been to ensure we remained the leading destination restaurant in the City, in a year where several high profile competitors have opened around us, with a similar food offering and price point. We’ve had to push even harder to ensure we keep impressing our regulars, creating unique experiences for first time diners and capturing them to return, in a time when most London restaurants are reporting negative growth.
Continuing to improve and develop the brand is essential, not only to keep the brand thriving but to keep our regulars excited. Becoming too complacent can see competitors over take you very quickly, which is something I am very aware of. To remain industry leaders means we need to consistently develop and improve, come up with fresh and innovative ideas and keep the offering fresh. And, of course, my toughest personal challenge was the transition from a wet led only role, to a full operational role. However this has been more exciting as it has been challenging.
What are your big goals for the business for the rest of the year?
Beyond financials, the aim for the brand is to create a ‘little brother’ brand, that has a concept built to excite people and allow the outskirts of London to experience central London service and outstanding hospitality, with an excellent product executed properly but at high street pricing. Imagine the difference between buying Chanel from Sloane Avenue or Bicester Village. Same bag, same brand – extreme value!
What do you see as being the big trends/ influences on your part of the industry?
To survive in an increasingly congested industry, in the world’s best city for hospitality. Your brand must be something more than your food and drink, no matter how good they are. I think the biggest changes will come more on the non-tangible side of hospitality – the things that don’t cost money (except a little extra wages).
Creating an experience is what will capture new and keep existing business, you’re product can no longer carry you on its own. I think more theatrical service will become more and more common and gives people miles more for their money. I always say to the staff, “You can take a bottle of wine off the shelf, carry it to the table upside down and shake it, rip the foil off, pop the cork loudly, pour fast with no elegance and give no information about the wine. Or you can carry the wine delicately, introduce the wine to the table, give an interesting point or two on the wine, open it with style and serve with elegance. Both ways, the guest will pay the same and it’s these details that separate us”.
I think this will become more and more important and also more exciting. Be it ‘at the table’ masterclasses and other educational, but fun service styles of service becoming more normal and ultimately increase guests expectation levels.
What did you get up to over the summer?
I had a staycation. Switched off, spent some time with my son and fiancé and eat in as many restaurants I haven’t had the chance to go to before. The challenge was to eat as much variety as possible without doing any washing up! And drink lots and lots of 2005 Bordeaux.
What did you read?
I’m not much of a reader. I was watching Power on Netflix until my eyes turned square.
What’s your favourite place for a sunset drink?
Café Mambo – Ibiza!
What are you drinking?
Domaine Ott, colder than a polar bear’s paw.
What is your ultimate summer movie?
Goodfella’s. Its also my ultimate autumn, winter and spring movie.
Best summer song?
This year – Calvin Harris, Slide.
Overall – Luther Vandross, Never too much.