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Cateys 2019: Restaurateur of the Year – Group – Will Beckett and Huw Gott, Hawksmoor

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Cateys 2019: Restaurateur of the Year – Group – Will Beckett and Huw Gott, Hawksmoor

Sponsored by Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division

Childhood friends Will Beckett and Huw Gott were on the verge of bankruptcy as they looked to launch the first Hawksmoor site in 2006. The pair had been running three “well-reviewed but unprofitable” venues, and banks were proving less than hospitable when it came to further borrowing.

Luckily, their families came to the rescue and the pair quickly became the toast of the town, with Time Out declaring they had “made steakhouses cool again”. More than a decade on, the group has grown to eight Hawksmoor restaurants (principally in London, but with outposts in Edinburgh and Manchester), a bar, and a soon-to-open New York venue.

Turnover for the group as a whole has also increased year-on-year as Gott and Beckett have built a business that achieves consistency and enduring appeal. From the outset, the co-founders wanted to grow steadily and not to compromise on quality. In the past 12 months, the group has not sought rapid expansion and has closed its final two Foxlow branches, saying it did not see future growth for the brand.

Both founders remain at the forefront of the business, making sure that food and service alike are the best they can possibly be, and that the group continues to innovate. This requires an engaged team and the co-founders’ efforts have seen the chain feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies To Work For listing every year since 2012 and The Caterer’s Best Places to Work in Hospitality list in 2019.

Beckett speaks at every induction for new staff and both he and Gott start each year by hosting talks at every restaurant to reflect on the previous 12 months and discuss what is to come. Both of their mobile numbers are also listed in the staff manual, so employees can feel free to contact them.

Hawksmoor offers an extensive list of staff perks – taxis home, self-defence classes and a benefits scheme. Training to help employees achieve their potential has even included drafting in an ex-Special Forces soldier to offer senior chefs leadership insights.

The management style hit headlines earlier this year after a staff member accidentally served a table a£4,500 bottle of wine. The group tweeted: “To the customer who accidentally got given a bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001, which is £4,500 on our menu, last night – hope you enjoyed your evening!

“To the member of staff who accidentally gave it away, chin up! One-off mistakes happen and we love you anyway.”

The judges were deeply impressed with the commitment Gott and Beckett have shown to their vision and team, praising them for an “outstanding performance over many years”.

What the judges said
“In challenging times, they have shown consistency and commitment to quality of product and team. They have taken tough decisions and continued to look at growth opportunities.”
Peter Martin


Shortlist
Tom Barton, Philip Eeles and Dorian Waite, Honest Burgers

Will Beckett and Huw Gott, Hawksmoor

Des Gunewardena and David Loewi, D&D London

Andy and Pranee Laurillard, Giggling Squid

The judges
Iain Donald, founder, Iain Donald Restaurant Consultancy

James Horler, chief executive, 3Sixty Restaurants

Noel Mahony, co-chief executive, BaxterStorey

Peter Martin, vice-president, CGA

Kate Nicholls, chief executive, UKHospitality

John Nugent, chief executive, Green & Fortune

Robin Rowland, operating partner, TriSpan

Mark Selby, co-founder, Wahaca

Kavi Thakrar, co-founder, Dishoom

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