Lee Cash, co-founder, Peach Pub Company
Starting Peach was the most liberating, most exciting thing I've ever done. I had some money, the business plan and a burning desire to go for it, so I went to see Raymond [Blanc] to hand in my notice, after working at Le Petit Blanc for five years.
We opened the Rose & Crown, our first pub, in 2002. At first, not having a team of people around was probably scarier than not having an income. If the place was quiet, or sales were slightly down, I'd worry: "Why don't customers like us?" Then the next day we'd be heaving, and I'd realise it was fine.
I think I probably lived that, day to day, for three years, but even now I never think: "Yes, we've got there." It's a constant process.
As Peach has grown, going into multi-site management was one of the hardest things. I've always been a good restaurateur and a good leader but, once we got the second and third sites, Hamish [Stoddart], my partner, started pushing the systems side of the business, which I didn't feel part of at first. Now I'm much more analytical and structured, less off the cuff.
We've got seven pubs now, with a couple more sites in the pipeline, and two joint ventures which I'm really proud of. It's a scheme we're developing further. I've always believed in owner-operated restaurants - for places to work over time, you need the host-patron, with people going the extra mile.
One of the toughest times was trying to find our first site. We looked at 60 pubs before finding the right one. But it was worth getting the details right - if it was easy to open a pub, everyone would do it.
My worst job was as a trainee manager at Center Parcs, not least because of the uniform. If you want a 20-year-old lad to feel confident when dealing with customers, don't ask him to wear lime-green nylon trousers, pink bow tie and floral waistcoat.