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Looking ahead: Martin Williams, M Restaurants

Published:  09 August, 2018

As the first half of 2018 draws to a close, Harpers asked key trade figures to highlight the current challenges, on-going trends and opportunities

We continue our series with insights from Martin Williams, founder and CEO, M Restaurants

How has the first half of 2018 been when compared to the same period in 2017?

We enjoyed 9% like-for-like growth in the first six months of 2018. Particularly encouraging considering the current climate.

What, currently, are the biggest challenges for the trade (excluding Brexit)?

Finding banks that offer genuine, consistent support to solid growth businesses and can see past the doom and gloom of Brexit and the noise around it being a challenging sector.

And challenges that are Brexit-related?

A Chronic staff shortage. We created the M & Bookatable By Michelin Young Chef of the Year competition to help try and nurture the young talent working in the industry. The quality and enthusiasm was inspiring (you can try the winning menus this and next week in M Victoria St), but also highlighted how transient the workforce is in our industry.

Taking current trading conditions into account, what’s your strategy for meeting those challenges during the second half of the year, through autumn and leading up to the crucial Christmas trading period?

I am going to put a giant M balloon in front of the sun every lunch and dinnertime…

We are looking at our expansion opportunities, will continue building our loyal regular guests and membership base and create lots of exciting engaging content in the venues. Our new Himalayan salt aging chamber is epic - so we make sure everyone knows where to come for the finest steaks in the world.

We have been strategizing and building up to Christmas for around six months now. It is an incredibly important time to maximise and enjoy the results of a years’ hard work and relationship building.

And where do the opportunities lie?

In taking over failed restaurants and converting at half the cost of a standard CAPEX requirement. Capturing market share through a superior value proposition.

Specifically, what will the focus be on with regard to your portfolio?

We are looking at partnering with an incredible venue on a new restaurant project. We will look to add either one further M or an M Bar & Grill Venue in either Q4 or Q1 19.

I am also looking at robots.

Any other trends that you anticipate?

Korean street food is something we are looking at closely at the moment. We are also thriving in our Bars and Wine Bars. Quality Wine by Tap, which we introduced with Hatch Mansfield in 2016, is becoming mainstream – a great sustainable trend.

How optimistic are you – will business for the drinks trade be better or worse between now and 1 Jan 2019 compared with last year and why?

Worse. Because there is so much economic uncertainty caused by the genius Brexit decision and a weak government (on all sides of the house), which should be focusing on championing, not challenging small businesses and the disruptive entrepreneur, rather than limping to a no deal outcome and a damaged economy!