The Sunday Telegraph: Former Gaucho boss has big plans for new venture

martin williams ex gaucho restaurant manager

Starting a restaurant is notoriously difficult. Yet Martin Williams is about to open a 15,000 sq ft complex which will house two restaurants, a cocktail bar, a wine tasting room, a secret den and four private dining and events spaces.

M Restaurant Opens in London City

The M restaurant will open on Threadneedle Street in the City next month, serving £149 Kobe steaks and tasters of £3,000 bottles of wine. It is one of the most highly anticipated openings of the year, and Williams has taken 2,500 bookings in the last week alone.

Some might say it is a bold move. Estimates put the rate of restaurant failure at a third in the first year, rising to as high as 80pc in the first five years. But Williams isn’t your typical restaurant start-up entrepreneur. He is the man responsible for building steak house Gaucho Grill into a chain of 15 across the UK and Dubai.

9 Years at Gaucho Restaurant

After nine years at Gaucho, where he worked his way up to managing director, Williams says the timing was right to take on his own venture.

“The restaurant is born from 20 years of inspiration and creativity that I’ve wanted to put into my own restaurant,” he says. “It’s just been finding the right time to do it.”

He raised £2.2m from 12 investors in the banking and media sectors earlier this year, and expects to exceed initial projections of £3m turnover in its first year.

2 More Steak Restaurants to Open by 2016

The 38-year-old wants to grow the business rapidly and plans to open a second M in central London next year, and a third in 2016.

“Opening a restaurant is high risk. But that usually applies to people who haven’t been in the business before. I’ve got a fantastic team around me and I’ve had a lot of help with creating a business model,” Williams says.

Years of working in the industry means he’s picked up some of the best contacts in the business. He’s poached head chef Jarad McCarroll from celebrity hangout Chiltern Firehouse, while the restaurant is headed up by Francesco Cappucci, who was previously in charge at Mayfair favourite Cecconi’s.

“When you’ve been in restaurant industry for a long time, you make friends and clients along the way. People are keen to see what we’re up to next. Now we just need to deliver and give them great food and hospitality,” he adds.

Williams hopes to cater for a wide range of diners. The two restaurants within M will be called Grill and Raw.

M Grill – Kobe beef on the menu

M Grill is a steak restaurant which will have an international theme. It will serve beef from six different countries – Australia, the US, Argentina, South Africa, Japan and France.

The prices of steak will start at £18. But they can rise to £149 for the 180g cuts made from Kobe, the highest quality of beef which is distinct for its well-marbled, buttery texture and high percentage of fat.

Until recently there was an import ban on Kobe beef from Japan and Williams is one of the first restaurateurs in the UK licensed to serve it.

M Raw – Casual Dining Experience Specialising in Raw & Vegan Dishes

M Raw is, however, aimed at more casual diners. It will serve small plates, and – as the name suggests – all the food will be raw. It will specialise in fish but will also serve vegan friendly meals.

In the next room is a wine tasting bar, where customers can sample from taps, designed to make the experience informal and interactive. M will also house a “secret den”, described as a “magical haven for City boys”.

Despite some of the prices, Williams says his aim is to be as accessible as possible. He wants to appeal to those who want a quick lunch, as well as to diners who come for a special occasion.

He has also invested in technology to allow him to track what people are ordering. “We want to take hospitality to the next level,” he says. He has teamed up with Open Table, the online reservation service, to monitor demand. The tool will also allow him to monitor everything from what wine the guest had last time to what meal they ordered.

“Not only does this give customers reasons to keep returning, but this really allows us to optimise the business. We can even track which waiter is best at serving a table of two, and which ones are better at serving large groups,” he says.

The Square Mile traditionally shuts down at the weekend, but Williams says that’s changing: “So long as the restaurant is good enough, people will come.”

He’s frantically putting everything in place for the opening in mid-November. The beef has arrived and the kitchens are completed and but the main restaurant areas are still a building site.

“Since I set out on my own, I have been sleeping, living and eating M. I’m used to working 70-hour weeks. Thankfully we’re not planning to open on Sundays – so I’ll soon be able to pledge those to my wife Claire and Hudson our Labradoodle.”

Source: The Sunday Telegraph