The boss of Gaucho ‘Martin Williams’ has declared the days of London suits going out and “eating a kilo of steak” are over, as the restaurant chain prepares to rebound out of administration with a fresh, millennial-friendly look.
Martin Williams, founder and chief executive of M Restaurants, is back in the saddle at Gaucho after leaving in 2014, as the City-boy favourite fights its way back from the brink.
His orders? Moving the chain, where meals used to be a “rite of passage” of boozy celebrations after big business deals, towards a “younger, more female demographic” and trying to make it less synonymous with steak – while still maintaining its reputation for high-quality meat and wine.
Gaucho is set to exit administration today, following the successful use of the process du jour, a company voluntary arrangement (CVA, that lets struggling businesses renegotiate its rents. It was bought out of the dining doldrums by Investec and Hong Kong investment bank SC Lowy — but too late for its sister restaurant Cau, which closed all its branches.
Williams praised its buyers, saying he felt the bankers had fond memories of the struggling restaurant, and saw it still had legs.
“Everyone has an opinion of what Gaucho should be like, but it’s basically: ‘We love it, used to go a lot, we don’t go so often now, we’d like to go back again more regularly,’” Williams tells me in the members’ area of an M Restaurant, off Threadneedle Street.
“What you don’t want”, he says, “is a veto vote”: where Gaucho is struck off as a dining option because one member of a dining group is vegetarian, vegan or – God forbid – just not in the mood for a steak. “Historically,” he says, people in those categories “would probably go: ‘we can’t go to Gaucho’.”