The secrets behind Barworks' success

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Long reputation: Barworks has been running for more than two decades
Long reputation: Barworks has been running for more than two decades

Related tags: Pubs

The trio of businessmen behind Barworks unveiled their first site more than 20 years ago but the ethos is still to make places look great and offer great value for great food.

Barworks was founded in 1998 by Patrik Franze, Andreas Akerlund and Marc Francis-Baum with the opening of Two Floors in Soho, central London.

The trio had previously invested in Hawkes Cider (which has since been backed by Scottish operator and brewer BrewDog) and are behind Camden Town Brewery.

The business has an ethos of creating modern interpretations on the British pub, unique to its environment and setting but maintaining the key components of what a pub should be – a relaxing, welcoming hub for the local community as well as those visiting the area. A destination as well as a home from home.

The group now has venues across London, including the former site of chef Jamie Oliver’s former flagship restaurant and social enterprise, Fifteen.

Fifteen – which opened in 2002 in Old Street, London – ran apprenticeships for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. It closed in May along with 21 other sites when the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group entered administration.

Barworks, which recently reopened the former Beef & Brew site in Haggerston under original name the Duke of York, currently operates an estate of close to 20 London venues, including the Diner chain; Mare Street Market in Hackney; and the White Bear in Smithfield.

All in one place

Last year, the group opened Mare Street Market in the capital, in a bid to take its passion for food to the next level with a deli, all-day kitchen and a restaurant under one roof.

Francis-Baum told The Morning Advertiser​: “Not only an enormous place as it is 10,000sq ft in Hackney, near London Fields, it’s where I lived.

“I took on old council offices and transformed it into a huge bar and restaurant but, inside, it’s got a record shop, a florist, a furniture shop, deli with coffee roasting.

“It’s different to a food hall. We were based around the bar and food but we have got retail instead selling things such as vinyl records, flowers, and even haircuts.

“At the moment, there’s a pop-up shop, you can get your nails done. We get companies like Vogue Instagramming it and getting 30,000 likes.

“It’s quite a mad place that has done really well. It has really alerted a lot of people to what we can do not only just to pubs or restaurants but big food places as well.”

Francis-Baum revealed his secret to the company’s success is excelling in all areas to keep the punters coming back.

He said: “We are associated a lot with booze and places, and having the right skills to pick the right products as well.

“We have gradually opened more and more places but, of course, I think we have got better and better at it as we have got bigger with offering modern day, pub food and drink, we tick all those boxes.

“We always try and make places look fantastic, the product we sell is great and food wise, my plan and it seems to be working is to add to the casual dining market’s woes and be that place where people get really good food for really good money.”

When it comes to using his experience to advise others, the operator said hard work shouldn’t stop once you run more sites.

Francis-Baum added: “Work hard. Just because you get the second site, they feel like they almost kick back and not work twice as hard. Just because you’ve got two sites, doesn’t mean you stop working in one of them, work in both of them.

“You almost feel like a multi operator too soon and they need to be looking after both site every minute of the day.

“Rolling your sleeves up and getting it done otherwise it’s going to slip. My advice would be to keep working as hard for the second and third as you did for the first.

“Once you get to number three and four, your problems and work becomes a bit different but you can stop doing certain things and employ the right people to do those things because you can afford to do that.”

Capital gains

For the Barworks brand, there aren’t any plans to expand outside the capital for now, Francis-Baum said.

He said: “There just seem to be so many opportunities in London that we haven’t investigated doing it elsewhere.”

Looking ahead, Francis-Baum predicted strong growth for the Barworks brand including expansion of almost five times more sites than at present.

He said: “It is going to be bigger, much bigger. If we carry on growing at the same rate with the same opportunities it could be very big.

“If we took private equity, it could be even bigger but I don’t know if we are going to do that. We are going to make sure our time, effort and money is spent doing more pubs.

“We have got one opening in two weeks in Clerkenwell and another opening early next year in Mayfair, with a couple more later next year.

“We have got some really good opportunities so if it carries on like that, it is going to be much, much bigger and stronger and go from there.

“I haven’t really thought about the number we want to get to. Obviously 50 sounds like quite a good number but I am nearly 50 myself so maybe it doesn’t sound that great.”

Related topics: MA500 Business Club

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