Hawksmoor is a British steakhouse and cocktail bar chain founded by Will Beckett and Huw Gott in 2006 on Commercial Street in London’s Spitalfields. There are five other Hawksmoor restaurants in London: Seven Dials, Air Street, Knightsbridge, Guildhall and Borough. There are also two restaurants outside of London, in Manchester and Edinburgh and Hawksmoor New York will be opening in 2020.
Critically acclaimed not just for its fine fayre by The Times’ Giles Coren, Tom Parker Bowles and others, the critic’s consensus is firmly along the lines of – “great, great steak, best you’ll find anywhere”. Hawksmoor also receives people acclaim, and last night received notification that for the ninth successive year it has been ranked by The Sunday Times as one of the best companies to work for.
So, we decided to have Five minutes with… Will Beckett, to learn more about Hawksmoor and what lies behind its popular acclaim.
What brought you into hospitality?
“My best friend, Huw Gott asked me to join him in opening a restaurant. We both came from food and drink family’s and the prospect of opening a restaurant made me happy, I thought Huw and I could make more people happy. We both had limited experience from working in bars and kitchens in London’s East End, and we both, generally, enjoyed it. Our plan was to offer high-quality, well-butchered beef, so we tasted a wide range of beef from all over the world, and concluded that the best tasting steak was from the UK.”
How have you managed to achieve the reputation of being one of the best steak restaurants in London?
“From day one we centred the business around our hiring, training and development of people. We wanted to find good people, people who like people, and provide them with the opportunity to be happy going to work and enjoy what they do. For us it’s about allowing people to be themselves. It is hard finding talented staff, so we work very hard at precisely that.
“We also spend a massive amount of time on our supply chain. We source directly from farmers, seafood suppliers and wineries. We know exactly where everything comes from and that it comes from sustainable suppliers.”
“Buildings, how we present ourselves needs to be coherent with the area, so we are painstaking in selecting buildings that reflect Hawksmoor. The original Hawksmoor is in Spitalfields, near to where the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor built Christ Church. Our naming was a nod to the significance of buildings and architecture.”
Your next opening is in New York, is this selling coals to Newcastle?
“We are opening Hawksmoor New York between Madison Square Park and Gramercy Park in Manhattan later this year.
New York is like London, big and busy and full of diners who love steak. We also love the city and we have found an incredible building. We will work hard to find, train and develop good people, and apply a massive amount of time on our supply chain. We will do things the Hawksmoor way.
You mention the Hawksmoor way, what is the Hawksmoor culture?
“We keep that very simple: Be happy, be yourself, work hard and be nice to people.”
What do you see as the issue for the hospitality industry in the UK in 2020?
“As a whole the UK hospitality industry already faces shortages in people and skills, the Government’s current immigration policy will be a challenge and make finding the right people even more difficult, requiring even more hard work.
“My view at least in the near term is that Government policy won’t change so it’s something we all need to deal with. At Hawksmoor we employ about 700 people and about 55% are from the EU. So, our recruitment has to change, and it will change, we have no choice. Like us the industry needs to change, move on and deal with it too.
“I think hospitality faces cultural issues, the perceptions of parents for example, is hospitality seen as a viable and worthy career choice that parents want their children to enter. We can all cite people like Huw and I, and many others, that enter hospitality on the ground floor and do good, but what about the other 999. As an industry we need to focus on entry level opportunities and how these shape perceptions through experience.
“If I was a working class kid in London today entering the workplace for the first time how attractive is working in hospitality to me? If that kid came to Hawksmoor, I would like to think that the experience would encourage a career in our great industry. We need the whole of hospitality to look themselves in the mirror and ask the same question, when most of us can answer yes to the same question, we will all be getting closer to where we need to be.”
I would like to thank Will for his time, it was a pleasure chatting and I look forward to the next instalment.