Tue, 21st May 2019
CODE Special
CODE Careers Q&A: Charlie Gilkes



When did you realise you wanted to work in hospitality?


I'm a real foodie and have always really enjoyed eating and drinking out and discovering new places and experiences as a customer so it's always been an industry I've loved. I've always had lots of ideas and eventually wanted to turn these in to a reality. 



Where and how did you start?


Duncan and I started on the promotional side of the business running club nights and other events. Eventually we did a joint venture with a hotel that had a licensed premises in its basement to start our own club. We learnt a lot especially operationally from this venture  and subsequently founded Inception Group nearly 10 years ago in February 2009 with the opening of Barts, a tiny speakeasy bar.



Sum up your current work life in one sentence.


No two days are ever the same and there's a continual balancing act between managing the existing estate, maintaining our company culture and determining our future direction and growth plans.



Who would you say has been really influential to you and why?


I read the book 'Setting the Table' by Danny Meyer six years ago and would recommend it as a must read to anyone in hospitality. It clearly defines the difference between service being a transaction and hospitality more importantly being a way you  make people feel.  I often quote from the book to new staff and give them a copy.



What’s next for you?


We are busy building the Mr Fogg's collection which is a group of cocktail bars based around the story of the fictional character, Phileas Fogg from the novel Around the World in 80 Days. No two of the Mr Fogg’s venues are the same, yet they are all influenced by travel, exploration and the Victorian era. This year we've opened in Fitzrovia, the Strand, and City and have exciting plans for 2019 and beyond.


What’s your one piece of advice to someone starting out?


I think running a pop-up or street food operation is a really good way of testing an idea and gathering a following before taking the risk of signing a lease. 



Where did you last have a great meal?


I was lucky enough to go to the Din Fai Tung opening lunch. I tried their famous soup dumplings at their Shanghai outpost a few years ago and they were even better than I remembered. 



Are there any openings you are looking forward to?


I’m very excited about Eataly opening near our new Mrs Fogg's site in The City next year. It's going to be over 40,000 square ft and if it is anything like its New York version, it will be amazing. 



Where is the most exciting city for hospitality (after London)?


I absolutely love Seville. There are so many amazing bars and restaurants and I love the fact you can wander around the city spontaneously eating and drinking in several places over the course of an evening. New York also has such an interesting range of exciting concepts.



Who would you identify as a rising star within the industry?


The famous Chinese restaurant, A Wong is beneath our offices in Victoria. They have recently opened Kyms in the city which has been equally well reviewed. The founders, Andrew and his wife, Nathalie Wong are really risen stars already but I feel they have a lot further to go!

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