East Coast Concepts
James Hitchen, CEO and Founder of East Coast Concepts, operators of Neighbourhood & Victors.
Can you give us a summary of your journey of setting the hugely successful East Coast Concepts
Back in 2010, I was frequently travelling to the US, predominantly the East Coast... while there I was fascinated with the restaurant and bar scene, especially in places like NYC and Miami. There were vibrant dining venues that served brunch, lunch, dinner that then allowed (and encouraged) you to get on the tables and dance to a DJ until 3 am! I hadn’t seen anything like this in the UK at this time, especially not in the North. I felt we only had venues that were categorised as a bar, or a lunch place, or a dinner venue. There was nothing that offered them all, and so I set about creating Neighbourhood, with our first venue launching in Spinningfields in 2013. It was an overnight success, Victors Hale; our Hamptons inspired all-day restaurant and bar followed 12 months later as I spotted in a gap for accessible luxury in the suburbs. After a multimillion pound investment from MCR based North Edge Capital, we have since opened hugely successful venues in Liverpool, Leeds, Oxford and now Alderley Edge with two more sites in the pipeline for 2019. The opening of Alderley Edge will take us past the £20m turnover mark in just six years of trading.
Both Neighbourhood and Victors are hugely popular - what is your recipe for success?
I feel fortunate that we have two very popular and very successful brands. Our company motto is ‘Lead Never Follow’, and we ensure that flows through in everything we do from the locations we chose, the design of our restaurants and bars, our menus and our service. We always strive to be the best and to give the guests what they want. We may not get it right all of the time, but as long as we keep striving, we will stay on the right track. To be successful, you don’t need to keep reinventing the wheel. You’ve just got to work out what the people want and how to give it to them.
Personally, I feel my greatest business achievement is yet to come, but I am incredibly proud we managed to attract a multimillion pound investment from a Private Equity House at only four years old with two sites open. It really shows the strength of our brands and how far we can take
strength of our brands and how far we can take them. Another defining moment for in my career was signing our new site in Alderley. I had tried to sign the site nearly five years ago from Living Ventures. At the time, I was unfunded, had only just opened Hale and was punching way above my weight. Needless to say, LV wouldn’t sell me the site! A few years on we are about to open what I think is our most beautiful restaurant to date with 3,000 people on the books before we have even opened our doors.
Who and what inspires you?
Within the industry, there are a couple of entrepreneurs/ founders of concepts that have gone big that I try and measure myself and the company against. I travel to the US a lot, seeing how they do it over there, the scale and the pace they do things keep my creative ideas flowing, guys like Dave Grootman, the guys at SBE entertainment, Catch Hospitality.... they have built fantastic national and international businesses and lead the field in vibrant dining and entertainment venues.
Obviously, we want to grow at pace, but we want to do this in the right way. Over the last couple of years, we have been building our team to ensure we can support our growth in terms of finance, Ops, marketing. W want to grow from a position of strength and security which we feel we now have. In the short term, we have plans to open a further two units in 2019, and from then, over the next couple of years, we hope to grow by an additional six or so sites to take us to fifteen.
Favourite dish on the menu in your restaurants?
I love the beef Wellington we serve in Hale.
Your most memorable meal?
The first time I ate at Catch in New York back in 2011... there was sushi, Alaskan king crab legs, tempura shrimp, tomahawks steaks, cocktails and a DJ!
What would be your desert island dish?
A very large gin with a dash of tonic. That’s it.