Caprice Holdings’ share insights on the best way to manage staff

The Ivy restaurant from caprice holdings

In this final piece focusing on Caprice Holdings’ iconic restaurants J Sheekey, The Ivy and the newly opened Sexy Fish, we speak to group chef director Tim Hughes and group bar manager Xavier Landais about their management techniques and how they get the best work out of their staff.

It’s all about team work

Hughes has had an impressive career, from becoming the head chef at Morton’s House Hotel at the age of 24 to opening the Michael Caine-backed The Canteen, and counts Marco Pierre White and Mark Hix among his mentors. But he says the two most important things he’s learned along the way are: “It’s all about team work, and no individual is bigger than the business.”

Trust your staff

As someone who oversees a number of brands, Hughes says he is always “on the go,” but he works closely with the head chef at each restaurant. “I trust the people running the kitchens,” he says, which is a key ingredient in his workplace. “When we’re considering adding a new dish onto the menus, we all sit down and discuss it to see whether it fits the restaurant and their clientele.”

Work alongside your team

Hughes touches base with his staff either in person or on the phone every day, but his busy role doesn’t stop him from getting back into the kitchen. “As a manager, the best thing for a team is to work alongside them. It’s important to engage with them and be close to them,” he says. It’s also important to mentor younger members of the team, especially as the company tends to promote from within its own ranks. It means “becoming a head chef in a Caprice group restaurant can be within the sites of any young chef,” he says.

Freedom and flexibility

Both Hughes and Landais cite finding great staff as an ongoing challenge in the industry, but one they are happily not too plagued by. “We have a very low turnover and are very lucky,” Landais says. One of the reasons for this is that his bar staff are given a lot of freedom and flexibility “to express themselves fully”. It’s this freedom that keeps people happy and performing at their best, Landais says, while he gives them guidance when they need it.

Healthy competition

Landais is proud of the sense camaraderie he sees within his staff across the bars he manages, but accepts this can present it’s own problems, too: “A big personal challenge is that every bar always feels the need to out-do each other. Although this makes for good, healthy competition, we need to be vigilant that the customer is at the forefront of our minds.”

Learn something new every day

Hughes and Landais may employ different management styles across their teams, but there is one experience they both share with their staff: “I’m taught new things every day,” says Landais. “In bar speak, it’s good to be geeky and have lots of brilliant geeks in the company.”

And for Hughes? “I learn new things every day. At Sexy Fish [the staff have] shown me lots of different techniques and styles of cooking, and I’m always happy to be learning new things.”