How The Pem Restaurant uses OpenTable to operate at its best

Chef Sally Abe

You will find The Pem in the elegant surroundings of the Conrad St. James hotel. Named after suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, this fine-dining space is helmed by world-class chef Sally Abé, who was previously Head Chef at the Michelin-starred Harwood Arms and has been identified as a ‘Chef to Watch’ by the National Restaurant Awards 2019.

We recently caught up with Sally to learn more about life at The Pem, how she uses OpenTable to ensure it operates at its best and the increasing role of women in restaurant kitchens.

Making The Pem a ‘destination spot’

The Pem has gone from strength to strength since opening in July 2021, but Sally notes it’s still early days, and there is still much to do. She says, “We’re still in our infancy, so the main priority is to make a name for ourselves as we strive to become a destination restaurant.”

While Sally might feel there is still lots to achieve to make it a destination spot, people are already taking note. The Pem was named ‘One to Watch’ at the National Restaurant Awards, and Sally is thrilled with the acknowledgement. “It was such a great feeling, especially as the restaurant was only open for two months at the time.

“To be recognised so soon was a great achievement, and it did wonders for the team’s morale.” At this rate, it won’t be long before The Pem is one of the go-to spots in central London.

Taking the fuss out of fine dining

One of the major success stories of The Pem is its ability to offer fine dining in a relaxed setting. This is, of course, by design, with Sally aiming to create a fun and relaxed space that’s also somewhere to celebrate special occasions.

Talking about the general atmosphere in The Pem, Sally says, “we wanted to create somewhere for diners to enjoy high-end food while also letting their hair down and having a good time.” This is reflected in the menu, where guests can enjoy favourites such as knife and fork bacon, which, as Sally puts it, “is fast becoming a signature dish.”

Creating a unique guest experience

Signature dishes are one thing, but many other aspects go into making a restaurant a sought-after destination. And when it comes to creating a unique guest experience, The Pem uses OpenTable, with Sally believing it helps the restaurant operate at the very top of its game.

When referring to why The Pem uses OpenTable over other restaurant management tools, Sally says, “I’ve worked with OpenTable for many years now and find the system highly efficient and user friendly, for both the team and guests at the restaurant.”

“The staff here use OpenTable to manage all the bookings and check guest notes.” The ability to check more intricate aspects like guest notes allows The Pem to refine and curate an experience for diners and ensure their requirements are met once they sit down for a meal.”

Increasing diner reach

Of course, marketing also needs to be effective for The Pem to be one of the most in-demand spots in prime London. This is another area where OpenTable has a role to play, as it helps get more eyes on the restaurant thanks to specific marketing activities.

Sally discusses how OpenTable has helped with marketing, saying, “We’re currently using so many of OpenTable’s features to increase reach here at The Pem. Sometimes we might use a Boost Campaign to give quieter launches more exposure.

“Other times, we’ll use Experiences to promote different menus and dinners to guests. The pre-pay option is also helpful, as it lets us secure card details before the booking, helping reduce no-shows in the process.”

Championing a female-led team

Away from marketing, Sally also recognises the role of culture in a restaurant. One of the primary reasons for The Pem’s success is down to the incredible female-led team who add their expertise. From Laetizia Keating as Head Chef to Emma Underwood as the General Manager, the talent is of the highest quality. Sally hopes to see more women entering hospitality as kitchen culture improves.

She says, “I really hope that women look at what we’re doing at The Pem and feel inspired. I believe hospitality is moving in the right direction in terms of staff welfare and hours. Hopefully, this inspires more women to come into the industry.”

The Pem will continue championing women, especially after the success of hosting an International Women’s Day event, which included a panel with some of the industry’s most inspiring women.

Sally notes, “Doing International Women’s Day was such an amazing experience that covered so many important topics. There is a real appetite for more networking socials for women in the industry, and it’s something I’d like to look at organising more often here at the Conrad.”

Looking forward at The Pem

Everything is rosy at The Pem right now, thanks to an excellent team headed by Sally and a thriving partnership with OpenTable. In such a short time, the restaurant has already won critical acclaim, and it’s surely only a matter of time before it goes on to become one of the most talked-about restaurants in central London.