Interview: Riccardo McMillan Wright – Duck & Waffle / SushiSambaMarch 9, 2017, 1:18 pm
Q. When and how did you begin your career in hospitality?
A. I am relatively new to hospitality – just under 3 months, however I have always been passionate about the industry as both my parents have successful careers in hospitality/catering. I was getting itchy feet and wanted to move away from luxury retail; and hospitality seemed like the natural move, and I felt my experience in the luxury sector would translate well to the SUSHISAMBA and Duck & Waffle brands.
Q. I understand you were working in the fashion industry as well, what do you prefer about hospitality?
A. Most of my professional career has been in luxury fashion. I was very comfortable there however I really wanted a new challenge and the chance to learn more and push the boundaries in a new environment. What I enjoy most about hospitality right now is that you can conceptualize your brand/restaurant so that it is unique, for example Duck & Waffle serves food and drink 24/7, 365 days a year! This is truly unique and standouts amongst our competitors.
Q. Tell us a little but about Duck and Waffle/Sushisama and what’s it like to work for a small group?
A. There is a strong family emphasis at SUSHISAMBA/Duck & Waffle. You see the same faces each day, and you know everyone by name basis which is nice, even with 300 employees. We have staff meals twice a day so catching up over breakfast or lunch is a good way to get to know each other.
What I also love about working for a small, yet growing group is that there is so much scope to grow and progress. As we open more sites and work with each employee on succession planning it means that we can grow the internal talent within the business.
Q. What are the main challenges that you have faced in this industry?
A. I’ve learnt that keeping your employees engaged is paramount as this industry is seriously competitive. We are working on a massive project at the moment to review the ways we engage with our employees with plans to create an even better working environment.
Q. What do you love the most about this industry?
A. The pace, it’s so fast, busy and does not stop! If you take Duck & Waffle for example, the pace is just as busy at 4pm Thursday afternoon as Saturday midday! I love that. Something else I love is the creativity that you find in the dishes and cocktails or the way we choose to engage with guests.
Q. I you could give one very important tip to someone looking to work in hospitality, what would it be?
A. Let your passion resonate – those who really want to be in hospitality and establish a career whether front of house or back of house, and strive to be successful, all have passion. I guess that’s in most industries, however you must really want to work in hospitality to establish your career and progress.
Q. Who is the ideal candidate for your venues? When hiring, what special personality traits do you look for?
A. A team player! Those who have been successful and/or had a long length of service with the business always have this attribute. We believe that your time with us should be a journey of growth, both professionally and personally. Someone dedicated and hardworking is what we look for, but we also want our employees to have fun at the same time.
Q. What is more important to you in a candidate? Training or passion?
A. Passion is key for us! You can’t offer someone passion, but with the right training we certainly can do! We invest considerably in training for each of our employees at all levels. When you have someone that is passionate about working for your business you can see them come alive whether in the kitchen or on the restaurant floor. As the Talent Acquisition Manager, this is something that makes me proud – bringing talent and great opportunities together.
Q. What’s your take on the London bar/restaurant scene?
A. Each venue, area or time of day can offer you something so unique – from food markets in Berwick Street, to late night bagels in Brick Lane, or an array of extravagant award winning restaurants in Mayfair; there is so much to offer those who are passionate about food. It’s not all about how ‘fancy’ the restaurant or bar is anymore; it’s how the guests can engage with the food and how they walk away and feel after that experience.
Q. What’s in store for your venues going forward?
A. We will always continue to invest in our current establishments, through re-design of elements in the venues, by introducing new menus, drinks and events. We have a few exciting openings this year, Duck and Waffle Local is super exciting for us as our first fast casual, chef curated restaurant focused around the mighty duck. SUSHISAMBA is opening in the iconic Opera Terrace in Covent Garden later this year which is going to be amazing.
Q. What’s your favourite dish at Duck and Waffle and at Sushisamba?
A. A must at Duck & Waffle is the Ox Cheek Doughnut…totally unique, always a winner! And at SUSHISAMBA, The Yellowtail Crispy Taquitos are my all-time favorite – the flavors are intense and are ridiculously moreish.
Q. What are your 5 favourite venues in London? And what are their signature Dishes and/or drinks?
A. Outside of SUSHISAMBA/Duck & Waffle of course, these are my favorite spots…
- M1LK, Balham – When I’m brunching at M1LK I normally opt for ‘The Convict’, it’s the most delicious breakfast bun you will ever taste…be warned its served with the most generous amount of parmesan too!
- Bob Bob Ricard, Soho – Their ‘Lobster Mac & Cheese’ is scrumptious
- Opium, China Town – That infamous jade door leads to some of the best dim sum in London!
- Chai Ki, Canary Wharf – if you go, you must try the ‘Fish Kuzhambu’ – it’s a coconut milk based salmon curry accompanied by the most delicious shredded beetroot
- Rocca, Dulwich Village – The ‘Carbonara’ is the winner here! It’s made with Clarence Court eggs so it’s got a rich deep orange colour