ROGER Myers, the man behind Dôme, Peppermint Park and Coconut Grove, is creating exciting restaurant brands again with Café Rouge, the Continental-style restaurant which forms the mainstay of his Pelican Group operations.
But Café Rouge is only part of the story. Mamma Amalfi, Rock Island Diner and, in the USA, Café Tu Tu Tango are the other restaurant brands which have been brought into the group for development.
The group has recently taken over Jim Thompson's Spice Islands Trading Company, with its themed pubs. There are plenty of new ideas, but has Myers expanded too far, too fast?
As you might expect from someone whose early career was spent as an accountant in the music business, his timing has proved impeccable to date.
Café Rouge was launched in 1989, as the economy was starting to take a dip. By rights, the recession should have stopped it in its tracks, and the fact that the restaurants are still thriving bears witness to Myers' ability to put all the essential ingredients together.
Value for money is vital among these. Launched for the "£12 to £15-a-head market", the restaurants change menus through the day.
Each restaurant has an individual feel, and many customers are unaware that they are in a chain establishment, but clever systems yield economies of scale.
For example, "specials" are chalked up on a blackboard to give the impression that the chef thought them up this morning. In fact, they are drawn from a standard set of recipes. Myers has created a systemised concept which looks individual.
He has exploited opportunities created by recession-battered businesses not just by converting sites to add them to his own chain, but by putting the right infrastructure in place to back them. This consists of skilled management and firm control of costs.
And Café Rouge restaurants are venues with atmosphere, as well as eating places.
Myers' instinct for the right property on the right site has beenexcellently matched by the operations flair of Karen Jones, who has worked with him for years and is now managing directorof the group. "She has set up all the systems andhas really pushed Café Rouge forward," Myers said.
At the time Myers was developing Dôme he was on the payroll of Imperial Group. But he proved not to be someone who favours working for big corporations.
He and a former business partner, Alan Lubin, bought the brand names they had worked to build and set up their own company, Theme Holdings. They sold out to Leisure Investments in 1988, only for it to go bust.
Now Myers can see many of his developments continuing to thrive under new ownership; he can flatter himself that several people have imitated his brands and ideas, and some of the imitations have succeeded. He has even bought back the Dôme concept he first created.
But he will not rest on his laurels. Roger Myers is still creating new ideas and excitement for the industry. n
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