The Big Interview - 12 little questions - November 2014

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The Big Interview - 12 little questions

What does it take to be a Finance Director at the top of the food chain?
With the booming London restaurant scene being more competitive than ever, Sheridan Maine London’s Sales & Marketing Director Lee Shepherd grabs a bite-size 12 questions with Alex McLauchlan at arguably the capital’s best steakhouse restaurant group.  Prior to Hawksmoor, Alex was FD at D&D London which has a portfolio of over 30 restaurants in London, Paris & New York.

“Hawksmoor is only the latest restaurant to be snapped up by private equity investors hungry for a slice of the profitable eating-out business. In April private equity house LDC paid £50m for D&D restaurants, the company behind swanky London eateries such as Coq d'Argent in the City and Quaglino's in Mayfair, haunts of bankers and hedge-fund managers. Private equity has long been in love with the restaurant business – diners might be surprised just how many familiar names are in private equity hands, ranging from Pizza Express, Nando's, Café Rouge and Zizzi in the "casual dining" sector to gourmet affairs such as the Wolseley and the Delaunay.” Guardian August 2013


Hawksmoor’s growth has been well documented in the press and it is being mooted by the competition as a useful business template to copy. Why do you think this is so? LS

“Everyone likes to back a winning horse - people copy what works. The London restaurant scene has evolved and customers are more sensitive to what they are getting in perceived value. It is important to focus on the things that matter, invest in your people and keep an eye on quality and focus less on profit.” AM


What do you think are the main challenges facing the modern Finance Director now compared to pre-recession/the 2008 downturn? LS

“The perception of the finance department and the role it plays in an organisation has changed.

1. Getting funding is tougher and the money is not always filtering through to the companies that need/want it
2. Legislation is increasing, there are ever more hurdles to jump through
3. Balancing all the different stakeholders' needs” AM


Hawksmoor has had great success to date with further expansion plans, what would be your 3 points of advice as an FD to other finance professionals with expansion plans working with Private Equity Investors?  LS

1. “Be forward thinking, not reporting on what has happened but anticipating what will happen. Never spring any surprise numbers!
2. The big picture is important, an FD needs to look beyond the detail and take a helicopter view.
3. Finance team integration and collaboration are important; all departments need to be on the same page with the PE.” AM


And if I was a newly qualified accountant from practice with aspirations to become a Finance Director? LS

1. “Get experience, there is a lot to learn.  Understand people management, managing an Audit team does not mean that you are a manager.
2. Put yourself forward to do as much as you can outside your comfort zone.
3. Getting a mentor can help, although it isn’t easy to find one – look at people in the industry who you admire and reach out to them.” AM


The London restaurant scene is now firmly on the world map, what do you feel are the main reasons for this? LS

“The food industry is constantly changing and London because of its geographical location and multicultural society is well positioned to stay at the forefront of this. There is more public exposure to things like home cooking, Pop-up restaurants and food events.” AM


What’s been your experience of working with Sheridan Maine? LS

“Sheridan Maine London are the go-to people.  Recruitment is about building relationships, long-term relationship, and working with people that you like. We receive candidates that not only match the skill set but the personality also, which is equally as important. Sheridan Maine London have always acknowledged our needs and responded accordingly.” AM


What do you feel recruiters in general could do differently to improve upon the level of service they provide to growing businesses such as Hawksmoor? LS

“Keep in touch with the clients’ businesses, try to pre-empt a need as good candidates are hard to come by.” AM


What do your perceive to be our strengths as a recruitment partner? LS

“Ability to (and a want to) understand our business, brand and culture is critical.  An honest and consultative approach, with a sense of humour. To find the diamonds in the rough!” AM


What aspects of our recruitment process do you find particularly useful? LS

“Sheridan Maine save wasting my or the candidates time by making sure the fit is right to begin with. By understanding our culture they can see whose personalities will work and those that won’t. Relationship building and promoting the client is great. Other recruitment companies can find anybody but Sheridan Maine find the right person.” AM


What has been your experience as a candidate of a recruiter? LS

“A mixed bag with other recruiters, it is a very competitive and back stabbing industry.
It is refreshing to have someone you know and trust.” AM


Retaining good staff is incredibly important for businesses, what is Hawksmoor’s secret? LS

“Valuing employees. Evidence of this is our ranking in the Sunday Times top 100 companies to work for. We are constantly looking at ways to making peoples lives better (pay, perks etc) but the main thing is creating an environment that people want to work in.” AM


What’s good on the menu at Hawksmoor this month? LS

“Our new brand “FOXLOW” now opened in St John St, Farringdon is great value.  The 8 Hour Slow Cooked Bacon Ribs is my current pick of the bunch” AM


Lee Shepherd - Sheridan Maine - 0203 056 7786 

Formed in 2012 Sheridan Maine London (South East) has a team of experienced Finance & Accounting recruitment consultants who share the same commercial and ethical values in the recruitment process towards candidates, clients and colleagues alike.

Call 0203 056 0399 or email

We also have offices across the South Coast of England, Basingstoke and Bristol.