We spoke to Michael Daniel about his award winning restaurant chain and the type of people he’s looking for to take his vegetarian culinary empire to the next level.
Tell us about your role and how you got there.
My role as the owner is to oversee everything. I’m not involved with each person directly but my job is to inspire from the top down and guide the business as a whole.
The business really started when my brother found the space, he was looking to get into catering and he stumbled across the space by accident. It was available to rent and he phoned me up and said ‘Do you want to help me open up a restaurant?’ It was all a bit pie in the sky – like what the hell – yesterday we didn’t have a restaurant, today we’ve got a restaurant! We were making traditional vegetarian dishes – lasagne, curry, hummus – another 2 restaurants and 27 years later, here we are.
What’s been the biggest change for you in all that time?
I think the whole of society is different. From social media to Deliveroo there’s been a lot of changes in how we eat and experience food. 30 years ago people weren’t eating out like they do now. Today, if you’re under a certain age, you just don’t cook at home very often.
What are ‘must have’ qualities to work at the Gate?
A desire to grow. Why else are you in catering otherwise? When you work on our team that growth is possible at any level. Last week I walked in the kitchen and the guy who had been washing the dishes was serving food. That’s amazing! Our chefs have the ability to grow people but those people have to want it too.
Fancy a slice of life at the Gate? Apply today.
What are the perks of working in your team?
We are a very fair company to work for. We are generous to our staff and we support them – we do in-house health and safety training, NVQs and language support. For employees whose English isn’t great, we do lessons in the restaurant like role plays to help them improve their language. We spend a lot of money training our staff.
We also get the team involved in charity work. We’ve done a lot of work with a charity called Ambitious About Autism, we’ve raised about 20-30k for them in the last few years. We did the chocolate project with them where we’d help the kids develop a recipe and make and sell the chocolate. Social responsibility and sustainability are very important to us.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge is finding the right people and training them. It can be really difficult to hire people who have the drive and passion and who are willing to overcome any cultural barriers too.
What advice would you have for people looking to excel in the industry?
In catering, you really need to give all of yourself to succeed. It’s about really throwing yourself in and then being open to learning. That’s how you grow, that’s how you really excel.
Find someone to be your mentor, that can help you grow.
I did it through modelling other people who had more experience and knowledge than me. You can achieve amazing things in the catering industry when you try.
Did you get support like that at the start of your career?
I’m self-taught but I’ll go back to my example of the guy who has gone from washing dishes to serving food, it’s amazing. For me, one day I didn’t have a restaurant then I did have a restaurant. I cooked and cleaned and tried to learn from everything I did.
What’s been your proudest moment of your career?
I think winning awards is really nice. We won the Time Out award in 1992 and that stands out as the first one that really gave us a presence in the market. We were naïve, it was more about food for us than business. It’s been quite the learning curve.
What’s the plan for the future?
We’re currently looking at the infrastructure to expand but it’s tough as we’ve 3 restaurants at the moment and I’m emotionally attached to each one. Our plan is to grow and to keep on growing. We want to keep creating great food and great service and giving people a great experience.
Think you’ve got what it takes to join the team at The Gate Restaurant? Apply to join their team.