We are a nation of brunch lovers and nowhere is this more evident than in the massive queues outside the UK's most beloved breakfast spot, The Breakfast Club, morning after morning. But it all started out as a local caf. We asked co-founder Jonathan Arana-Morton to share with us the journey of The Breakfast Club so far...
I love what I do. That's always a good starting point for gauging ‘How I Made It’. However, I would add that writing I have ‘made it’ is asking for trouble. The day I think I've made it is the day this all comes to an end. So let’s change the title and go with ‘How we made it this far’…
‘We’ being my best friend and now sister-in law, Ali, who I do this with. ‘We’ being the people who made it this far with us.
The most insightful comment Ali and I have ever had in our 12 years of Breakfast Clubbing is ‘You may not be the best at what you do, but you are incredible at surrounding yourselves with great people and inspiring their loyalty’. It was made by one of our members of staff, a back-handed compliment that became easier to deal with the more I thought about it. In fact, the back-handed has been dropped and it’s the insight that makes me most comfortable with explaining how we got here.
In truth, we trusted the people that joined us along the way because we were fully aware of our own shortcomings in terms of experience and skills. We have been incredibly lucky to have worked and trusted some wonderful people along the way. People who may not necessarily have the experience but had the strength of character, talent and passion to make things happen. And those people have repaid us by doing some incredible things.
Too often an entrepreneur starting a business feels that to lead that business they have to be the best in that business - in my case the best chef, the best barista or even the best manager. I am none of these, and I don’t have to be. I just need to create the environment that allows our business and not me be the best it can be.
When you start a business it’s no longer all about you, which is quite a shift in mentality from life working for someone else. Despite your best efforts and despite what you might tell yourself, if you are working for an organisation your motivation is often yourself - how can I move my career on? How can I get paid more? How can I get that next promotion? With The Breakfast Club, it’s not about how I’m doing, it’s about how The Breakfast Club (and the team) are doing.
But there is an obvious contradiction there - how do you eliminate that self-interest in your own business? The truth is you can’t fully, but if you build a business that has a greater purpose than its bottom line, then you’re on your way. Look after everything else and the bottom line looks after itself. When we’ve strayed from this principle it’s when we’ve been bitten, quite literally on the bottom (line)!
If you make people proud about where they work, then this all becomes easier. When we were a small single caf in Soho our team were proud, proud, proud because we were the small family-owned caf with the queues taking on the big high street chains. With growth and 10 cafes we’re no longer that David to the high street Goliaths - we’re by no means a Goliath - but the ‘us against the world’ mentality doesn’t work quite so well. So we focussed on making our team proud of where they worked in other ways.
We are fundamentally a neighbourhood caf and we’re extremely proud of the impact our cafes are having on their local communities. Our volunteering program has recently been recognised as the best in the UK and our community impact has been recognised as industry leading - not just our industry, but all industries - which is remarkable, because this is rarely something that can be achieved by an SME. I have always insisted on a certain amount of humility from us as a business, but with regards to this - I’ll shout it from the rooftops - it makes me extremely proud. I also see how proud it makes our team and when your people are proud about where they work, it’s half the battle.
Before I take any credit for this, I’d like to point out that this volunteering program was all put together by a girl that joined us to do some part time waitressing. Somebody with no experience in this area, just hugely passionate and driven to do the right thing. She is now our Head of Charities and Communities. The only credit I’ll take is that I gave her the opportunity and the right environment in which to succeed. Trust your team to be wonderful.
And now, back to the beginning. I love what I do. I grew up watching ‘Cheers’ (US sitcom) on a Friday night with my nan. I wanted to be Sam ‘Mayday’ Malone. I wanted to be Tom Cruise in Cocktail (I’m showing my age), and I remember the first beer I served (a Red Stripe to Andy King the DJ at The Maestro in Bradford in 1990!) I love hospitality, I always have done. I love the people I get to work with every day because they’re just some of the most exciting, creative, passionate people I’m ever likely to meet. I love the customers that walk through our doors, the chatter of a Saturday brunch service, the madness of a busy kitchen. You have to love what you do.
Love what you do. Trust your team to be wonderful. Give your business purpose. That’s how we made it this far.
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