Comment: Knowing what you don't know

Talking about his time with Mourad Mazouz, F&B industry expert David Singleton shares the secret to good venue design

David Singleton
David Singleton

We all have our industry most admired, don’t we? Mine isn’t a hotelier, yet, but given that he keeps dodging the subject of what he’s doing next when I look into the glint of his eye, I get the feeling that one day he will join the ranks of one of the most inspirational hoteliers I’m sure.

I met Mourad Mazouz, the genius creator of London’s Sketch, when I came to work in Dubai in 2013. We worked together on Almaz by Momo and I got to know a man with the most incredible hospitality passion and human insight; a perfectionist like no other. We brought him to the Global Restaurant Investment Forum in Amsterdam in February and he talked about how he has evolved Sketch and his restaurant emporium in London and Paris.

His keynote was filled with humour, humility and integrity, he reminded us of our instinct when it comes to designing and running our restaurants. He talked about knowing our strengths. “We’re spending too much time hiding what we don’t know” he said philosophically, “we should focus on our skills, develop them and be really good at what we do. He’s right, how many times have we sat in teams where there’s at least one person trying to hide behind something. A key dynamic in a successful team is knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, but we rarely explore them in ways that we probably should.

Mourad is ‘artisanal’, not an artist, or even (he claims) a businessman, as he has people to do that for him, he’s happy being a shopkeeper, and more importantly, happy that he’s not distracted by an office, laptop or a spreadsheet. Restaurant and brand design is a real passion of mine, we often talk about it over coffee in London. He maintains that fashion doesn’t always last and that it's important to think of how your business will survive when the fashion moment passes. Given that his restaurants ooze style and timelessness, he’s one who simply nails it every time. Mourad has the luxury afforded to few in that he’s his own shareholder, and he will design and open when he’s ready and not before. He will look through a microscopical lens at the business ensuring everything his guest will see, feel, remember evolves in a quite magical way that thousands of guests come to benefit.

Sketch opened seven years before Instagram became part of our daily lives and is now the most Instagrammed restaurant in the world. That only came about with the genius of Mourad, who with instinct, designed a place he knew would resonate in the way it has. As I waved Mourad off I went back to the deal den where a few of us old guys were helping the next generation of entrepreneurs pitch their concepts and ideas for funding. Six restauranteurs from around Europe with passion like Mourad’s, knowing what they didn’t know, knowing what their guest’s wanted though and all importantly worked from the floor, looked at their brands through the eyes of the guest and surrounded themselves with people who knew what they didn’t.

About the author
David Singleton has worked with some of the best restaurant brands around the word as an operator, brand builder, franchisee, franchisor and marketer in the managed, franchise and entrepreneurial sectors. Based between the Middle East and London he now assists brands with their global ambitions, strategic thinking and brand development. Contact him on or follow him on Instagram and Twitter @singletoncity.

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