With four restaurants across London and turnover doubling in one year, it’s not just the food that’s hot at Rosa’s Thai Cafes. The secret sauce? Taking cool and calm advice
After successfully running a restaurant in Hong Kong, Alex Moore and his Thai wife were disappointed by London’s Thai restaurant dining experience. So they decided to better it, with a concept that merged modern London with modern Bangkok.
Initially it was a Sunday stall, but soon the first Rosa’s Thai Cafe opened in 2008 on the edge of Spitalfields market. “People loved the concept. Time Out said that we were one of the top 25 restaurants in London,” recalls Moore. “From there we didn’t look back.” In 2010, the couple sold their house in Hong Kong and ploughed the proceeds into a second restaurant in Soho.
By July 2012 gross profits were healthy but net profits were slim. The Moores were approached by opportunistic investors. “They were keen to invest in the business on very tight terms in return for offering us help. It was very tempting, but we took a difficult decision and said no. We wanted to fix things by ourselves, even though we weren’t sure how.
“At that point we found GrowthAccelerator. I wanted to speak to people who had experience of growing a business and selling it successfully. We interviewed several people and ended up choosing two coaches to help us; Barbara to help us expand successfully and Tom to help us with access to finance as well as our finances and legal structure.
“The main advantage is that they didn’t want anything from us in return for their help. They came into our business to enable us to reach certain goals to help us, not to help themselves.
The coaches helped the Moores streamline their operation and merge the businesses together to form a single legal entity. “We moved from being a family-owned business to a professional organisation,” says Moore.
The coaches also helped with leadership and management training as well as implementing an appraisal system for all members of staff. Also, crucially, they put the Moores in touch with a Thai language company so that all the health and safety laws could be translated for the chain’s Thai chefs.
“We were actually sad to see Tom and Barbara leave at the end of the process,” says Moore, “as they had been so instrumental in helping us to grow and manage the business.”
With a fourth site and a new corporate structure, the Moores put together a “friends and family” round of investment of around £100,000. They invited both of their GrowthAccelerator coaches to participate.
“It was ironic because we had wanted their help because they didn’t want to take anything from us. They took up our offer and both now sit as advisers on the board.
“Right now we’re in good shape,” says Moore. “We have four restaurants, all of which are making money. They are under one company and are smashing targets from last year.” Turnover doubled – from £1.4m to £2.8m – in a single year.
Moore says that he plans to open several new restaurants over the next few years. “Our goal is to get up to ten restaurants and then sell the business, either exiting the company or perhaps staying on and helping Rosa’s get to the next level.”
The Business Growth Service is now closed to new customers. Contractual commitments to existing customers will be honoured, as long as all support and related activity is completed by 31 March 2016. If you’re looking to find what business support is available in your area, your local Growth Hub may be able to help.