Interview: Will Beckett, Hawksmoor, Manchester5 years ago
In the mid 00s, Will Beckett and business partner Huw Gott begged, stole and borrowed £100k to open a bar in Shoreditch. A Mexican restaurant followed, then a pub. But things really started to get going in 2006, when the pair launched the first Hawksmoor steakhouse in Spitalfields. Twelve years later and they’ve just opened their eighth one in Edinburgh, with another in New York planned for next year. They opened in Manchester in 2015.
Will, Hawksmoor has taken Manchester by storm since opening in 2015. Did you ever doubt that it would?
WB: “F*ck yes. If you don’t doubt success before you open you’re not thinking hard enough. We had all sorts of concerns. I think if it has been a success it’s in part because we always wanted to open a Manchester restaurant, not a London Restaurant in Manchester. We spent a lot of time in the city, but more importantly we hired amazing people who knew Manchester a lot better than we did and we listened to them when they told us we were being idiots.”
You admit that you and Huw cocked up a number of restaurants before getting it right with Hawksmoor – what would you say to those that have failed early on?
WB: “To quote another Beckett (Samuel): Try again. Fail again. Fail better… money permitting, though I don’t think Samuel Beckett added that important caveat.
The key question is, ‘can you get bigger without compromising what Hawksmoor is and what you really care about?
You’ve now got eight Hawksmoor restaurants, having recently opened in Edinburgh, how many restaurants is too many?
WB: “I think the number is irrelevant in and of itself. The key question is ‘can you get bigger without compromising what Hawksmoor is and what you really care about?’. For us those things are standards, integrity, being a great place to work, and being somewhere that a wide variety of customers genuinely take to their hearts. So my answer is maybe we can still get bigger in the UK, but we approach every new opening (like Edinburgh) with a huge amount of caution and with that question at the forefront of our minds.”
You’re also planning to open another in New York – can you really take steak to the yanks?
WB: “Ask me again 12 months after we open … the line between ‘brave’ and ‘daft’ is a thin one. I think the answer is yes though, partly because New York is such a great restaurant city that I think it’ll always have room for another excellent restaurant (I.e. the onus is on us to open one) and partly because I think Hawksmoor is different from the successful steak restaurants they already have.”
Lastly, where are you favourite places to eat in the North West?
WB: “Outside of Hawksmoor (obviously) when I’m in Manchester I now try and get out of the centre to Didsbury, Stockport, Ancoats etc. where I think the best small independents are. Places like Hispi, WTLGI or Sugo Pasta. If I’m in the centre I tend to nip to the NQ – I like hanging out at Mackie Mayor. If I’m in Liverpool I go to Wreckfish again and again. My favourite place I haven’t been to yet in Manchester is Tast.”