Sat Bains: Investors 'bring f**k all to the party apart from taking the profits that you've worked for'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

When Sat Bains took over his Nottingham restaurant in 2004, after half a decade working for the previous landlords, he saw it as an opportunity. "I'd spent five years under some other person taking all the glory for the hard work, so I said let's do it." 


Eight years after receiving a second Michelin star, business is thriving. Here's how the Roux Scholar turned Restaurant Sat Bains  into a world-class restaurant - and makes sure it remains one for the foreseeable. 

This feature appeared as part of a series about how to open your own restaurant.

Other chefs include

Pip Lacey , Hicce

Emily Roux, Caractère

Tommy Banks, Roots

Tommy Heaney, Heaney's

Richard Johns, The Hovingham Inn 

Michel Roux Jr, Le Gavroche

Simon Bonwick, The Crown

Scott Smith, Fhior

Take on investors if you have to, but have an exit plan


He decided to hire an accountant as a business partner, but only in the short term, mostly because of an inherent distrust for anyone he sees as having an ulterior motive. 

He said: "What they do - they baffle you with numbers and make themselves sound indispensable but they are the most full of s**t people I've ever met. The talent is in the f**king kitchen. You can employ accountants to look at your books and you can employ someone who'll give you guidance, but you don't need them as business partners."

"They bring f**k all to the party apart from taking the profits that you've worked for."

Don't shy away from bartering with your suppliers 


The son of a Sikh shop owner, the chef said his Punjabi heritage taught him the power of "wheeling and dealing." As he sees it, there's no shame in bartering with your suppliers. Bains   credit Pal Hansen.jpeg
Photo credit: Pal Hansen

"Every single supplier I've beaten down, not because I'm a cheapskate, because I know there's room for manoeuvre. Why the f**k should I pay £25 a kilo for something when I can get it for 15? Then at least I've asked. And because I've asked, I might get it for 22." 

"We're all in business, we should be bartering. It's a skill and a

craft, and it's not about, 'oh, pay the going rate.' Pay the going rate for what? If you don't ask, you don't get." 

Keep investing in your business - but set your priorities straight 


The chef said he and his wife Amanda are "very much investors," spending £60,000 a year on maintaining the restaurant and its rooms. 

One thing he refuses to skimp on - and something he thinks private backers always see as a second thought - is kitchen equipment. He bought a bespoke stove in 2007 for £22,000, which is still pristine, he said: "because we look after it." 

The couple spent another £20,000 on their chef's kitchen - partly because the bank refused to lend them the money for it - but repaid it back into the business in  six months, "because of the revenue generation - the demand - was so great." 

Aware that inheriting an already-equipped restaurant isn't a chance everyone has, he added: "If you can't afford it, go for long leases, go for service contracts, do it so you can spread the cost out." 

Treat your team and your tradesmen with the respect they deserve


Sat Bains in one of several high-profile chefs to have introduced a four-day working week at his restaurant - and for good reason.

"We give them world-class food to eat, we give them three consecutive days off, we give them six weeks off a year. We're not doing that to be the leaders in the industry, we're doing that to be absolutely brilliant employers to employ brilliant people that want to be brilliant when they get here," he said. 

The chef admits to being strict with his team, but ultimately, his advice to anyone who wants to run a good restaurant is this: "Just be f**king nice. Just don't be a dick. Treat everyone half decently."

"Don't get me wrong, I'm notorious for being hard and that's my tradition because it's my trade of being a chef and producing brilliant chefs," he added.

"But I'm still f**king nice. I'm still decent with them. I'm still authentic and genuine. I'm not stabbing anyone in the back, I'm trying to be very upfront and hopefully teaching them lessons." 

Another rule the chef introduced at the restaurant is to always make sure that contractors visiting the restaurant are always offered a drink. This may not seem like much, he explained, but it can mean the difference between being able to rely on them in times of need or not. 

"It's not a lot to offer but guess what  - these guys remember that s**t. So when they get that emergency phone call [from someone who didn't treat them with respect] they're like: 'no f**k that, they're c**ts there' - because they're not interested, because you treated them s**t." 

If you set high expectations, you're going to have to keep raising that bar 


While having a successful restaurant bears its fruits, having two Michelin stars means you have to continuously raise your standards. 

"The way to stay abreast with that is - you've got to do research, you've got to travel but you've also got to keep pushing. The day you stop pushing, you may as well hang up your apron because this industry is not about a short term thing. It's about long term goals. And it's how long you want to keep that fire in your belly of pushing some of the best food you can possibly cook and serve."  

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 6th September 2019

Sat Bains: Investors 'bring f**k all to the party apart from taking the profits that you've worked for'