Paul Ainsworth, Rojano's in the Square, Padstow

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th January 2012
Paul started his career working with Gary Rhodes at Rhodes in the Square, before moving on to work with Gordon Ramsay for three years at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road. In 2003 he started working for Marcus Wareing, before opening his own restaurant in 2006, Paul Ainsworth at Number 6. In 2010 he took over Rojano’s in Padstow, Cornwall, and changed the name to Rojano’s in the Square as a reminder of his time with Gary Rhodes, a huge influence in his career. Paul loves using the local, seasonal produce in Cornwall and thinks that using local food is the only real way to cook. Paul represented the South West on BBC2’s Great British Menu in 2011, making it to the final. Here he talks to us about making sure Rojano’s menus maintain their original family orientated values while bringing his own touch to the restaurant.   Paul, Rojano’s talk me through the food offered at Rojano’s and talk me through why it’s so different than Paul Ainsworth at Number 6. It’s all about family sharing, it’s a family orientated restaurant and the ethos behind the concept, was this restaurant has been here since 1975, and was owned by a man called Stanley Rojano so it’s really a local institution here in Padstow, and the last thing I wanted to do was to change it, it had to be still Italian food and I love Italian food, I'm a big fan of Jamie and I think what Jamie does, the whole marketing is fantastic. I wanted to offer people some really chintzy surroundings and a nice place to come and enjoy but also then write a menu that offered value, was accessible to everyone and that's not an easy thing to do because you haven't got that spend, we are doing starters between £3 to £7 and main courses for a tenner. So what is the average spend? The average spend here at the moment is about £19 and that's £19 from which we have to pay VAT and there is no service charge. So that's a low spend for such a good quality Italian. So when you think of that as a business you can’t be doing just a few covers if you’re average spend is £17 a head I know we need to be doing much more than 30 covers or 40 covers. When I write the menu I could think, ‘This is brilliant dish,’ but it’s no good if they can’t get it out. When we opened the menu was too ambitious. I was cooking, my business partner came in, we thought it was brilliant, but the menu was too big and too ambitious so we stripped it back to give good choice at the price point of  not much more than £17 a head as we have to be doing… 250 covers a night. It has proved to be successful and in the summer we were hitting 250 covers in an evening, about 130 lunches together with teas and coffees which are huge, with cakes, scones and all that sort of thing. That's great in the summer because you've got a captive audience but what about this time of year? In our first year running the business, and it was all about just making sure we understood what the customers wanted and seeing what was important to preserve whilst covering our overheads in preparation for the renovations that we knew we would undertake the following January. Cornwall is the number one destination for UK holidays, with more people not wanting to go abroad, although interest rates are low, people are worried about their future disposable income, which makes us busy and restaurants certainly are definitely seeing that in Padstow, but not so much retail. But you touched on there earlier about not changing it and alienating the locals It must be very important and I know you've done that at Number 6 is to look after the locals? This is what’s carrying us through the winter. I had 40 people from Padstow Football Club, which I sponsor, in here the other night. They’ve got Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 and Rojano’s on their shirts and I love it. When I have a chance I go up and watch a game, and like us they’re unbeaten this season but more importantly they’re a great bunch of lads. In addition we have a strong commitment to the RNLI and we’ve got a special RNLI menu going on now so when someone chooses the menu we donate a pound to the Padstow RNLI. We are committed to supporting genuinely local charities and this is one of the best. We bought Rojano’s in May last year by using the collateral of other properties we owned in Padstow as additional security and the bank were great in supporting us at such difficult times for bank lending. Would you have been able to borrow that now? Was that at a point where money was easier to borrow? All money is and should be difficult to borrow but my skill is that I'm a chef and have built up Number 6,  and although  I've built up capital by the improvement I have made to No 6 and also by investing in my own home that would have never been  enough for me to walk into a bank but Derek, my business partner, who is a successful entrepreneur, has enough credibility  to raise the sort of money that we needed to raise at that time. My opinion is  Padstow doesn’t want another fine dining restaurant, because Padstow is primarily a family destination and we want Rojanos to be their restaurant where they eat regularly by coming  here three or four times which is why the menu we wrote reflects that. In Padstow it’s difficult to escape the fact that it’s a Cornish fishing village ostensibly, day boats, so are you able in a restaurant such as this to support that local community? Are you able to use local fish, sustainable products still at the price point that you’re in? When we bought Rojanos everything was bought in from afar; the pasta, the desserts, etc, but actually it’s more economical to make it yourself. Fish, it’s all about buying the right fish and it’s all about having the relationship with local fish suppliers and using it. So you'll never come to Rojano’s to have a piece of turbot or a sea bass or something like that, as it is not caught locally or it is the wrong price point… You can have sardines or… Yeah sardines, mackerel, sea bream, we've got plaice, local fish that's at that price point that people can come in and enjoy it. You can make simple ingredients fantastic and you can offer brilliant food without it always having to be expensive ingredients. One of the other big things I've noticed recently is it’s become very high profile, is certainly waste, and from lots of different angles obviously, one over ordering, there's a cost, two if you’re throwing it away there's a cost to get rid of it, three there's a cost to bury it in the ground. So there's a whole campaign at the moment about waste, how important is it when you've got a price point like here that you buy in correctly and you’re not chucking stuff away? My head chef here is on an incentive to minimise waste and optimise GP margin because I believe in this day and age you have to offer your key staff that sort of reward for success, otherwise the motivation to achieve these key objectives is not shared. We work here on a minimum, of 70% GP. The Chef has to meet that 70%, which is emailed to me and my business partner by the 2nd of the month to ensure the result is immediate as otherwise it’s of much less value advising me of the stock take result halfway through the month as, if there is a problem, we've had another 15 days with that same problem. The invoices are processed by my wife every day, entered into Sage, so she then tells him what has been spent.  The cost of waste collection continually keeps going up so it is in everyone’s interests to reduce waste It’s a double whammy isn’t it? You’re buying it and you waste it so you've paid for it and then you’re paying for it to be taken away. It’s £18 a collection now plus VAT so it’s £20 to take it. We've got five bins on the industrial estate what they don’t realise is every time they’re coming to collect the waste it’s over £100 a time. And that's straight off the bottom line. And in the summer we're having three collections a week because the waste from both restaurants is massive that's why it has to be so well managed here. Another one is wage cost. My managers write their rotas, they know how much they’ve got to spend against the projected turnover as detailed in the budget. We share the revenue sheets with them and in the summer they look at it and they think, ‘Crikey we've done 40 grand this week,’ whilst budget was 30, so they’ve probably achieved the right wage % of turnover. However we all realise is that's not just turnover that makes the profit, but that’s where it starts but then you've got business rates, heating, electric etc and after all that it trickles down to a profit  that hopefully leaves something  on the bottom line, the profit, which both and Derek and I need to repay the debt that we took on to buy and develop Rojano’s. Profit’s not a bad word is it? In reality everyone wants you to earn a profit and don’t mind as long as you provide them with a good service and excellent product without fleecing them. Profit is not a bad word.   You talked about managing GPs, how do you cost your menus Paul, do you look at the whole menu and say the whole menu is a 70% GP or a 30% food cost or do you price each individual dish? Each individual.  Yes we cost each individual, everything’s individually priced. So every single dish is costed that it must be making 70%. We work out the cost of the ingredient through the dish, you enter those ingredients onto an Excel sheet, we allow for the paper napkin, at Number 6 we also include the bread, so that goes in there, next underneath that nominal ingredients. So the olive oil that's gone into the pan to cook it, the butter, that's been diced to finish it, the salt, the pepper, all those things that businesses don’t seem to think about and leave out. Then we have the 5% wastage because whatever you do there’s always a wastage. Absolutely yeah. There's always a wastage. Of course there is. Then next column 20% VAT. That’s one of my next questions actually Paul if you don’t mind, how big an impact is the additional 2½% VAT having on businesses like this? In the service industry it’s probably the worst thing that can possibly, possibly happen to you because… Because you’re taking off that £17 spend you've got 20% straight off that going to George Osborne thank you very much. Yeah exactly but I’ve got nothing to claim VAT for because when I buy all the ingredients that we buy in for both restaurants there’s no VAT on food. If you’re a plumber or a carpenter you buy your materials, a lot of them are not VAT registered anyway, I've got a carpenter that works for me and, and that's what the government don’t realise that that lad that doesn’t want to increase his business he doesn’t want to take on more work because he doesn’t want to go over the VAT threshold. No it becomes price prohibitive doesn’t it? Yeah it does and the same…but you've got companies which are buying their materials and claiming the VAT back. My last VAT bill was 42 grand for the quarter… For  both restaurants? No just Number 6. Christ. It was even more here, with Number 6 it was 42 grand for the quarter, my next one is due at the end of January and it’s probably going to be a bit down or thereabouts the same, So 160 grand a year VAT. Yeah in VAT coming out and really little that we can claim back because there's no VAT on food, so when VAT goes up for me it’s not a good thing. Last question then, you have a very successful Number 6, Rojano’s now going very well, what’s next? I think what we talk about in the future is I mean there comes a point where Padstow becomes saturated doesn’t it? Exactly. You've got Rick Stein, Nathan Outlaw across the road, both your operations, Adrian at Margots, there's lots of things going on and there's only so much business… What we're talking about for the future is that this is a formula that works well and I can personally oversee the operations. My ambition and my dream, would be to roll this out as a brand, not just in Cornwall… Why not. …I'd like to do more here but, in but for Rojanos I think it would do well in sophisticated urban centres , not so much city centres like Manchester but more , like Alderley edge or Wilmslow in Cheshire,. Yeah where the ladies are all orange. It’s a long way off I mean we're talking the need to raise large amounts of capital through venture capitalists and stuff like that if we rolled it out. But like you say there's a formula to this isn’t there? Exactly with Padstow being the training ground. Derek my business partner he bought his first pub, four years later he had 78 pubs and hotels around the country, Tom Cobleigh that’s who Derek is and from Birmingham upwards he knows the catchment areas like the back of his hand. I've got a lot of inspiration from Jamie’s Italians, the difference with what we try and do here is the great salad and pasta pizza, but also a cocktail angle to it as well because I think cocktails are really becoming big. But there's a plan. …I'd never ever want to do another Number 6 because it requires my absolute personal attention at all times. I don’t profess to cook here at Rojanos as I'm based at Number 6 but between me and you there's not the same opportunity  in Number 6 compared with the opportunity of developing many more Rojano’s Well look as always I wish you every success. Thank you very much Mark. Thank you for your time today. Yeah and thank you for coming and seeing us. Not at all. Really appreciate it.  

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th January 2012

Paul Ainsworth, Rojano's in the Square, Padstow