While some might argue that launching a new restaurant concept in the middle of a pandemic should come with a health warning, you won’t necessarily find celebrated restaurateur Markus Thesleff agreeing.
He has managed to triumph over adversity on two memorable occasions to date — and is about to make it three in row with his new London venture.
First came his celebrated nightclub collection Pangaea (NYC, Marbella, London) which opened its doors in Manhattan in the autumn of 2001 following the September 11 attacks. In February 2009, the now legendary OKKU made its debut in Dubai just weeks after the collapse of the world’s financial markets.
Now, as the industry finds itself gripped by the worst pandemic in living memory, Thesleff is putting the finishing touches to Los Mochis, his unique celebration of Mexican and Japanese cuisine and culture in the heart of Notting Hill.
And while the uncertainty over lockdowns and restrictions has left members of the industry wondering exactly how long it will be before the industry gets back to normal again, he remains bullish. In fact, he argues that opening a restaurant in the midst of catastrophe presents more opportunities than threats.
“If you can open in economic winter and still do well, then when you come out on the other side you are set up for success,” says Thesleff, whose restaurant will open as soon as the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Although he remains only too aware of the devastation that the pandemic has wrought on his beloved industry — with up to 50% of restaurants predicted to go to the wall — he opines that UK hospitality was struggling long before the pandemic, thanks to crazy rents, confused legacy brands and labour shortages.
“Now we have the opportunity to both secure super prime locations at realistic rents, with landlord and tenant much more aligned, and inspire the very best staff,” he says.
Moreover, times of economic downturn also see a change in consumer habits which can give certain parts of the sector a boost. “People stop spending on high cost capital goods like cars and houses and instead look for instant gratification. Although they might not go out as often as previously, when they do they tend to spend more in order to make themselves feel better.”
The opening of Los Mochis will of course bring other more tangible benefits to the economy, such as employing over 45 people. “We are able to provide a safe, happy and inspirational workplace for our team — and additional revenue for the government in the form of taxes and pension contributions.”
In addition his restaurant will provide a meal for the homeless and less fortunate for every one they sell, further compounding a positive effect among the team as well as customers and the wider community.
Equally as important for Thesleff as these practical considerations is the holistic impact restaurants such as Los Mochis will have on the public during these challenging and uncertain times.
“For me running a restaurant is something quite spiritual. We are in the business of creating memories and experiences. It is our job to bring joy and happiness to our guests.”