Owning your own restaurant may seem like a glamorous business, but success in this industry does not come easily, with failure rife. However for some the idea of opening a restaurant is a lifelong dream, worth the highs and the lows. Who better to share these with than your own partner? We spoke to Margaux Aubry, one half of the team behind Naughty Piglets, on how she and husband Joe set up their own business and how to get it right.
Naughty Piglets is an independent wine bar and restaurant based in London’s vibrant Brixton neighbourhood. It was set up by Aubry, and her husband Joe Sharratt, in March 2015. The pair originally met through their work – Sharratt was working as Head Chef at Clapham’s Trinity, a position he held for seven years, and when Aubry arrived in London from France she also began working there. Both moved onto work at other well-respected establishments, but Aubry explains that after marriage, opening their own restaurant was a natural next step.
"We are both very passionate people and felt ready to convey this our way I guess. Joe always wanted to open his own restaurant. He has been in this industry for far longer than me. I always had a slight issue with authority, and so did he. Being our own boss has always been our dream."
With glowing reviews from the critics and a constant buzz of diners, the restaurant has been a well received addition to the area's eclectic food scene. Aubry is heartfelt about how they started out, and the importance of the support that they received from others.
Find the right company
"Patience, passion and being surrounded by great people are mandatory. Joe’s parents helped us a lot in the whole process of signing the lease, lending us the money we needed to apply for a loan, as well as the plans for the restaurant. Joe’s father being an architect was so helpful - I don’t think we could have achieved anything without them. We went through hard times trying to set up everything so I guess if you really want it, never give up," explains Aubry.
As with all partnerships, especially when running your own business, there are the inevitable ups and downs with many lessons to learn along the way. With this in mind, I asked Aubry if she had any tips to share when it comes to working with your own partner.
Know your role
"Communication is key and also making sure to give space to the other. Luckily Joe is the chef, and I am running the floor and wine side of it, which helped us, both having our 'sections'. I would definitely say understanding of each other’s professional needs and ways of being in a work environment.
"As we have two distinct jobs, it really has made the whole experience easier. We are also very good at disconnecting from work to enjoy our personal life. I think you have to make sure you can, otherwise it is just work, work and you can easily lose yourself."
The restaurant itself is a 30-cover room - small, but intimate and comforting. Dishes of the day are presented on a large chalkboard, which changes weekly, and you’ll be treated to tasty small plates featuring the likes of grilled squid and BBQ pork belly.
Of course, all are complimented by Aubry’s recommendation of natural wines. It’s a winning combination and a formula that has given Naughty Piglets the ability to blend into its surroundings.
Unique selling point
"We see ourselves as a neighbourhood restaurant and yes, we’ve started to have this feeling of belonging to Brixton and its community after a year and three months. We have an eclectic clientele, which we love and 70 per cent of customers are now regular. It is a hard a job, but our guests give so much back to us – it’s 100 per cent a sharing experience," notes Aubry.
So would Aubry agree that the restaurant is stronger, as a result of her partnership and marriage?
"It can be hard every now and again, as we spend most of our time together. But yes, I genuinely think it is - and people initially came in here to see us. It has been an amazing experience."
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