Lauren Nally & Ritchie Stainsby own and run No. Twelve Restaurant, Nottingham.
Tell us about No. Twelve, how did it all start?
We started with a small cafe in the centre of Nottingham and then opened the restaurant in 2019 just before the pandemic, and during the pandemic we opened our second business, Faux, an artisan plant based butchers and delicatessen, in Sherwood.
What challenges have you faced in terms of staffing, during the pandemic and as restrictions ease?
The biggest misconception with hospitality roles, is that they’re a means to an end type of job, when actually it can be an incredibly skilled career choice, but I think you have to want it, as opposed to falling into it as a career, which lots of people do.
It’s also seen as a younger generation’s career, you have a lot of students who work in this industry, and see it as a temporary position, so there can be high turnover of staff, but I think the British public don’t see it as a career, they see it as part time, and you’ll get a ‘proper job’ one day!
It is a proper job, it’s our livelihoods, people who have worked with us in the past have said that, and it’s a little heartbreaking to hear, because Lauren and I do this for a living and we love it. We do it to make people happy, and lots of the things we do, especially in the kitchen, are incredibly technical. It takes years and years of training and hard work and it’s not an easy job, it can be unsociable hours, it can be hot in the kitchens, you always have to have a smile on your face, but you know when you sit down at the end of every night, you really feel like you’ve earned your money.
It has been hard finding talented people during the pandemic especially because the industry has struggled to open, lots of people have changed careers. Friends of ours have taken courses in becoming trades people, NHS, electricians, that sort of thing, which they see as more reliable careers, purely because hospitality could be an unreliable place to work currently. We’ve asked ourselves though, ‘what do we like doing?’ and we like eating and drinking, it’s in our fabric.
Have you done things differently during lockdown to keep the business going?
The first lockdown, we did at-home veg boxes to help people who couldn’t get out, we became a fruit and veg shop really! We were out delivering ten hours a day, it was hard work! We launched our taste-at-home delivery boxes, which was an incredible amount of work but it helped us retain our customers and keep the business going when they can’t get to you. It’s kept our staff engaged as well, because everyone’s going through a tough time, getting them in to help here, brought back the family unit, we did a lot to keep everybody’s spirits up.
At that time people’s mental health was being affected, so we checked in with staff, did zoom calls twice a week, and we opened Faux as a contingency plan so we were still able to provide a culinary experience and continue to trade. We were working so hard during lockdown, doing the boxes, using local produce, coming up with about two hundred new recipes, that was hard, but we had time to think about how we could keep the business going, so that and the shop became our contingencies.
At the moment we have bubbles, we have the teams split up, we don’t see each other, we work different days, literally at four o’clock, the guys are outside, we’re inside and we leave through that door, they come in that door and that protects the staff and the business; if the team goes down that means nobody gets paid that week. I think that’s the key thing to overcome future problems, have a contingency, it’s essential. We’ve also been able to create jobs by keeping going, we’ve sixteen here and another six at Faux.
Why hospitality, and how did you get into it?
We’re both creatives, we both came from creative backgrounds, so I studied music and Lauren studied art, and then we were both running restaurants for people, and sometimes we felt a bit under-appreciated and that spurred us on to think, actually we could run a restaurant and it’d be better than where we’re working now, and we’d have far more passion behind it.
We enjoy talking to people and being around customers and getting to know people, and for me I can’t think of anything worse than being sat in an office, being behind a laptop and not knowing who I’m speaking to. I like to be on the floor, I like to be active, I like to know who’s coming in and what we’re doing, and it’s an exciting job role, it’s not like any other job. It’s hard work but like we said before, you feel like you’ve deserved every single penny that you come home with afterwards.
You either have passion for this job role or you don’t and it really shows with who you get onboard. We know people who’ve always wanted to be chefs, I personally studied music, but cooking has always been something I’ve done as a hobby, I didn’t think it’d be something I could do professionally, until we started learning and training, and then I realised actually I’m quite good at this and I enjoy the process. I enjoy coming up with new ideas, it’s a really expressive job and I think people should be encouraged to try it.
Passion matters, but what about transferable skills people could use in hospitality?
Absolutely passion matters, but I think certainly customer service is a key thing, so some people come into hospitality from HR and retail to look after people, make sure they feel catered for and happy. A lot of our staff have come from retail, and they enjoy hospitality more because in retail there’s a lot of standing around and not really being active.
What do you look for when you’re recruiting?
I think it’s really important to have natural flair with customers, you can teach some one how to chop veg and how to peel something, but you can’t teach someone how to be around customers.
Our team is a mixture of very talented people who’ve trained and worked and grafted for it, and younger lads and ladies who are coming up through the ranks and they have to earn their stripes, and learn the basics and grow as they go on, but I think the key thing is having that natural flair and passion for the job before you’ve even walked into the kitchen.
You do have to go through those times when you’re washing pots and I’ve done it myself, I’ve worked up through to the point where I’ve been a head chef of a hundred-seater restaurant, and you know it’s the same with the floor I think, having an experienced bar tender who knows their stuff but putting them alongside someone who’s fresh to it, that’s really important. We certainly would always favour taking a mix of people on, from any different kind of background, with different personalities, and career experience as well.
Speaking from my side, in the kitchen, we’re looking to skill people up to take me over one day, as I go into developing the business, and future planning. There’s definitely progression, people who’ve been with us this past two years, even during the pandemic, they’ve all had pay rises, they’ve all been looked after, to retain the quality of the staff. They’re people we care about, they’re our family.
So, it really feels like a family to you, more than a job?
Yeah, we’re all best mates, we need each other, we’re only a small team, we don’t have back up people, we need to be there for each other, if someone’s poorly, someone has to take on those hours.
Nobody is just a number, nobody feels like that here, even things like how we process our tips, we literally split it for everybody who’s worked that shift, everyone gets an even portion whether you’re washing pots, whether you’re the head chef, the experienced cocktail bar tender, or you come in and you clean the restaurant at the end of the night. Everyone has played a part in that service.
Whether our customers have had great service on the floor, or they’re looking at a great plate of food, somebody’s cleaned the plates, somebody’s polished that cutlery, everybody’s played their part and I think for us it really is a family, both here and in other hospitality jobs I’ve had.
It’s so close knit, everyone knows each other so in depth because, well we work ninety hours a week, but it’s such a fun and enjoyable job, you do get satisfaction, you feel exhausted at the end of it but it’s just so worth it.