August 10th, 2011

A delicious recipe for success: add Bacon

Tim Bacon goes from success to success with his restaurant ventures in the North-West. The Gent profiles a living legend in hospitality.

A delicious recipe for success: add Bacon

You know the joke. If you want to make a small fortune in (choose your industry), start with a big one.
The restaurant business is just such a sector. The road to success as a restaurateur is lined with countless spectacular accidents and heroic failures. We’ve seen Hollywood actors dabble, only to beat a hasty retreat. We’ve seen celebrity chefs driven to the point of bankruptcy.

But here in the North West, we’ve also seen entrepreneurs such as Tim Bacon. Bacon has repeatedly negotiated the pitfalls, and shrugged off trifles such as chronic recessions to create hugely successful operations, with price tags to match.

In December 2005 the Sunday Times identified Bacon’s Living Ventures as the fastest growing company in hospitality. That year he sold his hugely successful Prohibition in Manchester for £2.75m. Two years later, buyers started circling after the phenomenal success of his Living Room brand. It sold for £28m.

Australasia: a frightening success
As we sit down with Tim we fully expect our interview to be punctuated with ringing
phones, pinging Blackberries and PAs looking pointedly at their watches. It goes with the territory with successful businessmen - but not a bit of it here. Tim exudes the air of man who, swan-like, glides effortlessly from task to task. Albeit there’s a lot of paddling going on under the surface: he and co-founder Jeremy Roberts are now concentrating on a rebranding exercise of the remaining 15-strong estate with two new brands: Blackhouse Grills and Gusto Restaurant and Bar.

As if that isn’t enough, they have also scored notable successes in the heart of Manchester with The Alchemist and Australasia – the latter described by Bacon as “the most terrifying project to date”.

It wasn’t so much the size of the project (he’s done bigger) but the concept itself that got his adrenaline pumping. Australasia brings fine-dining, a different type of menu and a very different way of eating to the city.

Of course, he needn’t have worried. Manchester flocked, and keeps flocking, to the prime location that sits right underneath Armani’s beautiful store on Deansgate.

After you step into the wedge shaped glass entrance (originally conceived as a waterfall, until even Bacon baulked at the cost) you sweep down a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers staircase. All that’s missing is a Busby Berkeley dance troupe to greet you at the bottom. It’s big, bold and ambitious, with cuisine and service to match.

The people factor
At the heart of their success is an acute understanding of how people want to feel. Bacon says: “I consider our restaurants to be public spaces, where people can feel relaxed and comfortable. I want to create places where a woman can walk through the door on her own and not feel intimidated or threatened in any way.”

Indeed, theirs is a people-focused company. He adds: “We only employ nice people... they share the same beliefs and passions as I do. They are all given the freedom to express themselves and to always go that extra mile for our customers.”

And for their next trick...
It almost seems the wrong way round, but from the large scale and opulent, Bacon’s next venture brings things back to basics: the pub. He says: “I’ve never done the pub thing before but I always wanted to.”

And so to the Oast House, which is planning to open it’s doors on the 10th October in Spinningfields and promises to be a beer drinker’s heaven. Tim: “It will have 36 different types of beer...but real drinkers know their stuff so we have to get the cask ales spot-on. Otherwise I’ll be in trouble...”

Away from Living Ventures life

• Tim is married with two children, seven and four
• He enjoys his sport:
Cricket and Rugby being the
most important and admits to only a mild interest in football. Man Utd, only because they’re on his doorstep though! And his London team, well we’ve all got one, are Tottenham.

The Gent Magazine - Issue 1 - Autumn 2011

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