September 14th, 2015

Meet the MD: Simon Potts, The Alchemist

By Suzy Jackson, BQ Business Quarter

Simon runs a hospitality company which values professionalism at all levels - the Alchemist, who have a new venture in Leeds. He tells us all about the MBO he was involved in, and why his in an industry in which you can never stop innovating.

Meet the MD: Simon Potts, The Alchemist

Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
I'm the MD of the Alchemist, I was part of a management buyout with Living Ventures and Palatine Private Equity earlier this year. My job is to deliver and maintain a high level of customer awareness and interaction through the Operations team for our busy existing estate. I also work closely with our Acquisitions Manager to identify new sites up and down the country as we continue to roll out the brand. The role covers everything in between but is great fun and hugely rewarding.

What is it the company does?
The Alchemist Bars and Restaurants are an all day haven - open for coffee, brunch, lunch, dinner and cocktails. The venues are beautifully designed and a sense of theatre underpins all that we do. We're a training company and the development of our people is core to our ethos.

What do you believe makes a great leader?
We teach professionalism to our teams at all levels, from managers to kitchen porters, through leadership by example. We are in the fortunate position to be opening venues at a great rate at the minute; so our preference for internal promotion and development is paramount - not just PR blurb, it's demonstrable and a clear progressive path for the individual creates a great buy in to the brand

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The redevelopment of our oldest site in Spinningfields Manchester in April; we closed and re-opened in a six-week turnaround - a normal build takes us twice this long. It was tough for all concerned, but we're delighted with the venue, it has doubled in size and covers and the response from our guests has made it all worthwhile.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I find that running is a great stress buster - not on a treadmill but getting out in the fresh air to get some headspace.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a footballer, I think that ship has probably sailed now though - I still play Sunday league, but I have to be air lifted out of bed on a Monday morning!

Any pet hates in the workplace?
The failure of success - you should never assume that you're made and sit around patting yourself on the back. Our industry is wildly competitive, no matter how hard you're pushing the envelope, other people catch up very quickly.

Where do you see the company in five years time?
We'll be at the back end of our joint venture with Palatine PE, the business plan is to have at least one site in every major city in the UK and we'll have grown the estate from 4 venues to 20+

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
The best way to manage is to find time to think, it's easier said than done; problem solving and innovation are the keys to continued success

Where did you start your career?
I was at University when I got my first job in hospitality. My friend was a chef at a restaurant over summer and got me in as bar tender. I learned more doing that job part time, than I did in my degree.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far.
I've been in the Living Ventures fold since 2004, back in the Living Room days - when it was in its pomp on Leeds' Greek St. I've worked with most of the companies established brands and opened both Australasia & Manchester House. I was put forward as the MD for The Alchemist as part of the MBO earlier this year.



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The Alchemist is open for morning coffee, brunch, lunch and dinner offering  everything Living Ventures are renowned for – excellent service, innovative cocktails and great food.