Interview with Temper Restaurant Owner Sam Lee
We spoke to Temper Restaurant co-owner Sam Lee about leading and motivating a team, the challenges she faced when joining and what makes her tick.
Casper and Cole is the business behind Temper: the South American inspired restaurant and wine bars in Central London. The first Temper site in Broadwick Soho has a 7-seat taco bar upstairs with a good view onto Broadwick Street. Combined with the on-site butchery, Temper is a distinctive, rewarding and authentic dining experience for Londoners hunting for something new.
With a huge range of seasonal vegetables and salads, Temper use the best produce possible, served fresh with corn tortillas and made from heritage Mexican corn in-house. The carefully curated wine list focuses on new world wines selected to round out the dining experience, from affordable entry level wines to treats for the special occasion including plenty of ‘by the glass’ options and specials.
Neil Rankin launched Temper in partnership with Managing Director, Sam Lee. Neil pioneered London’s high-end barbecue scene and is well known for his experimental use of bold flavours, drawing on global influences.
What keeps me awake? Property!
Where to find it? Will it have the right licence? The question of how to balance location, licence and footprint size … Where do I compromise? Should I compromise (not really familiar with that sensation!). Great properties are a little like all transport … nothing … then a bus, plane, car and train are all going your way!
My early months in the new role were fabulously petrifying.
Team, product, suppliers, PR and marketing all needed looking after, along with the need for business adjustment where the ‘on paper, it looks ok’ rule, didn’t quite work. We had staff, menu and design tweaks to contend with and we decided to do all of this with a November opening so we made ground when Christmas arrived. Great for the waistline, not so good on the grey hair.
Brand development – make sure it’s thorough!
We’ve spent a lot of time on this and it’s been just that – very thorough. We’ve looked at design evolvement, menu, team and supplier support. What’s really interesting is that we’ve concluded that to be a successful brand we don’t need to have identical sites. We’ve evolved the menu and wine list so it’s right for the new location and demographic. We’ve employed a team who are location appropriate in their approach while retaining the Temper edge. The design of the restaurant has the same but different feel. We’ve played around with colour and style and tweaked all of things from site one that we feel we need to do that we maximise customer experience.
Grow your own team.
I have always believed it’s a good idea to have a blend of home-grown talent and new talent in your team at all levels. You need to have the security of a team who understand your culture, expectations, brand philosophy, growth expectations and service stands, along with a new team members who will challenge, enhance and bring fresh ideas and new ways of working to complement what is already in place. To ‘grow your own’ team effectively, it is key to have a structured and measured training plan in place for those individuals and to ensure it is monitored and adhered to.
Motivation is key to developing a successful team and seeing that there is development and, in turn, promotional opportunity without having to join a competitor, is critical. Continual development for those who don’t necessarily want promotion is also key. A competent, capable, credible team is essential both front of house and back of house.
Flexible working patterns for staff are crucial now.
We have a mixed team – some have children and others don’t. We try and offer working patterns that are as flexible as possible and meet the individual’s circumstances where we can but, because we are a 7 day-a-week business, we normally have a shift system to suit all. For working parents we try to accommodate school holidays and other key times. At interview we adopt a very open discussion policy that allows us to find out what the employee needs, not just what we need. There are some incredibly talented individuals out there who need a more specific work schedule because of their domestic commitments and its talent we want to attract, so if we need to be flexible we are.
I can only speak for my experiences but while in Asia I found it a very structured regimental approach with a strong emphasis on company culture and prescriptive ways of working. In the UK, and especially in our business, we want it to be more/try to make it more about individual contribution.
There is an overarching business plan but I am a big fan of letting people do their job, with that you have to lead, advise, motivate, encourage, guide and consult but not tell.
It’s not the Temper way that has to prevail but the best way and by giving those key staff the autonomy to make decisions and mould part of their role, being less prescriptive pays dividend. I really want the business to evolve as we grow not just get bigger with the same rules.
I’m a new world girl! … or a Sancerre. I have a pretty specific pallet and it leans to dry, fresh crisp wines. That said the wine list at Temper has tempted me to broaden my horizons and I’ve found myself liking red wines more as I was never a big red drinker – I didn’t think I liked it when in fact it was the boxed red supermarket own brand I tried as a teenager that put me off. The Barolo, Dagromi, Gaja (in a bottle) from our new wine list fares much better for me.
Neil and I own Temper but we are heavily investor backed by Imbiba. We have fantastic support from the board there but they also let us mould the business ourselves. A key example of my earlier point that when you allow everyone to do ‘their’ job and develop their role it really works.
My proudest moment
There have been a number of lovely moments so far. The press have been very kind to us and the critics even more so – always a heart stopper to turn around and find Jay Rayner sitting at your counter. However just last week we made no.34 in restaurant magazines top 100 restaurants in the country. That was a pretty nice moment.
Owner / Managing Director
Sam joined Casper and Cole as Owner / Managing Director with over 15 years senior management experience. Successfully running her own events company in Asia, Sam gained valuable international business experience to add to her time managing some of the most prestigious venues in London. Working across restaurants, events and fine dining Sam has worked with some of the most respected caterers in London and Asia. She has vast knowledge and experience in company set up and business management.
Sam is also an experienced business coach and has worked with FTSE 100 companies across the globe.