Interview with Tracey Matthews, COO of Gaucho Restaurants
Caroline Gaunt, Principal Consultant in our Hotels, Leisure & Travel sector, met with Gaucho Restaurants’ Chief Operating Officer Tracey Matthews.
Your mantra is that “every guest should experience a little bit of Argentine life through food, wine, culture and the passion of the people.” With 12 restaurants in London, 3 in the UK regions and 3 internationally, how have you continued to move the brand forward so successfully?
The key to Gaucho’s success has always been to continually look for what we can do better and to create an experience rather than simply a meal. This means that we are passionate about being aware of current and future trends for both our existing and future clientele.
And what about Cau – what is the synergy with the 2 brands?
GAUCHO is the seduction of the tango hall combined with the provenance and the beauty of the GAUCHO whilst CAU is the heart, soul and spirit of Buenos Aires with a twist. Simply, Argentina is a vast diverse country which has the versatility to present itself in a number of different ways.
Having been Group HR Director prior to stepping into the COO role, can you explain how ‘people’ continue to be at the heart of the Gaucho brand and what this looks and feels like?
The Hospitality industry is so special because of the diverse workforce that is employed within it. I believe that it takes incredible people to be successful and we have a responsibility to ensure that they receive the training and development they deserve to reach their potential. Gaucho’s Academy is the demonstration of our obsession to deliver this better than anybody else.
You’ve stated that you are excited at how to engage with the next generation. What do you observe, in this regard, and what do you feel you are experimenting with that resonates with this talent pool?
The next generation is far more committed to achieving a greater work-life balance than those before in hospitality. They seek recognition and development as much as they seek financial reward. They learn visually and will not be tied to a classroom. This generation does not seem to want to commit for many years and is our responsibility to embrace that energy whilst we have them.
Do you experience any different challenges relating to talent between the UK, Dubai and Hong Kong? What have you had to adapt in terms of your approach to people and culture in these locations?
Each international country has its challenges. HK is not as developed in terms of service as the UK, so finding exceptional individuals is more difficult, whilst Dubai has a certain lifestyle appeal to potential team members. Our focus on international recruitment has always been to have as many UK trained team members who are then offered the opportunity to travel internationally.
What are the issues that keep you awake at night relating to your business?
I have had the odd sleepless night because of Brexit and have been known to lose a few hours pondering both brands’ evolution. I tend to get some of my best ideas at 3AM.
How much influence do media restaurant reviews have in your business? What is the most positive experience you have encountered?
Being such an established brand, restaurant reviewers aren’t as frequent. But it was interesting to see the impact reviews had on our most recent opening in Birmingham. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from all reviewers has seen Birmingham cemented into the hearts of the locals at lightning speed.
Focussing as you do on the creative side of the brand, what would you most like to do moving forward?
I am excited as we continue the refurbishing programme of GAUCHO to see where the look and feel will head next, whilst at CAU, I really get to embrace the more playful side of my nature. My main focus is to ensure both brands keep surprising and delighting our guests.
COO, Gaucho Restaurants
I love what makes a restaurant tick, people and passion all thrown together in a pressure cooker. It doesn’t get to be more fun than that. Have grown up doing nothing but looking after guests whether as waitress, receptionist or bar staff. The only difference now is I look after people who look after the guests. Watching someone with no experience turn out to be awesome makes my day.