Bunmi Okolosi, Kajola2018/05/09
What’s it really like to start a business in hospitality? We started an interview series to find out.
This week, we talked with Bunmi Okolosi, Founder of Kajola, about why there aren’t more women in kitchens, the London dining scene, drinking in Amsterdam and BLOODY G&Ts!
You’ve worked in some of the best restaurants in London. What did you learn from LIMA, D&D and the Fat Duck?
It’s all about people.
And that people work for people in every case regardless of the hours you work or the salary your paid. I’m fortunate to have been schooled by a variety of different folk and able to learn a broad food, drink and hospitality skill set. Not a lot of people know this but I’m chef trained.
So, as someone that has seen both front and back of house, why do you think there are far more women front of house than in kitchens?
The environment is a big thing. And, unfortunately, men can be utterly sexist pigs, emotionally unbalanced and not able to manage both sexes correctly.
Fine dining has changed a lot over the past 10 years. Less white tablecloths aside, what’s shifted? And who do you think gets modern fine dining spot on?
The consumer! Be it the millennial or the baby boomer; we’ve all seen our understanding of things become much broader and we’ve challenged the business owner.
Well, I always love to see what Robin Gill is doing in South London. I love Jeremy Lee’s Quo Vadis and – in Amsterdam – I love Choux (amazing and a must) along with Marits Eetkamer.
"The corporate fat controllers got greedy and forgot to listen and forecast correctly"
You’ve written quite a bit about the state of the London restaurant industry. What’s the number one cause of the current fast casual malaise? And is there still room for growth in this part of the sector?
There will always be room for smart operators and people that listen and adapt. The main thing about the fast-casual malaise is that premium costs have rocketed, driven by increases in costs of goods sold, payroll and rent, and the corporate fat controllers got greedy and forgot to listen and forecast correctly.
And when you’re in London, where are you eating and drinking?
The Parlour in Kensal Rise or ABK. You should check them out.
I will. Tell us a bit about Kajola.
Kajola has been in my head since 2012.
Whilst working in the Michelin world, I realised that success is all about nurturing people to make the right decisions often under vast amounts of stress. My company is an International hospitality agency that helps with concept development, business rescuing, strategy and funding. But I spend most of the time talking and imparting knowledge and multiple scenarios. Be it on the telephone at all times of the day (ask the wife) or conducting face to face meetings – the aim is always the same to help nurture that person or persons.
And, as an agency, that’s what really makes us different: Our aim is to nurture.
Last one, what is everyone drinking in Amsterdam these days?
Still BLOODY G&Ts! Which I don’t really get. Amsterdam is years behind London in so many ways but at the same time is completely and utterly unique and they embrace ‘newness’.
The Dutch love a concept!