September saw some of our Soho team jet off to the Big Apple to gain some inspiration in the lead up to the opening of Six Storeys. We sat down with The Man in Charge - Shaun Johnston to find out a little bit more about their trip.
What were you on the hunt for?
Basically our time in NYC was spent trying to find the creative or innovate things that people were doing - something a bit quirky that stands out and is memorable. We went to a bar that presented the bill rolled up in a piece of bone marrow and I’ll always remember that. Those kind of things really stick with you so I think that’s the kind of thing that we were really looking for in our trek around the city. Also innovative drink concepts - if anybody was doing something different or creating unique infusions we wanted to find them because that’s our angle for Soho.
Did you find it?
Yes and No. I think we were looking for something a little bit more than what we saw. The things that did standout were in the places that had really gone to town but there was clearly a leap in expense that was used to create these points of difference. There was no real middle ground on a conservative budget end when it came to creative solutions. What it did do though was confirm to us that we were on the right track and cemented our confidence in what we were already delivering. We certainty aren’t lagging behind in any way.
How many places did you visit?
Collectively between us, honestly I couldn’t give you a number. We would often split up for a few hours then come back in the evening so some days between us at least 30 venues per day which is a pretty mean feat across four days. We would chat about our experiences, what we found, stuff we liked, what was recommended which would in turn inform how we would spend the next day. Places like Beauty and Essex which was such a beautiful experience and after an amazing dinner we discovered on the way out they had sister venues so we got cars and we ended up going to places that initially hadn’t been on our radar.
What was the highlight of your trip?
The level of service everywhere. It was very comfortable and colloquial - there was no stiffness or barrier between customer and server. Everyone we encountered was very engaged, knowledgeable, informed and passionate about what they were doing which was nice.
Any pleasant surprises?
Definitely the places that hadn’t been on our radar. Those personal recommendations from bar staff took us on a tangent that was well worth it. Another was again the confidence in what we were doing, the ethos of Camm and Hooper and our creative approach to things. That was nice because it just felt like we were really on the right track and gave us the motivation to keep moving forward in the same direction.
What is your biggest takeaway from the trip?
That engaged service, that really personal but not in-your-face genuine interaction with people. They were happy to have a bit of fun with us and be cheeky to entice us into ordering things that perhaps we wouldn't have thought of. That’s the thing I would really like to utilise and get across to the team. That it is all about that connectivity. Being able to read the customer, finding out instantly whether they are happy to engage with you more personally or not. We want people to feel as if this is their local and a place you want to come back to time after time. We want to really capture that relationship with people and make it really honest, heartfelt and welcoming.
From what you saw/ate/drank - how much of the NY vibe will you be injecting into Six Storeys?
As much as possible really. Embracing the concept that the building itself is a journey and worth the wait to view it all. Which is what a lot of places in New York are doing whereby you start off in one room, have a drink while you wait before being able to begin the next part of your adventure through the venue. Really engaging people even if you can’t offer a table right away but being able to offer an alternative. Also creating that anticipation really builds excitement about the place. I think utilising as many floors as we can for that and getting people to see the building - especially when we first open - to engage the regulars with the events offering that we do is really important.
What should we expect from Six Storeys?
The only expectation is to not have any. That’s what I’ve been trying to instil with the staff. Although we’ve all got loads of experiences from difference places certain ways of how things are done, what I really want to do is take all those walls away and see the bigger picture. Looking at tasks such as polishing a glass and trying it three different other ways to see if we can make it fun, engaging and efficient. Obviously that is a really small example but I think taking that essence and applying to how we approach things will be really beneficial. I think by doing so and exploring further than the confines we work in, we might discover really innovative and interesting concepts that will make us stand out.