With a career that includes stints in top restaurants in the UK, Canada and Dubai, Matthew Randall knows a thing or two about running restaurants. Here he gives us an insight into the philosophy behind the iconic Rex Whistler Restaurant as well as his thoughts on how to provide great hospitality and make the most of marketing.
Tell us a bit about yourself and responsibility at the restaurant?
I joined Rex Whistler back in June 2016, prior to that I had spent over four years working abroad in Dubai and Canada. I’m responsible for the day to day operation of the restaurant as well as overseeing the running of the Tate’s members facilities.
What’s the philosophy behind the restaurant concept?
Rex Whistler has a long and and distinguished history, the dining room first opened back in 1927 and features a mural painted by the interwar artist Rex Whistler who tragically died in 1944 fighting on the Normandy beaches. The mural tells an imaginary story of a hunting party setting off in pursuit of rare meats from the mythical ‘Duchy of Epicuriana.’
The venue has changed over the years, from a refreshment room to a restaurant that is well known for its strong wine programme today. The menu features the finest seasonal British produce alongside a carefully selected wine list featuring a combination of old world classics and new world options. I really believe that the quality of food, the restaurant ambiance and our impressive wine programme make us a unique venue.
How do you create and deliver great hospitality?
At Rex Whistler, our guests range from loyal regulars who have been visiting the restaurant for many years, to Tate members and tourists visiting the gallery. To cater to this diverse audience we look for team members who have a genuine warmth and high level of customer engagement. We really encourage our team to show allow their personalities to shine through as they care for our guests.
What keeps you up at night?
We’re set in a historic building and have a very traditional setting, as such a key challenge and opportunity for us is to attract new guests. We have been doing a lot of work to enhance our online presence to make more people aware about Rex Whistler. The restaurant itself has a loyal, core following however, we have to find ways of ensuring new guests can find us.
What’s currently happening at the restaurant?
We have just completed a very successful Christmas season, we welcomed back many of our loyal customers and showcased some great wines. Now that Christmas is over, we’re now preparing for the highly anticipated David Hockney exhibition which launches at Tate Britain on 9th February.
How do you leverage your location and relationship with Tate to drive traffic to the restaurant?
We put together seasonal menus and monthly wine events which celebrate art that is displayed in the gallery, we also create and tailor a range of special offers to accompany certain exhibitions. We’re fortunate in that the Tate has a large database of members and visitors and we are able to use this to showcase our upcoming menus and special wine events.
What are the top three marketing tactics your restaurant uses to tell its story and drive reservations?
- We are actively engaged with third-party and online partners, we find that these relationships help to bring new guests to the restaurant as diners use these sites as a way of finding out information about the venue before dining.
- We also host monthly wine and art dinners which draw a loyal following. These monthly events add a degree of variety to our usual offering, and give people the chance to try something new. Our regulars often entertain their friends at these events so it’s a great opportunity to introduce ourselves to new people.
- Because we offer value and great quality and consistently deliver on these promises we know that our Sunday lunch is always very popular, regardless of what is showing in the gallery. So we spread the word. You should always celebrate what you do best and tell people about it.
What is your best advice for aspiring restaurant managers?
Always be passionate about what you do and follow that passion.
Photo credit to Tate Catering/James Munson