What made you move from PE to the restaurant sector?
I'd worked in private equity for 12 years in a pretty intensive role. My learning curve was extremely steep and through the years working with Guy Hands, I'd learned a huge amount and it was incredibly exciting.
At the time, my kids were in their early teenage years and I was in the lucky position to be able to choose to step back a bit from the hectic pace of private equity life.
Where did the idea for the restaurant come from?
The business was set up with a very old friend of mine, Jerry Goldberg. The idea was originally inspired from a holiday when he visited a rotisserie restaurant near Barcelona where delicious, browning chickens going round on a spit captivated him. The sight and smell was very compelling.
What's behind the name?
A 'jack' is the original name for the mechanism of a traditional rotisserie and in Victorian times a clockwork version was invented that hung in front of the open fireplace, rotating to roast the meat. So a 'clockjack' is a clockwork spit.
How does your background in PE help you today?
One of the important things you learn in private equity is the need to take ownership of what's going on in a business. Private equity professionals, because they're managing other people's money, really must have that aptitude to be successful.
Another aspect of private equity is that it can give you exposure to a wide range of different sectors, businesses and management styles. If you're going into a sector where you've little prior experience, a PE background makes you understand that you definitely won't know everything. What's key is that you have to build a team that's got the right skills and experience that complements what you can bring.
Do you have a defining PE deal or moment?
Going back to the earlier days of Terra Firma, I think some of the work we undertook to transform our portfolio businesses was really significant and unusual in its extent for private equity firms at the time. For example, when we took Thorn plc, the consumer rental business, private there was extensive restructuring to unlock value and separate business streams. The pub portfolios that we worked on showed good returns from investing in run-down estates.
What do you miss the most about working full time in PE?
You're working with tremendously high-quality, bright, inspirational people, and while it's a rarefied atmosphere, it's also incredibly stimulating and I've never come across that anywhere else.
What do you miss the least?
The long hours and the pressure. It is an intense environment and while a bit of pressure is good, I think 12 years of it is enough! I'm quite happy to have a bit more of a balanced existence now.
Are the concerns keeping you up at night quite different?
Business success really relies on having the right people, so people issues are one. But the people issues in a start-up are quite different from what Terra Firma was doing with mature businesses that needed operational improvement.
I work quite a lot of hours, but I have much more flexibility now. I'm quite often up doing emails at one o'clock in the morning, but I like to have a long lie in bed sometimes as well.