After several years working in some of the world’s most renowned kitchens with Gordon Ramsay and Rene Redzepi among others, Australian born Beau Clugston finally opened up his brainchild Iluka in 2018. We spoke with him and his restaurant manager Fanny to learn more about the essentials of building, managing and growing the best new seafood restaurant in Copenhagen.
What’s the story behind the opening of Iluka?
Beau: I grew up eating in restaurants like Iluka minus the quality, these types of restaurants do not exist yet in Copenhagen. Which is a bit of a shame, considering the country is surrounded by the sea. Having my own place is something I always dreamed about, and I am fortunate to have a couple of very good suppliers that deliver some of the best products that the cold waters can offer.
What do you believe is essential to build, run and grow a successful restaurant today?
Beau: First of all, you need to be brave and stubborn. To open your own place, as in my case with no investors, is a huge amount of hard work and financial stress. I am lucky to have a great team that supports me and the restaurant, as well a team that shares the same vision and is as well willing to work hard to reach our goals. When it comes to the quality of food, beverage and service, we do not compromise. Every day we do our best to serve the most delicious food we can, and to deliver a great experience to the guests.
What’s the main difference between having your own restaurant compared to working for others?
Beau: Complete freedom. At Iluka we have a rule that there are no rules. This really lets Iluka be dictated by our guest and not my ego. It also brings so much fun to the workplace as we are always adapting, moving forward and bettering the restaurant and ourselves.
How do you manage to inspire your team to deliver their best every day?
Beau: I give them Freedom to do their job without micromanaging. I have the best team around, and Iluka is as much theirs as it is mine. So we run the restaurant where everyone is equal and everyone knows their role. Having that freedom and responsibility really bring the best out of people.
What learnings about opening your own place would you like to pass on other like-minded chefs looking to open their own place one day?
Beau: What really helped me, was understanding the people and the city. I was very fortunate to have lived in Copenhagen for almost a decade before opening my restaurant. I essentially was a Copenhagener, so I had a fair understanding of what the city was missing. That was a product-driven restaurant only serving high quality, sustainable seafood and vegetables.
What restaurants are you inspired by at the moment in regards to the guest experience?
Beau: I don’t have a favourite restaurant or chef. I would say that any restaurant that is honest and cares for the guest and its product is a favourite restaurant of mine. If you are doing these things, then I’m guaranteed to have a great time.
What do you love the most about being a restaurant manager?
Fanny: I love to be challenged and to learn new things. Being a restaurant manager at Iluka, and part of opening the restaurant has enabled me to use my own experiences from other restaurants I’ve worked at and to gain new. Knowing all parts of the restaurant business makes my work more interesting, and no day is the same as the previous.
What does it take to be a great restaurant manager today?
Fanny: I think you have to be creative, as well as humble and passionate. Creative not only in creating a great experience for your guests but as well on a financial level to run a healthy business. Humble to others ideas and feedback, and of course, to be a good team worker. Question yourself and your decisions, and always aim to develop not only the business but also the team and yourself.
How has the role as manager evolved our time? What are some of the major differences you have noticed in recent years?
Fanny: Restaurants have always had some kind of hierarchy within their staff, which I kind of feel is getting weaker over the years; in a good way. Managers are of course a big part of organising and making big decisions, but the whole team at the restaurant is as important as the managers. This makes the restaurant more as a unit, where you together as a whole team grow better and stronger.
What’re some of the challenges combined with being a restaurant manager today?
Fanny: As a restaurant manager, you have to be in control of both the floor and anything that goes on behind the curtains. With that said, not only taking care of guests but also knowing how to manage the daily operation of not only front of the house but as well the back of the house.
Today guest is expecting a personalised experience every time they dine out. How do you manage to keep up with the ever-evolving guest expectations?
Fanny: My colleague Lorenzo and I have a long experience of working on the floor. We have gotten to a level of experience, where we are comfortable being ourselves when we take care of the guest. Iluka is our home, and we want our guests to feel it. Of course, we still question our way of handling guests, every day, and give each other feedback.
Can you describe your approach to hosting a great experience? What insights are you using to make this happen?
Fanny: To us, it is about understanding our guest needs on the night and giving them space or attention, adapting the menu to their mood, to their feelings or preferences. We have built a home for our team so its really important that the guest feels like they are coming into our house and being served as if there were family or best mates.
Any advice or learnings you would like to pass on to other restaurant managers?
Fanny: Be humble and care about your co-workers. Make the restaurant feel like your home, and greet every guest like it is your friend. When making systems for the running of the restaurant, make them as easy as possible for others to understand and follow. Ask for advice even if you are not in doubt. The input from your colleagues is very important. And of course, have fun!