"We had an idea, Chris Barber helped us develop and bring it to market,
we look forward to working further with Chris."

Jane Botros, Head of external communications, Pizza Express

About us

Chris Barber – Lead Consultant (biography)

Chris leads all consultancy projects in tandem with the Leiths senior team and their massive network.

Who is Chris Barber – and what does he know?

Chris Barber in an interview with food writer and LFS freelance consultant David Lancaster:

‘One of the main things I do know is that often the difference between success and failure is really marginal,’ says Chris. ‘It’s amazing how many times people have come within a whisker of something working, making money, and delivering a successful product, only to fall at the final hurdle.’

Like what?

‘Often it’s really difficult to objectively analyse your own business. You’re too close and too busy.’

‘For example, when I was running and cooking at The Goose in Oxfordshire I couldn’t have told you what my GP (gross profit) was at any time. And I should have known – you’re working completely in the dark if you don’t know.’

‘Now, control of costs is one of the first things I look out for. Chefs are passionate people, and they need to be, but this can blur their vision of what will work in a certain location, at a certain cost, and therefore profit.’

‘It’s often the same with chefs and owners getting a review from a critic,’ adds David. ‘It’s nearly always a surprise, even if it’s not overly critical’.

The reason?

‘Chances are friends and family have eaten at a place, made positive noises and said how nice it is, but they won’t offer the same level of criticism as a critic.’

‘One of the most useful things we can help with is eating at a restaurant anonymously – just as a critic would – and compiling a confidential report. It’s a great resource for a chef and an owner to pick up on things, correct a weakness, or make more of their strengths, before thousands of people read about it in The Sunday Times.’

So, who is Leiths Food Solutions  aimed at?

‘Helping any food-related business that is under-performing,’ says Chris, ‘and developing and delivering food concepts to emerging opportunities such as galleries, museums, public spaces, sports arenas.’

So, you can help win new business?

‘Yes, we can. There are some great opportunities in the growth of catering and hospitality industry in sports arenas for example,’ according to Chris. ‘The run-up to the Olympics is part of this, but there’s a general uplift in what people expect, and what they are prepared to pay whilst attending an event. We can generate a first class business plan if, for example, you are interested in pitching for outside catering work, at a local football club.’

‘Or, it can be something as simple as Chris spending a week re-training and energizing a kitchen, for example,’ adds David. ‘He’s been there, done it, run a hotel, restaurant, pub, cooked for the Royal family. Chances are he’s found a way through the very same problems most operations will have to deal with.’

OK, but what if the product’s right, the customers leave happy, but there’s not enough of them?

‘As a food consultant, I’ve been on the receiving end of thousands of press releases,’ says Chris. ‘They often end up in the spam box or unread. It’s the same with any of the major restaurant critics; they’re inundated with them.’

‘We can help build a marketing and media strategy that wins business, builds a reputation and makes every pound count. I’ve seen too many small operations waste money on ill-conceived publicity campaigns. We have a small group of media partners whom we trust and have worked with over years and, if the product is right, we can raise the long-term profile of a business.’

OK – so you reckon you can help turn a business around, and help move it on. But what about a guy with a sum of money and the burning ambition to run a pub? Or a new restaurant concept? Are you going to talk him out of it?

‘Well, there is a saying: how do you make a small fortune out of restaurants? Easy, start with a large one,’ says Chris.

‘And there’s some truth in that. But often, it’s because the idea is wrong to begin with; the chef’s wrong; the numbers are wrong; and the location’s wrong.’

‘And the people behind it only discover this when it’s too late and the money’s run out. Often, new owners will have eaten in the best restaurants all their life. They’ll be real fans of great food. Well, just because you’ve driven a Ferrari, doesn’t mean you know how to service one.’

‘It’s essential to have sound advice at the start-up and pre-opening phases. Essential. The best concept in the world, in the best location, will falter if the business plan is wrong,’ says Chris.

‘We’ll help you generate a solid plan that will realistically plot the course of your venture through the first five years, providing a platform for growth and taking into account the inevitable ups and downs that any start-up will experience.’

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