Nathan Woodhead moved from the food business to the creative industry – and found that they’re not dissimilar
In late 2009 I left my comfortable and exhausting job working in a senior management role with an independent group of pubs and restaurants across the capital – I’d been there for what felt like 10 years. For the past three years I’ve been working at a creative agency in Soho, London. It’s called the Brooklyn Brothers and I started out as a copywriter. A far cry from the work I’d been doing over the prior few years.
When I first arrived I had no idea what I’d let myself in for; I’d never really worked in an office before, let alone a creative one where entrepreneurism was to be encouraged not avoided, and everyone was free to do what they needed to get the job done.
Day one in the office was a little scary (actually, when I say day one I mean month one). Firstly I couldn’t quite get to grips with the idea of not having a thousand things to think about. I was there to write. That was all. So write I did.
The first six months flew by and the project I’d been so gleefully writing copy for had well and truly kicked off. I’d gone from writer, to art director, client handler, content management expert and social media boff. I’d also become fluent in PowerPoint, which surprisingly or not is the last thing on this list I thought I’d ever be. I’d found myself in an environment where everyone did what they needed to in order to get the job done. You might be employed as head of accounts, but if you’ve got a flair with a glue gun you’re making props for Monday’s shoot. Anyway, it was about this time when I realised – it may have looked different from the offset but the way it all works is remarkably similar.
Ultimately, both creative agency and restaurant are selling something, and in order to do that they have to sell themselves. There’s a head chef and creative director, both responsible for a team of people who craft something and together achieve a signature style – a texture to what they do.
A role of general manager is much like that of ‘The Producer’, and one venue (site, restaurant, pub, whatever you’d like to call it) is just the same as working on one account. You make sure that the money works and what you’re creating is what the client/customer wants whilst still satisfying the creative director/head chef’s needs and obligation to provide the very best.
There’s the client too, or in my past life the operations director. This is where the buck stops and where the money comes from. This is also the most important relationship you can invest time into. Had I known the value of this investment during my days in the restaurant world I think I would have been twice as good at my job.
What I learnt is that to make an idea happen you need to present it in the right way, be that molecular cod with crispy chicken skin or a 30-second TV script.
What I’ve really learnt is this. Whether you work as a waiter or a graphic designer, the reason you’re there at all is because someone thinks you are better than them at something, if not now then some day. And serving someone a table brimming with food or a deck full of ideas isn’t so different. It takes time to craft your product – you have clients to please; targets to meet. You need to understand your audience, but most importantly of all you need to breed a culture that is felt by everyone who comes near it. A culture that welcomes you in and makes you want to eat from the same table.