Getting to know you: Jon Wise

What do you currently do?

I am owner and General Manager of The Laughing Gravy Restaurant in Southwark. I manage all aspects of the business from accounts to front of house to sourcing the wine list and devising the menu with my head chef, Michael Facey.

What is the inspiration behind the business?

To create a fantastic restaurant for locals in the heart of SE1 but also to ensure that we attract diners from across London and beyond. With the food and service we want to over deliver and go beyond people’s expectations. I think people who have never visited us would imagine us to be a simple neighbourhood restaurant but I believe the food we serve goes way beyond that.

I always intended to offer top quality, inventive, high-end restaurant standard food in a relaxed, friendly and welcoming environment.  I wanted to avoid all the pretention and stuffiness of a lot of restaurants.

Who do you admire?

I think what Jason Atherton has done with his brand is utterly awe inspiring.  He has built a global brand and pushes the boundaries of the usual offerings.  But ultimately, at the heart of everything he does, is fantastic food.

I also admire all the independent restaurant owners out there who are battling every day to make a living in what is an increasingly tough market.

What defines your way of doing business?

I am very hands on and approachable.  I believe that hard graft brings great rewards and I’m not afraid of a long hard slog to get things done.

I also firmly believe in rewarding people that you work with and showing them how appreciative you are of what they have done.  It may be my business, but I can’t take all the credit for it.  

Looking back is there anything you would you have done differently?

In terms of my business, I would have taken on a bookkeeper from the outset.  At the beginning I was advised that I could do the accounts myself as well as everything else, but it’s impossible to keep a proper handle on your business like that.

While it was great to get my head in to every aspect of the company and to fully understand it all, I don’t think you can beat having full monthly accounts that allow you to track your expenditure and revenue and make immediate adjustments to fix any problems.

What advice would you give someone starting out?

Research your backside off and plan everything out as detailed as possible and don’t expect things to just come to you – you have to fight for what you want and believe in your product.

I enrolled in as many free courses as I could before I started the business – PAYE, payroll, tax, business mentoring… everything I could.