When and how did the idea for Mr Bao first come together?
Mr.Bao started as a post-it note between Frank and his friend Nick, after finding an old shoe shop for sale they decided to turn that note into reality. It said: "bao buns are awesome, start a bao restaurant”.
Who are the team at Mr Bao?
Our team is made up of a lively bunch of front-of-house and chefs. Our head chef, T, has been with us from the early days. Some of the team started as customers and fans and realised it was better to get paid to come and eat instead. This is our secret superpower to making our service personable and really engaging with customers.
Our core value is that if we look after our staff, they will look after our customers and they will look after us.
For the past year I’ve taken on a new role as Marketing Manager, Previously I was a Supervisor for 3 years.
What were you hoping to achieve?
The position was created to get people saying more good things about us, more often. We also interwove the sustainability side of the business and so far have switched all printed menus to recycled paper and have environmentally-friendly pencils.
We’re taking these changes in small (but important) steps and our next focus will be takeaway packaging, although it’s recyclable we can do better.
You have three restaurants — how do you differentiate them, beyond their location?
Mr. Bao is an extension of your own home, Daddy Bao leans into a traditional yet peculiar dining experience and Master Bao is fresh, energetic and faster than the other two.
What would you say is the ethos behind Mr Bao?
Our philosophy had always been based around people, and food - naturally. But maybe creating a little home from home could be something more powerful.
You describe yourselves as a family business — what does that mean to you?
Our core value is if we look after our staff, they will look after our customers and they will look after us. We couldn’t be prouder of our team for remaining so strong in such an uncertain time. They are an extension of our own family.
Much like a family (and unlike a chain restaurant), we work best when everything is equal - which is why you’ll see the owners serving tables or cleaning the bar.
Creating a little home from home could be something more powerful.
How would you describe the experience at your restaurants?
Our restaurants are informal & intimate, where we let the food & atmosphere do the talking. We aim to be your favourite spot where you and your friends meet for good times.
If your friends take others without you, they’ll be off the Christmas card list very quickly!
How have things changed since Covid?
Covid came around just as I hit the ground running but quickly re-aligned to help the business adapt to the new climate. This involved getting delivery services up and running, from logistics to becoming a live customer service system through our socials.
We recognised early on that our customers were coming to us to get away from the constant Covid noise (for an hour or two). One-way systems and ordering apps with multiple forms do nothing but detract from the experience that customers all hoped for. Even though the Health & safety of our customers and staff is paramount, changes didn’t need be intrusive.
Considering takeaway was brand new to the business, we all believed in it, even achieving the #1 ordered Deliveroo dish in Peckham with our Chicken Bao. Now things are starting to settle we’re re-focusing on our restaurant service since having a refurb during lockdown.
Are there lessons to be learned from all this going forward?
We consider ourselves lucky in that we have 3 restaurants in different parts of London, and a lovely loyal customer base. We'll be working to continue to look after these customers and of course gain new ones.
The lesson we're taking from all this is back to basics - focus on the team, the product and the hospitality we give.