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A day in the life with: Ceviche founder Martin Morales

Martin Morales is driven by his genuine, authentic mission

Martin Morales is an award-winning Peruvian restaurateur, chef, author and entrepreneur. In 2012, he kick-started the Peruvian food revolution in London with his first restaurant, Ceviche. His business, Ceviche Family, now includes five other award-winning boutique restaurants, a record label, an art gallery and a YouTube channel. He walks us through a typical day.

My day actually begins the night before – around midnight – when I read the daily restaurant report. That shows me the key financials – sales, costs and margins – against our targets. I also get customer experience KPIs as well as any new feedback or reviews we’ve had. I know it might not be everyone’s idea of bedtime reading but I like to use that snapshot as a way to shape the next day and focus where I can have most impact.

Set your mindset for the day

First thing in the morning I meditate for 15-20 minutes. When I go into the restaurant, I want to make sure I’m in a positive, happy frame of mind with a smile on my face. No matter what else is going on, my aim when I walk through the door is to support and reward my team, celebrate achievements of any size and help them be the best they can be.

I say hello to every single person, from the porter and the pot washer to the head chef and restaurant manager. I ask how they are, if they’re enjoying their work, what else they need and how I can help. We have daily and weekly catch-ups with different teams but this informal kind of communication is just as important.

Congratulate people on yesterday

My priority is then to congratulate people on a job well done from the previous day. I share any positive sales stats, good customer feedback or rave reviews we’ve had in. The team is trained – and incentivised through our bonus system – to care deeply about customer satisfaction. They’re trained to notice things, talk to customers, find out what they’re thinking and feeling.

That means our staff are deeply invested in customer experience. We also look at the negative feedback of course, focusing on how to fix it, whether we need to apologise to a customer for example. We also run mystery diner programmes to make sure we are capturing a good picture of the experience we’re giving customers.

Listen to Martin’s top three hospitality tips

A long journey to leadership: Martin has had a long and fascinating journey to business leadership. Born in Lima in 1973 to a Peruvian mother and an English father, he’s been cooking since the age of nine and is a self-taught chef. Before starting his business, he worked as an international DJ and a music industry executive. Find out more on this timeline

Interrogate the problems

A big part of my day is asking questions about our product. The daily reports show me how a problem might be presenting itself, but they hardly ever reveal the root of the problem – it’s my job to find out what that is. For example, if one of our new dishes isn’t selling well, or keeps coming back to kitchen, I’ll look into it and it’s not always the obvious answer.

How are we describing it on the menu or website? Is it value for money? We’ll ask if we’ve missed a trick or a trend. We’ll ask if any of the ingredients are putting people off, see how it sits with other dishes, look at ingredient quality, review the ingredient journey. And of course, I’ll taste things, smell things, look at things.

“Eyesight, hearing, taste buds, this is my core skillset.”

Look at loyalty in four ways

After lunch I often spend time with new recruits or interview potential candidates. People who gravitate towards Ceviche Family – and people who do well – are always interested in our mission, our purpose. They want to know what we stand for, what the culture’s like, how we behave. So, I’m always keen to share my vision with them and find out what inspires them too.

I believe we have to look after our people in four ways: emotional, creative, intellectual and financial. Yes, there are important conversations about pay and my goal is always to get to a place where we’re all excited and comfortable about that. But for retention and a happy culture, it’s important to make sure people are creatively and intellectually stimulated, as well as fulfilled emotionally. What touches our hearts once the bills are paid?

Inspired by Martin? Before you keep reading on, hear his 90-second manifesto that guides all of his important decision making

Martin on staff motivation: “What touches our hearts when the bills are paid?”

Open up to outside influence

Later in the day, I try to get outside the business, physically and mentally. I’ve always had a curiosity about other industries, organisations, products, consumers and the way we live in general. I read the restaurant and hospitality trade press, but I’ll also look at broader media like The FT, The Express, The Observer. Yesterday I even looked at the Greenpeace manifesto. It’s good to feed your mind and body with a varied diet.

I’m part of two entrepreneur and CEO groups where I give and get a lot of advice and mentoring. I also go and see what our competitors are doing, travel to food festivals and food courts which always sparks off new ideas, new dishes, new ways to combine food with entertainment. I believe in touching, tasting, hearing, feeling – and listening, listening, listening!

To hear more from Martin Morales, watch our Hospitality Masterclass video below.

Further reading, watching and listening:

Martin Morales led a masterclass as part of Be the Business’ Cornwall Hospitality Leaders Network. Formed in 2018, the programme was designed to make Cornwall home to some of the best hospitality businesses in the country. Learn more about the programme here.

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