Juliette: Working together was our best decision. We've been together since we were 13, got married at 19, and it's the icing on the cake. At 15, we put an ad in the local paper to do private dinner parties because we needed the money, and Russel would cook and I'd serve. Then Russel went to catering college, we got married, and, three kids later, we were 26 and we opened our first restaurant. We complement each other perfectly. I do the office and Russel does the creative.
Another good decision was to have our first staff party in February. We'd decided to have one because times were bad, and we thought it would be a good thing to get as many people together as we could. It was great for staff morale.
Four years ago, we started the Oscars of Giraffe, and we have them every year now. Everybody gets a vote for best manager, best assistant, best chef. We are recognising the people within our business who have done well. It's great for the staff - they feel that they are worth something.
OUR WORST ...
Russel: We once had an opportunity to open a restaurant in Camden Town, London. We had already opened the first Cafe Flo in 1997 in Belsize Park and someone offered me another site in Camden. It was a short lease, and we got in there for nothing. It seemed to give us the opportunity to do what we'd wanted to do.
We thought we'd make lots of money out of it, but it ended up costing us money. We opened it, traded for a year, then closed it down and handed it back to the landlord. Closing it down, paying off staff and trading losses cost us about £100,000.
Sometimes, the cheap-and-easy deals aren't always the best. Because we thought it was cheap, I suppose we never gave the Camden restaurant our full attention. If you spend more, you know that you've really got to make it work.
It was one of our worst decisions because £100,000 wasted early on in your business life is a lot of money. So the lesson for us was: pay more, do it properly and get the right location.