Patience is Key to Buying a Restaurant

Chef Andrew Birch, along with his wife Rachel, have taken the plunge that so many chef couples have taken in the past and committed themselves to a future as patrons of a rural restaurant.

Together they’ve bought the old Checkers restaurant in Montgomery in Powys, Wales, that was run successfully for many years by husband and wife team Sarah Francis and Stéphane Borie and Sarah’s sister Kathryn. They were collectively known as The Frenchman and Famers’ Daughters.

“I fell in love with Montgomery when I was in Powys researching for Great British Menu,” Birch told The Chefs’ Forum. “The restaurant had been up for sale since 2017 and the price had come down low enough for us to be able to put in a bid. We were successful but it came with a catch. It was late 2020 and the previous owners had just signed a letting agreement for holiday lets for an extra year. The last tenants move out on Monday and that’s when we move in.

“It’s been a long process but we’re excited and looking forward to being our own bosses. It’s funny but we are very similar to Stéphane and Sarah. My wife was a working pastry chef like Sarah and we both have young children. Also, our planned opening date of the 11th March is the exact same day they opened back in 2011. We are going to keep the same name. It has a history and a good reputation we hope to keep going.

“We’ve reduced the size of the restaurant dropping from 50 to 30 but will keep the same emphasis on local and excellent but we want to keep the same informality even though fine dining is still what we want to focus on.”

Birch’s last job was at The Savoy Grill for Gordon Ramsay having previously been exec chef at a string of high-profile country house hotels.

“My friend Matt Worswick, the exec chef at The Savoy Grill, knew I was going to be open The Checkers and he knew that I was having to be patient. With all the staff shortages going on he got me in to work for 6-8 months.

“Everyone, including Gordon Ramsay, knew I was only going to be there a short time, but they couldn’t have been kinder. Gordon asked what he could do to help, and in the end, introduced me to a whole host of advisors. I’m very grateful to him and Matt.

“The Savoy Grill is a very busy restaurant and it was a pleasure to work there and learn about the operation. However, after many years in a management position I am looking forward to getting back to the cooking that I love.”

Andrew Birch spoke to Chandos Elletson, The Chefs’ Forum Editor.