Independent casual dining restaurant, Maray, began its journey back in 2013 after three friends felt inspired by the Middle-Eastern eateries experienced on a trip to Paris.
With continued success, including restaurant of the year at the Merseyside Business Awards 2018, the much-loved Liverpool brand will be opening their third site this Summer. However, the team don’t plan to stop there.
We’re talking with co-founder, James Bates, on their experience so far, what it takes to run a growing business and what the future holds for Maray…
Tell us about the Maray brand and what visitors can expect to experience during their visit…
We believe people connect with our brand because they can see the care that goes into what we do, and most importantly the experience we portray on social media is exactly what is delivered in real life. This unwavering commitment to quality and an authentic connection is the reason our popularity continues to grow year on year.
How did the journey start?
The Le Marais district and more specifically Rue Des Rosiers, is home to many great Middle-Eastern eateries. So by day we ate falafel, shawarma and tabbouleh, and by night we drank cocktails. We got home and decided to try and create a restaurant where great cocktails were served alongside interesting, but accessible food in a casual environment.
How did you first find the experience as new business owners?
Primarily, we wanted to create a restaurant that we would want to go to, so it was a passion project – we made many mistakes in those early days and that allowed us to hone our craft.
With the oversupply in the casual dining sector of the restaurant market now, I’m not sure that if we had opened in 2019 we would have had the time to get things right like we did. We feel grateful every day that our two restaurants are busy, and people seem to really like what we do.
Five years later and the business is doing extremely well. What has been the most memorable moment so far?
But, putting the shutters down after the first nights service and having a beer with all of the staff, still trumps any of it. I still remember vividly the feeling, it was somewhere between disbelief that we had somehow pulled off a service and paying guests had left happy, and sheer euphoria that nothing went wrong!
Now, with further expansion on the horizon, it’s critical to ensure management runs smoothly and efficiently.
What solutions do you have in place to ensure that’s the case?
The Tevalis Ecosystem is going to become even more crucial as we grow. In a nutshell, it allows us to give the general managers autonomy to run their sites, with controls and systems which give us as a management team, peace of mind that they are doing so properly.
With technology in mind, what do you think the future holds for tech across FnB businesses?
Self-service ordering looks like it will take off in a big way, albeit probably at the fast-casual end of the market first, rather than casual dining. Causal and fine dining restaurants need to be careful not to dehumanise the experience of eating out – at the end of the day, their guests are paying a lot of money and expect a level of service that a piece of software simply can’t provide. Tech needs to supplement hospitality and not replace it.
What key piece of advice would you give to teams looking to begin their journey with a new business venture?
I have a much better work/life balance now, but there are still weeks when I work 7 days and have to prioritise the business over social events.
Also, you need to know your numbers inside out. Without solid foundations and financial planning, it’s not really a business that you’re running.
What’s next in the pipeline for Maray?
We’ve been looking for a site in Manchester for over a year now and we’re getting closer on that – all going well we’ll open a restaurant in Manchester in Spring 2020…