“Sweat the small stuff”

What does it take to host a banging party? Perseverance, attention to detail and a strong identity, according to Inception Group founder Charlie Gilkes.

He’s one half of a duo known in Sloaney circles as the ‘Bunga Bunga boys’, but not for the reason you may first think. Charlie Gilkes, 30, and business partner, Duncan Stirling, 32, are the kings of London’s posh parties, heading up the Inception Group, which operates five quirky, themed clubs, including 1970s-style party pad Disco and Italian-themed Bunga Bunga in Battersea. But what, we asked him, are their secrets?

Don’t be apologetic about your concepts “With our nightclub Maggie’s, everything is 1980s themed, from the drinks to the décor to the staff outfits. We give it our all. Believe in your concept, because if you don’t, your customer won’t.”

Dare to be different “While an 80sthemed club won’t appeal to everyone, others will love it. Embrace that. If you’re going to have a strong identity, you’re going to polarise opinion, but in a big city, there will be enough people who will love it. Doing something different works.”

Sweat the small stuff “Attention to detail is a key element of a successful hospitality business – in fact, that’s true for any customer-facing business. And it’s not just about day-to-day standards of service, it’s about going the extra mile and putting in a bit of extra eff ort. We post handwritten birthday cards to all our members at Maggie’s and also send out Christmas hampers. One member said to us that his mother had forgotten his birthday, but we’d remembered.”

Double-check the details “I learned this when I was buying furniture for Mr Fogg’s. I thought I’d done really well when I got a grandfather clock for £30 on eBay, but I realised I’d not checked the dimensions when it turned up in a shoebox.”

Turnover is vanity, but profit is sanity “People talk about turnover a lot, but it’s profit that’s important. When we opened Bunga Bunga, it was turning over more than any of our other places, but when we got the first accounts, we realised it was actually making the least money. That kind of thing gives you a bit of a reality check.”

Perseverance pays off “We found a great old pub that was boarded up in a lane behind Berkeley Square. The landlord kept saying no to us buying it, and after the 10th rejection, I was ready to give up. However, my business partner [Stirling] kept on fighting for it. Two years later, we finally got it and opened Mr Fogg’s.”

Clearly define your USP “A unique selling point (USP) is about how you stand out from the crowd. When we signed the lease on Barts, our first bar, we took pictures of all the other bars in the area. When we compared them, they all looked exactly the same. Finding our own identity wasn’t too difficult after that.”

Recruit for attitude and train for skill “On the whole, you can teach people how to make a cocktail or carry a tray, but you can’t teach them a new attitude. We like to develop people – a lot of our general managers started behind the bar.”

Be (human) resourceful “Bunga Bunga is a fun, lively place, with entertainment, singing and dancing. To help maintain that atmosphere, we hire drama-school students as waiters and waitresses.”

Keep it simple “In Mr Fogg’s, we have a very simple food offering: cheese boards and toasted sandwiches. I’d rather offer something that’s done really, really well than lots of things that aren’t.”

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: https://ink-global.com/our-clients/portfolio/easyjet-traveller/