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Mikhail Zelman, the man behind Burger&Lobster on his first McDonald’s hamburger and selling 5,000lbs of lobster a day
Mikhail Zelman is certainly one of the most successful restaurateurs in London. His company Global Craftsman Group (GCG) includes 13 Burger&Lobster chains, 3 Goodman steakhouses, Smack Lobster Roll, Rex & Mariano, and Beast, which only serves Canadian crab and Nebraska-fed beef, writes FinBuzz.
Zelman’s business started in London, but now seven more restaurants will open, one in Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE. Mikhail invited Gyuzel Gubeydullina to interview him at his Mikhail Zelman School of Success office. Here, aspiring restauranteurs are taught how to welcome guests, choose meat, and cook the world’s best burgers and lobster.
In fact, there is no menu, just two options: a burger or lobster.
In London, it is expected to have to wait for a table, but it is rare to see a queue of people lined on the streets in the rain for a lunch. This is what I saw at the Burger&Lobster in City, near the Royal Exchange. Right now it is my favorite restaurant, but there is one but – you even need to book a table for lunch. But who knows the price/quality balance better than investment bankers, working here in City?
Soon the empire is set to expand. London’s chattering classes are talking about the (so far unconfirmed) news that the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), a sovereign wealth fund, has invested 30 mln pounds in Zelman’s business. If the rumours are true, they are understandable for them to be impressed by the fact that the total monthly revenues of his restaurants are between £50,000-140,000. In an attempt to understand the phenomenon of Mikhail Zelman, who before was a stockbroker in Russia, we went for an interview.
BEING A RESTAURANTER IN RUSSIA IN THE 1990s
Mikhail, tell us how it all began?
I finished school at age 14 in 1991 because I wanted to start working. In the 1990s, there were stores in Russia that were selling foreign stuff and everyone wanted to buy these things. I needed money to take girls out on dates, so I finished school as soon I could and went to work for my father — as a fitter-adjuster in the tool shop, where I stamped lids for the canning. I lasted only seven days. But I still remember my mentor Zura Mikhailovich.
What a great career! How did you get interested in restaurants?
I quickly understood that I had a unique opportunity to build my own business, do things that my father would have shot dead for. So I had this desire to make money and went to work for the Commodity Exchange, I was the youngest broker! I was trading vouchers for former Soviet factories that still produced and sold stuff like canned meat, machinery. Because of the weak economy, everything was sold on a barter basis. That year I bought myself my first car. Then I went deeper into business and started to organise logistics for the factories that were selling abroad. My older brother was already living in Israel. I visited him and was struck by when we ate at a Mongolian bar and grill After coming back to Moscow I persuaded a friend to open the same restaurant in Moscow. We called it Tamerlan. Working there I first realized that I had to be a restaurateur and that meat is my passion.
It all comes from the childhood. My dad — a very welcoming character. We always had guests at home, laughing and enjoying homemade barbecue from a hand selected meats.