How I Got Here: Tom Brooke

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Tom Brooke Red Dog Saloon barbecue

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Tom Brooke opened the first Red Dog Saloon on Hoxton Square back in 2010. The six-strong group is now a national player with sites as far flung as Liverpool and Southampton.

Why restaurants?
I love food. Simple as that I love cooking and eating. This is my passion so it was really the only business I could have ever been in.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Have a thick skin, you are going to need it. 

What do you do in your spare time?
I love cooking with my children. The day my daughter came to the restaurant and cooked her first burger was a really special moment. Other than that I play golf and I have also developed a bit of an addiction to playing and watching darts.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
My favourite restaurant has to be Esarn Kheaw. It’s a tiny little Thai family restaurant in Shepherd's Bush. The mum does all the cooking. It's spectacular.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
I’m an entrepreneur at heart. So I would be in business of some kind. The technology market has boomed over the last ten years so I would try to find a good angle there. I don’t have the ability to grind out a nine to five office job.

What motivates you?
When the food is coming up on the pass and it looks stunning, the restaurant is full and the customers are smiling having a great time. It’s a really special feeling to think all your hard work, blood, sweat and tears over the years have been worth it.

Where was your last holiday?
We go whenever we have time to my wife’s country house in Suffolk. 

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I was inspired growing up by watching chefs on television. My favourite was definitely the Roux brothers. Their skill, attention to detail and passion was infectious.

What keeps you up at night?
When you have your own business you are always going to worry. Everything falls on your shoulders. Whilst the success is the best feeling in the world, failure is the worst. Having one successful restaurant is an amazing achievement. Keeping it successful is equally as hard. Then try multiplying that by six restaurants, three kids and one beautiful wife. 

Worst business decision?
Opening a fast food restaurant in Lakeside shopping centre.

Best business decision?
Buying the lease to my first restaurant at the height of the financial crisis.

What are you reading at the moment?
I don’t have time to read. 

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
I think to achieve in this business you need to have a genuine passion for food and people. At the end of the day if your faking it you won’t survive.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
The explosion of delivery companies. These companies have stopped people going out to their local restaurants as its so easy to sit on your sofa and get them delivered to your door. Whilst this is great for the consumer in the short term it puts tremendous strain on the restaurants as these companies charge restaurants a high amount for their services. This is putting restaurants out of business and obviously long term this is bad for everybody including the customers.


1983 Born in London 
Studied economics and business at Newcastle University
2006-2008 Manager in training for D&D
2008-2010 General manager at Carluccio's
2010-2011 Events manager at Splendid
2011-present Managing director at Red Dog Restaurants 

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