How I Got Here: James Sleater

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

James Sleater on opening the only coffee shop on Savile Row

Related tags Coffee London Casual dining Coffee shops

The co-founder of London tailors Cad & The Dandy on why he chose to enter hospitality and launch The Service - the only coffee shop on Savile Row.

Why a coffee shop? 
It's simply never been done on Savile Row before, nor has there been an industry meeting place. We all have a mild addiction to caffeine, so it seemed like a logical thing to connect the dots.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)? 
Sabor on Heddon Street, behind Savile Row. Mainly counter service with the perfect combination of exceptional good and incredibly friendly service. Somehow, they make a tortilla the best dish on the menu. This with a simple glass of white wine is my standard working lunch. 

What motivates you?
Simply to be the best I can be and to challenge the status quo. We work in an old industry that’s long needed a shake-up whilst protecting the craft and heritage. 

What keeps you up at night?
My mind is always active, thinking about what else can be done, the days ahead, but sometimes I need to remember to switch off. 

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Schumanns Tagesbar in Munich is a simple elegant coffee shop by day and cocktail bar at night. The blend of formality and friendliness creates the perfect dining experience any time of day. I hope when people come to The Service, they experience a similar thing. 

What time do you wake up?
At 7am on the dot. I’ve never set an alarm. I'm very lucky that my body clock always wakes me up on time.

How often do you check your email?
I’m on my feet all day and don’t spend that much time in our office but I still check my emails most hours. 

How do you let off steam?
Escaping to the country. I spend my life in the heart of London but there is nothing better than being in nature with my family walking the dog. 

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
Both have their merit, but a night on the tiles with good company, delicious food and drink would be the winner. 

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Octopus, it’s a simple dish with simple flavours but it's vital to spend the time cooking it right. 

Describe a typical Sunday?
Coffee, juice, croissant breakfast and a country walk. Followed by an open fire and a bottle of red wine in the evening.

What's your favourite holiday destination?
India, it's a marmite place no one ever sits in the middle but for me it's an incredible onslaught of the senses and an opportunity to explore new cultures, eat exquisite food and such a large country I don’t think I could ever get bored of visiting. 

What was your dream job growing up?
A farmer, I always wanted to work with my hands. The idea of creating something or producing something always seemed much more appealing than moving money around. 

What's your best business decision? 
Quit my banking job in finance and do something that I loved. Covid made us pivot slightly as a business and we launched our Ready To Wear collections. In 2020 we opened up our third location on Saville Row which is now a dedicated Ready To Wear shop.

And the worst?
Opting to work six days a week, which I still do 15 years on. I’m yet to truly learn my lesson.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
I was always taught to do the job that you want to get, not the job you were employed to do. But again, showing willing and leadership will invariably get you where you want to go. 

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
The mainstay of our business is our tailoring and I wish more tailors on Savile Row would open up their doors to opportunities and beat the collective drum louder about the amazing work and garments we create.

Related topics Casual Dining

Related news

Follow us

Hospitality Guides

View more