How I Got Here: Lisa Richards

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Lisa Richards founder of Margate's recently-relaunched GB-PIZZA-CO on how she came to work in restaurants

Related tags Pizza Casual dining Margate

The founder of Margate's recently-relaunched GB-PIZZA-CO on how she came to work in restaurants, her issue with WhatsApp groups, and challenging banter culture in the kitchen

Why restaurants?
A complete accident. I had been working in publishing since being at university, and was in love with every element of it: the writing, production, design, photography. In the heady days of blagging and freebies in the late 90s and early 2000s, I was flown around the world and served up Michelin-starred grub wherever I went. I loved it, especially the restaurant part of it. I loved the theatre, I loved being challenged, and I loved the excitement of the food and ingredients. But it was all very frivolous. Ainsley Harriott serving me a gin and tonic in the first class cabin on the way to New York pretty much sums up a heady and ridiculous 10 years. When the global financial crash happened in 2007, I had a luxury lifestyle publishing company in southern Spain. Whilst we weren’t making much money, but we were living a wonderful life – with just pennies in our pockets. After the crash, which Spain suffered particularly badly, my partner and I lost our business and our home and limped back to the UK. I unsuccessfully tried to get back into publishing work, with an awful stint at ITV, working in the social media hub on This Morning and Loose Women shows. It was cut-throat and toxic and I hated it. My partner trained professionally to become a chef, which was something she had always wanted to do. Pubs were closing at an alarming rate due to the recession, and the big brewery chains were offering too-good-to-be-true access to their properties. I saw an advert posted by the Wadworth brewery in the West Country, offering a portfolio of properties to wannabe landlords and we went for it. We had a very successful two years with our gastropub with rooms, winning lots of awards for our food, but when my then-partner became too sick to work (she eventually succumbed to a brain tumour and died in 2018), we lost everything. Again.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
That working in hospitality means you never have time to yourself – and that you never truly get to switch off, log off or walk away from your desk for an evening, weekend or week’s holiday. Weekends are non-existent and Mondays are the worst day of the week to eat out - which is why we decided at the very beginning that GB PIZZA CO would be open on Mondays, so that hospitality professionals had somewhere to go. When I was running the pub, guests in our B&B rooms would talk about the dream of running a “lifestyle” business – I was always quick to point out that you have no ‘life’ outside of the four walls of your business and there’s nothing ‘stylish’ about cleaning the men's’ loos on a Sunday morning after a busy night in the bar.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
My favourite three restaurants (I can’t pick one!) at the moment are Another Hand in Manchester, The Fordwich Arms in Kent, and The Parkers Arms in the Ribble Valley. All incredible restaurateurs at the top of their game doing something really wonderful with seasonal produce. Group wise, I think all that Dishoom do is brilliant.

What motivates you?
My team. Our suppliers, who come to us with the best of what they have. Our location, on the seafront in Margate. The town itself – we had an arson attack last October, which closed the restaurant. We are now finally reopen again and it’s been one of the most difficult periods of my hospitality career. The team has lifted us and carried us on a daily basis. It feels very humbling to be a part of an incredible community.

What keeps you up at night?
Money. Increasing costs. The VAT bill. Insurance claims. That one customer, out of hundreds of brilliant ones, who has decided to share their worst mood with the team and I.

What time do you wake up?
Completely depends. During the rebuild of GB, I’m up at 6.30am every morning. I walk my dog Eddie on the beach, and then head to the site. Normally leaving around 9pm. When operating, I’m at my desk by 9am.

How often do you check your email?
Email isn’t the problem – it’s the hundreds of bloody WhatsApp groups that keep pinging through. It drives me mad.

How do you let off steam?
Walk my feet off with my partner Sarah and our dogs. Putting the world to rights as we walk and planning for the week and month ahead.

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
A night at the dinner table, at home, having cooked something delicious on my Big Green Egg, washed down with a bottle of natural wine.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
I make a pretty good take on a Dishoom dinner, with excessive condiments and extras.

What was your dream job growing up?
Butcher, Elvis impersonator, or being Luke Skywalker. 

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I’ve worked with some incredible hospitality professionals over the last 14 years in the business. The people that inspire me most – and continue to inspire me – are the ones who value this amazing profession and industry. Who see it as a career. Who are so excited for what each day brings them and the people they’re going to meet. Who thrive on showing off the product they’re serving and feel proud of where they work. We’ve had some incredible people through GB’s doors, who have gone on to great things – and who still come back to eat with us and share their stories. My current team – who have stuck by me through Covid and now the aftermath of a devastating arson attack – are my current inspiration. They are always looking for how we can do things better and for new suppliers we can work with.

What's been your best business decision?
Hiring a manager who had the ability and experience to take over day-to-day operations. After six years of daily grind - always looking down at the next step in front of me – it’s given me the absolute luxury of being able to see the bigger picture. Having previously hired a couple of charlatans, it’s now changed the way I run and approach the business. I think I’ve become better at it because of it.

And the worst?
To open in London. It’s not us, it’s not our market, it’s not our demographic, it’s not our brand. All of those things were screaming at me, but we went with our egos rather than our heads and hearts and spreadsheets. Daft move. The upside? Gillian Anderson and her lovely kids were regulars.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
If you work for a good company – and I really very much hope that GB is a good company to work for – people who listen, contribute and go the extra mile for our customers will always be noticed. Those that look out for their colleagues are also always on my radar. We have a “no-banter” rule at GB – that doesn’t mean no fun, it’s about being kind and thoughtful – and we feel that that culture contributes to our teams striving to do more and better.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Please can I have two?
1. Reduce VAT for hospitality businesses.
2. Reverse Brexit.


Born in Bromsgrove, near Birmingham, Richards studied a fine art degree at Middlesex University. Her career has been varied. Job outside of hospitality include being editor and sub-editor of Pink Paper & Boyz magazine; an online manager for Comic Relief; and social media manager for ITV shows This Morning ​and Loose Women.​ She also owned her own publishing and design businesses in the UK and Spain for a number of years. She opened and ran the Somerset Arms in Maiden Bradley, Wiltshire, in 2009, before moving to Margate and launching GB PIZZA CO in 2012. Last year, the restaurant was forced to close temporarily following an arson attack, but relaunched earlier this month​. 

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