How I Got Here: Meriel Armitage

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Meriel Armitage founder of Mexican Californian vegan brand Club Mexicana on overcoming imposter syndrome

Related tags Club Mexicana Mexican cuisine Street food Vegan Meriel Armitage

The founder of Mexican Californian vegan brand Club Mexicana on resilience, why delivery apps aren't the future, and overcoming imposter syndrome.

Describe yourself in one word

What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?
To have fun. If you’re not, then what’s the point? 

Tell us your biggest strength
I’m resilient. Covid was a huge knock to the business and our growth plans – the opening of our first restaurant in Kingly Court couldn’t happen due to the first lockdown. Our opening party was scheduled for the day it was announced. But I just always knew that we could get through it… some might call naivety, but I call it resilience!

What has been your biggest mistake?
Not trusting my gut instinct. I didn’t do this enough in the early years, but I do now. It takes time and a lot of work to tune into it, but your instinct is usually bang on.

What makes a good leader?
Listening to others, standing up for your beliefs, acting with integrity, leading with empathy, having a clear vision, but not being afraid to change your mind, and above all else, being a decent person.

Who has had the biggest influence on your approach to business?
All the misogynistic and homophobic people that I’ve had to deal with- and there’s been a few! They’ve all been horrific to deal with, but every one spurs me on to do bigger and better things!

How do you stay motivated?
My team motivates me. Whenever I have a day of catching up with people in the restaurants, at every level, I feel energised and spurred on to push the business forward. We are so lucky to have so many amazing people at Club Mexicana - I couldn’t do this without them.

How often do you check your email?
Regularly, but replying to them is a different question! I try to be quite strict about not checking them when I’m not actually working, as time off is something we prioritise in the business - everyone deserves to have a proper break - and I genuinely believe it makes us all better when we’re back at work. I think the work culture of ‘always on’ is very damaging to all industries, especially hospitality. If anything is urgent, everyone knows I’m at the end of the phone, anytime.

How do you relax?
Cooking good food at home with my wife, walking my dog, gym, cold water swimming (yes, I’m one of those people now), throwing pizza parties in our garden, and watching Below Deck

What was your dream job growing up?
Hotel manager. It was full on. I used to turn our house into a hotel. When my family woke up, all the rooms had signs on them saying what they were, and they would all have to come and ‘check in’ at reception (my bedroom) and I would dress up in a suit and gel my hair so it was slicked back. Then I’d cook a hotel breakfast for everyone. I was a weird kid. 

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
That everyone is winging it and that imposter syndrome is very real. I got given this advice by a few very experienced people right at the start and it boosted my confidence no end. Now it feels like many of us in the industry have a mutual understanding of this and massively support each other because of it. Most of us started our businesses out of passion and enthusiasm, rather than an MBA… which is helpful to remember.

What would you call your autobiography?
F*ck things up.

Tell me something you think about the restaurant sector that almost nobody agrees with you on
That delivery apps are the future, whether we like it or not. I strongly disagree with this. The experience of eating a delivery at home is so depressing, it’s the polar opposite of eating out in vibrant, buzzy restaurants. I come across way too many people in the industry who seem to have admitted defeat on this; we all hate the apps, no one can make any money out of them and the customer experience is completely out of our control.  I disagree that it’s a fait accompli – we need to remind people why eating out in restaurants is a really fun and enriching experience, and getting out more is good for everyone!

Do you have any business regrets?
I regret spending too much time looking back and regretting things! Now I have no time for that – I try to only look forwards and think positively!

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