Everyone thinks they have it in them to open a pub or restaurant, but few have the opportunity or courage to test that dream. Revamping La Bastille is Mark Taft’s first forage into the world of hospitality in an effort to reignite a love for his job, which was slowly lost over the last 30 something years in finance. He harks back to a day when things were better, simpler, when building relationships mattered and wondered what would happen if he applied this philosophy to his own establishment?
Years of working in a sales environment has taught Mark the importance of putting the customer first, a concept which he found had become lost in finance with increasing regulation, but where in an industry like hospitality that hails the customer as king, can be put to good use. New to the restaurant business, Mark adopts the same approach to La Bastille as he has done throughout his banking and investment career which is simply “give the people what they want!”
From looking at the popularity of independent gastropubs and the craft beer market in the UK, Mark saw a gap in Jersey on which he could makes his stamp. He believes what people want is a brasserie stripped back to what it truly should be; a place where you feel at ease with simple, delicious food coupled with a selection of unique and remarkable beverages. He envisages a bar where “everybody knows your name,” where he can build an empire upon getting to know his customers’ wants and need and delivering these.
You’d be wrong to discount Mark as just an enthusiastic dreamer. What he lacks in culinary experience he more than makes up for behind the bar, where his true passion lies. Having established a wine business in parallel to his finance career selling the revered Rothschild brand, opening a brasserie seemed like a natural progression, giving him a platform on which to expand. Early on Mark made the decision to only work with good brands or good products and it is staying true to this testament which he believes will make his goals a reality. “Success is dependent on your product and we’ve hit it right here at La Bastille with quality, local, seasonal produce at reasonable prices.”
Always the risk taker, Mark has big plans in mind. Expanding the premises of La Bastille to include a gin/cocktail bar and a real ales/craft beer haunt with visions of rolling out the model to include a further venue in the near future. Despite the long hours the venture demands, Mark is enjoying the freedom of being his own boss, finding the change hugely rewarding. “You just don’t get the instant rapport and gratification that this job gives anywhere else,” he explains as we scroll through the emails of praise and rave reviews he has already received.
Taking on La Bastille has been a steep learning curve and anything but simple, but the back to basics business model appears to be working in his favour. After years of slogging the hard sell in finance, it looks like Mark may have stumbled upon a concept that will sell itself. The proof, as they say, is in the pint glass.