Simon Rimmer: I nearly went bankrupt because I 'got cocky'

·5-min read
Simon Rimmer at the launch of Strictly Come Dancing 2017 at Broadcasting House in London.
Simon Rimmer at the launch of Strictly Come Dancing 2017 at Broadcasting House in London. Photo: PA

TV chef and restaurateur Simon Rimmer said he and his family risked going bankrupt because he 'got cocky' opening a new restaurant site in the wrong place.

He described the period when he and his wife opened two new venues within 18 months as 'the worst of times' after The Viking pub was forced to close and he entered into a race with the bank to sell before foreclosure.

Speaking on White Wine Question Time, the Sunday Brunch host was asked by Kate Thornton if opening the third venue was the result of an educated risk.

Rimmer said: "I think [also] just a level of arrogance that I don't think I ever felt I had, but clearly did because I thought: 'Yeah we can do this.' When we opened site two, [it] started really well. 

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"So we thought let's do site three, almost the minute we opened site three we knew got the location wrong. We took a gamble. It's a bit like, if you bought or if you opened a restaurant at the right time in Shoreditch. 

"You've got it for really low rent, and then you go wow, this is brilliant. We thought where we opened was really going to fly and it didn't, it didn't ever take off. So we were an oasis in a desert. 

"And of course, the problem with hospitality, it's about conglomeration, so you need to be around other great places. So if you come to us you'd go for drinks somewhere first. And there was nowhere to go. 

Tim Lovejoy & Simon Rimmer
Tim Lovejoy & Simon Rimmer on Sunday Brunch (Channel 4)

"So that was was horrible. It was the worst.

"It was brutal. I think but for the fact that [his wife] Ali was also in hospitality. Because you have to have somebody who understands what's going. And is kind of living it the same way that you are. But yeah, it was it was the worst of times, undoubtedly."

Listen to the full episode to hear Simon Rimmer talk about his Strictly experience and whether or not he invented pulled pork

He explained that around this time was when he first got into television work, which eventually led to his role on Sunday Brunch.

He said: "Just by chance, I got asked to do something on telly. I got asked to do my my first bit of telly, and I'd never harboured any ambition to do it. For me, it was like: 'This is a good job to promote the restaurants.'

"I was asked to do something on the local news programme, they were doing something about veggie food. Then, I think, because I wasn't trying to get a job, then they kept asking me back because I was just me. 

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"I wasn't thinking: 'Hey, I'm going to be a TV presenter. This is going to be fame and fortune!' I was just being me. 

"And that sort of led on to telly. I think you feel the same way about telly, that I love it as a medium. I love it as a way of getting a voice across. I love doing broadcast in any way, shape, or form. And I've never really been driven by being famous. 

"Don't get me wrong, being in the public eye opens doors that you never imagined could ever be opened. But you know it's a great process. You know, it's a fantastic process, being on telly, being on radio, doing a podcast."

Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer attending the National Television Awards 2017 at the O2, London.
Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer attending the National Television Awards 2017 at the O2, London.

He explained further: "Then we got cocky... We opened two restaurants in the space of 18 months, we thought we were invincible. And we weren't, we actually weren't good enough to do it. 

"So we did one that was that was fusion cuisine, not veggie. And we did one that was sort of Mediterranean cuisine, no red meat, but lots of fish and lots of white meat. And we just got it wrong, we got one of the locations wrong, and we got the management side wrong. 

"At the time, my daughter Flo was about probably about 12 months old. And it was a race as to whether we could sell one of the businesses to save it or the bank were gonna foreclose on us. And we were three days from the bank foreclosing on us. 

Simon Rimmer
Simon Rimmer (Channel 4)

"And so we were on the brink of being a young family, and actually losing everything. Talking about it actually makes me feel anxious.

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"It doesn't happen overnight. It's not like: 'Oh, the bank have said they're gonna foreclose.' You've got a minimum of a year of hell, where you know things aren't going right. 

"And you're losing money, and you're praying for a good week, and it's not a good week. You're trying to spread yourself across three restaurants. Greens was always consistently fine. 

"But the other two were just haemorrhaging cash because we got them wrong. And we literally, we were three days away from the bank, foreclosing on us. And I don't think they would have taken our home from us. But nonetheless, it was horrible. 

"I remember promising that day that I would never ever allow that to happen again. I'm a risk taker. I'm a self-employed entrepreneur, so of course, I'm a risk taker. 

"But I thought, right, I'm never ever going to allow that to happen again."

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