Sam Harrison is a trooper. Owner of Sam’s Riverside, this man embodies hospitality. I watch him during service and it is like he has 8 eyes. He walks around effortlessly greeting customers, serving tables, popping into the kitchen, checking his staff are ok and all with an unwavering smile and swagger.
In these crazy times, Sam’s Riverside remains open (as at 19 March 2020). After all, he employs 40 people. Moreover, safety of staff and guests is the number one priority so cleaning includes the highest hygiene protocols, tables have been removed to create more space, hand sanitisation is increased and only card payments are being taken.
We talk to Sam about the current crisis, find out a bit more about him and learn a lot more about the world of hospitality.
Luxuriate: Let’s talk about COVID-19 and what this is doing to the industry.
Sam: First of all we want to reassure everyone that we are up to date with Public Health England advice on the Corona Virus and cleaning occurs throughout the whole day at Sam’s Riverside. We intend to stand firm and work through this difficult period. Our fabulous team depend on us and we want to be local business that survives this. We have to carry on and be strong. If we close and are unable to pay our team, who will look after them? How do they pay the rent? Most people working in the hospitality industry have very limited savings and many are living abroad with no family or support network to fall back on. We are their family.
We are also starting home delivery options via Deliveroo as well as a selection of Sam’s classics for the freezer for those working at home or self isolating.
Luxuriate: What is the golden rule of running a restaurant?
Sam: Hard work, hard work, hard work. It’s a bit like theatre – every service is a new performance and you’re
only as good as your last. You have to work at it every day.
Luxuriate: One tip for someone entering this crazy hospitality profession?
Sam: Get as much experience under your belt as possible before thinking about opening your own place. Work with good people you can learn from…it’s always better to make mistakes with someone else’s money!
Luxuriate: What is your favourite food?
Sam: When I’m not at Sam’s Riverside, I love Asian food and the contrast of flavours. I particularly love really good ramen.
Luxuriate: What’s the plan for Summer at Sam’s?
Sam: We are opening our outdoor terrace this spring. It’s a pretty special location right on the Thames and,
in our opinion, some of the best views in London. I am working on ideas for a seafood and English sparkling wine bar out there.
Luxuriate: Would you consider doing something on the actual river like the Henley Regatta or a special boat for the Boat Race?
Sam: I love this idea! Sam’s Riverside becomes Sam’s on the River……can you find me a boat??
Luxuriate: What is your favourite London restaurant?
Sam: My all-time favourite is J Sheekey, but my go-to local is Parlour in Kensal Rise. Jesse Dunford Wood is one of the most creative chefs in London.
Luxuriate: Who would you invite to your ultimate dinner party?
Sam: My friends and family, who I don’t see nearly enough of because of work. I’d also invite Rick and Jill Stein who inspired me so much when I worked for them and set me on the path I am on now.
Luxuriate: What is it about West London that makes you want to keep opening restaurants there?
Sam: I was born and brought up here. I like that you can build amazing relationships with local and loyal customers. They become friends who support you through thick and thin.
Luxuriate: If you chose to open a restaurant outside London, where would it be?
Sam: I would look at the Cotswolds, but I think it might be too landlocked for me. Having lived in Cornwall for four years and Sydney for two, I think it would have to be with a sea view – Sam’s by the Sea!
Luxuriate: Is Sam’s Riverside dog friendly?
Sam: I love dogs and was brought up with them. We have a great bar area where we allow dogs during the day
until 6pm, and soon we will have the outside terrace.
Luxuriate: What is your favourite Instagram food account?
Sam: I love Hot Dinners and Code Hospitality – both keep me up to speed with what’s going on.
Luxuriate: Favourite meal of your life so far?
Sam: There was a pizza in Rome I still dream about. I’d also have to say Sean’s Panaroma in Sydney and La
Soucoupe in Courchevel (I love the mountains).
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