Blu Duby is an unpretentious restaurant in downtown London that celebrates honest food and wine, a sophisticated atmosphere, friendly service and hospitality. Owners Joe and Cheryl Duby have established a loyal clientele by creating a welcoming ambience where patrons can come and enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail at the bar, a couple of appetizers or a full dining experience, in a casual yet stylish setting.
Creating a restaurant that others talk about and willingly recommend to others is paramount for restaurant success. The Duby’s are more interested in serving you a good dinner than in doing culinary gymnastics to compete for a spot in the gastronomic Olympics. Quite simply, the restaurant is aiming to feed its customers well by combining accessible artful cuisine and an eclectic wine list. Their tagline: “A remarkable experience designed to accommodate every budget.” The result: a sleek and very successful operation with a family-friendly global-inspired menu appealing to a broad demographic.
Joe Duby is a natural-born raconteur and a well-known restaurant professional with many years of experience and a good friend who is proficient in all aspects of the restaurant business. I sat down to talk with Joe about his thoughts on the current state of the restaurant business.
Do you have any kind of particular restaurant management style, or philosophy?
I guess I tend to take more of a hands-on style rather than a laissez-faire approach to management. Although I trust my staff implicitly, I believe that constant coaching to improve is very important. Starting with good people has been the key to our success. Investing our management resources in training good employees to be excellent employees is much more efficient than trying to make average team members good.
Our team is like family to us so we take a personal and proactive approach to help them in their personal lives as well as their working life: we encourage them to invest and budget, lead healthy lifestyles, and deal with the stress of the business in productive ways. I usually assume the role of mother, dealing with the day-to-day management of the restaurant while Cheryl, acting as the father of the family, steps in as the big gun in resolving some of the more major issues.
Our goal is to help staff achieve their personal and professional goals to ensure that the Blu Duby remains viable and continues to provide a good living to more than thirty families.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given as a restaurateur?
Consistency is the hallmark of excellence. The experience that we offer should be the same regardless of the day and time, whether we have five tables in the restaurant or 50, whether guests have joined us for a beer and an appetizer or a five-course menu with wine pairings. Continually providing great service, food and atmosphere make a restaurant excellent. It’s a difficult thing to achieve and we strive to get there.
How is the restaurant business changing?
Social media, I believe, is the biggest change to the restaurant industry in the past decade. Every shift is under scrutiny; both fantastic experiences and failures are there for every prospective guest to see. While I used to think of it as a challenge, Cheryl has convinced me that it is really a positive aspect to the business. Before social media was prevalent, if the guest had an issue with their experience, they would most likely just never return. Review sites, Facebook, and Twitter give a restaurant an opportunity to make adjustments to policy, change items that aren’t working, and coach staff. More importantly, it gives the restaurant an opportunity to make amends for a poor experience. Every restaurant, and every business, is going to make mistakes. A couple of our most loyal patrons have had a rocky first visit and given us a second chance. Our job is to make sure that second chance isn’t a wasted opportunity, and so far, we’ve been very successful with this.
Let’s talk culinary influences. What are the big ones for you?
The politically correct culinary geniuses that I should be referencing are Canadian chef icons like Susur Lee, Mark McEwan, and David Rocco. I respect these chefs immensely, and understand the passion, knowledge and hard work it took to get to where they are. I tend to like the simpler fare of chefs like Michael Smith and David Adjey. I think that we often forget the critical talent that we have here in London. Chef/restaurateurs like Steve James and Chris Squire, restaurateurs like Tania Auger and yourself who put King Street on the map as a restaurant destination in London. Also the current brigade of talent like Kristian Crossen, Andrew Wolwowicz and our very own chef Jamie Craig and sous chef Graham Stewart. Chefs like these show me that we are able to be creative, forward-thinking and dynamic in our own backyard. When designing new menus, we sometimes play off items we have seen other local chefs try. It is always a collaborative effort where everyone at the Blu Duby’s participation is required, not simply encouraged, but expected.
Blu Duby has been a very successful concept — you have exceeded the naysayers’ expectations. What are your longer-term aspirations?
This has been largely due to the wonderful staff and patrons, many of whom I consider close friends. I knew that we needed a diverse and extensive menu to fill a 126-seat restaurant. Coupled with hot, fresh food, a beautiful venue, and attention to detail in every respect (Cheryl finds it amusing that we line up all of the wood grains in the same direction and use a string to ensure tables are in the right spot in the restaurant), we hedged our bets in our favour as much as possible.
As for the future, we will continue to grow and learn and improve. I don’t believe in maintaining the status-quo, so we are always looking for a new idea, a new menu item, and a different way to do things. This is always in the effort to make our guests’ experience “remarkable.” If opportunities for expansion present themselves, who knows what the future holds?
32 Covent Market Place, London
Monday–Thursday: 11:30 am–11 pm
Friday & Saturday: 11:30 am–1 am
Sunday: 3 pm–9 pm
Bryan Lavery is eatdrink’s Food Editor and Writer at Large.