In conversation with Oliver Weeks
At a time when five or six pubs nationally have been closing every week, Southampton’s Ideal Collection has bucked the trend and doubled in size.
What started as a small group of restaurants and pubs based in and around Southampton has grown to include bars and eateries further into Hampshire and beyond.
Ideal Collection now employs 170 people across its seven sites and boasts a multi-million pound turnover.
Managing Director Oliver Weeks explained they were ready to grow in 2008 when the recession hit.
“The timing just wasn’t right so we held back on the expansion plans and instead we did a lot of work on the infrastructure of the company.
“We focused on training our staff and we’ve seen the business grow as a result.
“When the time was right and the right properties became available we were able to act swiftly,” he said.
The brainchild of Matthew Boyle, Ideal Collection was founded in 2002 and was then made up of The White Star Tavern – dining and rooms in Oxford Street, The Bugle in Hamble and Cantina Mexican restaurant in Bedford Place.
The group also operates The White Horse at Otterbourne, No 5 Bridge Street in Winchester, The Boat House Cafe at Swanwick Marina and the recently opened Boat House Cafe in Chichester.
Recently Matthew has set up The Ideal Foundation to support local good causes and they are backing an allotment project that has the potential to grow into a really positive focus for the business.
“We were very keen to give something back to the city that has been so good to us. Working with Southampton Voluntary Service (SVS) and Two Saints we are supporting a group of people who are learning all about growing food by getting involved in the allotment project.
“The next stage is for us to develop a cafe using local produce grown by the group with the aim of giving them skills to pursue a career in catering,” he said.
Oliver explained the group prides itself on working with local colleges to ensure their staff have the best possible training.
“We work closely with the local colleges and we have really seen the benefits that come as a result of investing in the training of our staff,” said Oliver.
Looking ahead Oliver is keen for the Ideal Collection to continue to grow in the city and they are particularly interested in some of the VIP projects identified in Southampton’s Master Plan.
“Southampton has changed a great deal in recent times. The number of students has grown, there are more people living in the city centre in the new housing and apartments and the development of the Cultural Quarter means more people are wanting to spend time in the city.
“We are excited about the opportunities. Going around the city, you can see the cranes in the sky and you can see change happening.
“If we can play a part in the development of Guildhall Square, Watermark or Ocean Village, we will be there and we are already involved in discussions.
“I’ve worked in Southampton for many years and there is definitely an increased energy in the city,” he said.