There is nothing I personally love doing more than dressing up to visit a new restaurant and trying different cuisines. I don't go just to eat the food, it's the whole experience. The location, decor, the fabulously dressed crowd, friendly/ entertaining service and an amazing cocktail menu always helps. I decided to talk with PR Master, Elizabeth Crompton-Batt who launched Nobu and Hakkasan alongside her late husband Alan, to find out how she managed to make the British dining industry fashionable.
Walk me through the step-by step process of how you got to the height of your career...
It happened in a very organic way. My family used to own The Ivy Restaurant and without realising I was doing PR, we used to experiment with ways on how to promote the business. Restaurant PR didn't actually exist back then so the only way to promote was to visit the concierge desk of various hotels to have them notify their guests of our restaurant- There really wasn't any other exciting way way to do this.
We then sold The Ivy to a company called Kennedy Brooks and I began talking with one of the Directors- Alan Crompton-Batt (who she later married) on the fact that there wasn't any interesting ways to promote restaurants. We started, together to approach journalists and say 'look, these guys (chefs) are really exciting. They are interesting people, they are dynamic!'. There was a change in the British restaurant scene at the time where Nouvelle Cousine (a modern style of cookery that avoids rich, heavy foods and emphasizes the freshness of the ingredients and the presentation of the dishes) was very popular yet there was no one actually promoting it. Chefs were very controversial characters at this time; throwing customers out of their restaurants who didn't eat their food or respond offensively "Our food is perfect!" if salt and pepper were asked for- it was extreme! Some of it was ridiculous as you would get a plate with a tiny, tiny, tiny thing on it- which eventually all sorted itself out. We came from really awful food in England then we had this amazing food and no one promoting it so we wanted to share this with journalists as they are always looking for something new to write about.
This whole new idea of London being the gastronomic capital of the world started in the early 90s and it was very exciting to be part of it. We ended up working with various restaurants, some very serious Michelin star restaurants like Marco Pierre White to things like Planet Hollywood which had backing from Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Demi Moore. Basically, anything new that came to London, we were promoting it. We did the launch of Nobu with Robert De Niro as well as Hakkasan and also worked with André Balazs and Ian Shrager who introduced the model/ hip hotel concept from New York to London like The Sanderson and St Martins Lane.
What is your personal favourite restaurant to dine at?
I don't have one favourite place, it all depends on what my mood is. However, Nobu when it first opened... I could eat there everyday. I do still like the original Ivy which was owned by my family, its quite glamorous. I would also say the Firehouse- it's especially wonderful when sitting outside on the terrace in the summer, that's a really lovely place to be. The River Cafe is wonderful... but it really just all depends. London just has so much to offer.
What are your thoughts on celebrities playing a big role in pr?
Well it can be both good and bad. Well look at the Firehouse (Chiltern Firehouse), it's completely all about the celebrities that are there and the wonder of who will be attending next and the fact it has paparazzi outside makes an enormous difference on the restaurant and the hotel. I know people say it doesn't but it does. People love to see it. Which is alright in the beginning but to sustain it you need to make sure that the food and the service and everything works well because you can't just have one without the other. It might work well in the beginning but in order to keep people coming back, you need actually make sure the food is good and the service level is good. So i think it is actually fine as long as you balance it out and make sure they don't just live off their celebrity association and ensure that everything else works. It is also important to not be arrogant, restaurants shouldn't turn their noses up on you and treat everyone the same. People can sense if they are being treated differently and they don't come back.
Do you feel PR strategies have changed much over the past 10 years?
Yes, it is all online now. It has all changed, i couldn't possibly do it now. I would have to hire someone JUST to do the social media side as there is just so much to it as I have learned from Allegra (her daughter with her current partner Harry Handelsman). She told me about this new Vegan Delhi in Seymour place founded by a vegan Chef who became famous via her instagram account. She started instagram-ing her dishes from her home and now she has become this big star who set up the little Delhi without ANY PR. I find that absolutely fascinating as that could have never happened before. Social Media has definitely transformed everything. Print media is also important but it seems like it is just as important to have the digital media as well.
Who has been your favourite client?
Erm, they all very different. I don't have a favourite one as sometimes I do a launch for a client which I would work on for 6 months whereas someone like Nobu, we continued with them for around 10 years! That's quite a difficult thing to ask actually as they are all so different. Obviously there have been some people that I have become close friends with?
what are your top fashion tips?
- Quality rather than quantity- make sure you invest in a few items that are really just beautifully made and jazz them up with a few accessories
- Keep everything simple- basic, black and add in a gorgeous scarf or some jewellery like a cuff. Or just add in something bright like a lipstick
It's pretty straight forward. I never wear skirts so its usually mainly jeans. I have even recently purchased a pair in black velvet from J Brand just to add variation. So jeans with high boots with a sort of glamorous top, finished with accessories such as maybe a bag a or scarf, that sort of thing. It sounds quite boring but it works.
What was the best party you have ever attended?
I would hate to say Nobu again but it was probably the 15th Birthday celebration of Nobu as Robert De Niro came over and everyone wanted to go to that party and everyone just seemed to be in town at that point. It was most probably the most glamorous party that I have been involved with
What is your favourite piece from The 7962 AW16 Collection and would you wear it?
All of it. I probably wouldn't wear all of it now but at some point in my life I would have worn all of it. I WISH I could wear it all now but I love hat fur coat, I would wear that now, definitely. But the other looks are styles I definitely would have worn. My daughter would probably be wearing it soon, she loves her clothes. But no, its beautiful. I love the gorgeous tailoring with small features that just stand out- quite little naughty bits of detail.