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Sardine’s Top 5 Networking Tips

Straddled between Hackney and Islington, Sardine serves rustic Southern European food with a focus on great ingredients. Owner and top chef Alex Jackson takes a traditional approach to his food with the onus on simplicity, but he isn’t afraid to use new technology to get the best from his networks. Here he gives us his networking musts straight from the kitchen.


1. Use events and partnerships to create symbiotic relationships

“When I worked at Dock Kitchen in Ladbroke Grove, we shared a space with a design studios and designer Tom Dixon would come to lunch and even have input on the menu. It’s really good having collaboration with a gallery. We’ve talked about doing a Toulouse-Lautrec theme next year which can combine both art and food. In these kinds of collaborative events you can promote each other and each bring your strengths to the table.”

“When I worked at Dock Kitchen in Ladbroke Grove, we shared a space with a design studios and designer Tom Dixon would come to lunch and even have input on the menu. It’s really good having collaboration with a gallery. We’ve talked about doing a Toulouse-Lautrec theme in 2018 which can combine both art and food. In these kinds of collaborative events you can promote each other and each bring your strengths to the table.”

2. Use technology to its full potential

“It used to be the case that you would call a supplier to find out what they had in. We still do that (for example when I call fishermen in the evening to ask about their catch) but there are other ways to stay in touch. We’ll get daily emails from suppliers which will help inform what we put on the menu and there’s even a Whatsapp group so you can get really up to date information on fresh ingredients. One of the greengrocers we use has even released their own app!”

3. Don’t underestimate word-of-mouth

“In my experience, the most valuable information is that which gets passed from one person to another on a personal level… A lot of what’s happening now is down to personal relationships and individual advice.”

“In my experience, the most valuable information is that which gets passed from one person to another on a personal level, and that extends further than people coming back to eat at the restaurant. I only started working for Stevie Parle because I knew his sister and even then I was a waiter while I thought about getting into teaching. I really fell into cooking through that. On a day-to-day basis, we use a London-based allotment for certain vegetables and that tip came through my sous chef. I also get a lot of cheese from Mons Cheesemongers where I used to work. So really a lot of what’s happening now is down to personal relationships and individual advice.”

4. Maintain great relationships

“I’d recommend that anyone starting their own restaurant should do it with someone else to share the burden but certainly ask for help from people who have the experience.”

“I’ve gone from being a waiter to running my restaurant in less than a decade, so there have been potentially huge challenges. Asking for advice has been crucial and Stevie has been on hand every step of the way to offer advice and guidance. I knew how to cook but not how to run a restaurant and, when you get into every level of the organisation, the food almost becomes secondary. The food is central of course, but there’s a lot more to it than that. I’d recommend that anyone starting their own restaurant should do it with someone else to share the burden, but certainly ask for help from people who have the experience.”

5. Find what’s right for you

“While some restaurateurs recommend going and meeting people at trade shows, they’ve never been particularly useful for me. It’s true that you can go along and sample a thousand different micro herbs, but I run a small restaurant and what’s more useful to me are small networks and organic connections.”


Sardine on Dot London

“We wanted to keep our website as simple as possible and to have as few words as possible, which reflects our simple, seasonal approach to food. A Dot London address helped make that possible. It tells people who and where we are in an instant and feels geographically appropriate.”