Will Ricker

Ricker Restaurants

Geoff Wilford sits down with Will Ricker, Founder of the Ricker Restaurant Group, E&O and La Bodega Negra, to take a deeper dive into Will’s background, his personal and professional life and what inspired him to become a restauranteur.

Will and Geoff first met back in 2017 when Wilfords fought off the competition to market and sell Will’s house on Portland Road, W11. Successfully selling the house to a Canadian financier and his family for £6,800,000, equal to £2,050 per sq. ft. which was a record price at the time.

We learn about Will’s past, present and future and what makes this incredibly talented and successful entrepreneur tick.


What’s your earliest memory?

Being at the beach. Bucket, shade, arm bands, rubber ring. The usual accoutrements.

What was teenage Will like?

Being in Australia was fun. Lots of beer I seem to remember. Also there was a good dollop of sexual freedom around then, which puts a smile on a teenagers face.

Can you explain a bit about your background in property?

I started off collecting rents. First day on the job I got punched in the face, so I quickly restrategized how to go about it – I moved into sales!! After a few years of that I was hired by a publicly listed property development company. I was employed to search out developments on the smaller scale (maximum of $5m AUS) to their usual course of business. I had a lot of freedom – from land subdivisions to refurbishing blocks of flats around the inner suburbs. I really learnt from that exposure – Building contracts. Dealing with property professionals. Town planning etc. I was young so I had to get up to speed quickly

At what age did you decide “I’m going to be a Restauranteur”?

I arrived in London, just as the property crash came. I was originally being seconded here, but that was terminated. Frustrated, I decided to come anyway. Not able to find gainful employment, I worked in Landscaping, Pubs, Painting and Decorating, Doorman, anything that kept some money coming, I didn’t want to fail and fly back to Oz, defeated.

It was working in a Soho bar, when the owner – drinking with his friends – bit me on the calf (I have no idea why) he then gave me £50.00 for the imposition. It was right then I realised two things, 1 he was an idiot and 2, if he could do it, I should give it a go.

How and why Pan Asian cuisine?

No one was doing Pan-Asian at the time. I didn’t have a clue about it and nor did any of the chefs I first employed. I was pulling recipes out of Gourmet Traveller and we’d try them out. It wasn’t good, but nobody really new what it should taste like, so I got a free pass. Then I hired an Australian chef and she new her away around the kitchen and the cuisine. Things really picked up from there.

E&O Athens, Greece

When was your first restaurant Cicada launched?

In 1996. I was driving from Fulham down to see a girl who live in Shoreditch, way before it was anything. To get there I drove through Clerkenwell. I felt the energy. I corralled a guy who had backed me previously, into buying the freehold. It was great, because you would go to the bank ads your our own tenant, alleviating the commercial risk. The banks and valuers were pretty lose back then.

Who is your typical client?

It depends in which area the restaurant is. But by the time I had opened my forth pan-Asian restaurant, I had a decent reputation for delivering a good product.

Are you married?

The great thing about divorce is that it lasts forever.

Do you have children?

I have two great teenage boys. Both recently got suspended, which was not so great. I love being a dad. As they get older we have more things to talk about. Mostly girls of course.

In your professional career, what’s been your biggest success?

Buying the freeholds, selling off the upper parts and anchoring the commercial element.

Who do you perceive to be your biggest competitor and what do you admire most about their work?

You really compete against yourself. You can’t concern yourself about what others are up to. It’s hard but you need to stay focussed on what you are doing.

I admire anyone who gives it a go. Especially now as it’s difficult. Some of the bigger players don’t look to be having trouble, but that’s a mirage. Every operator is suffering from Brexit. Trying to maintain consistency when there are no staff about is a major achievement.

E&O, Notting Hill, London W11

Favourite holiday?

Skiing. I have a home in the Courchevel.

What does your 5-year plan look like?

To expand overseas and to have more fun. The restaurant business has been severely impacted from the years running up to the Referendum, then Brexit and then Covid. It’s been a difficult period. Now that we are through that, I’m really excited about the future.

Do you believe in the afterlife?

Absolutely not. I’m an atheist, till I die.

How many people are in your team at Ricker Restaurants?

Head office there are seven of us. The other six doing all the hard work. My job is really trying to find new opportunities.

E&O, Notting Hill, London W11

Where is home?

I never thought I’d say this but it’s in Chelsea. I found an amazing two storey lateral apartment in a converted office building literally on Kings Road. I had to live in it regardless of where it was. Having lived in Chelsea for nearly 3 years now, I really like it. There is no village hub so to speak and it lacks a great cocktail bar. But it’s got a lot of things going for it. I really like living there. I took a while to appreciate it.

How many projects do you typically work on and juggle at any one time?

I don’t want to open anything in London. Manchester looks interesting, but I’ve not found anything yet. I’m really focusing on licensing opportunities outside the UK. I am currently in Bali negotiating terms to open La Bodegra Negra Uluwatu. If that happens I will be focussed on that.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Wear a condom.

Advice to younger generation?

Stop being so Woke. It’s gone too far.

E&O Athens, Greece

Favourite Architect?

There are so many brilliant architects, and designers. I have tons of architecture books at home. I follow parametric architecture, reverse.orientalism and architectural.desiign on Insta. They always have incredible buildings, interiors, innovative design ideas, furniture. My favourite is probably Frank Lloyd Wright and love Todao Ando’s work with concrete. But there are so many more greats that I could mentioned.

What’s been your best investment?

The best by far has been in Contemporary art. I used to be an avid collector. Going to the fairs in Paris, Basel, Miami repeatedly. If you do that, you can’t but help to buy some winners. The first painting I brought has gone up 62 times. That’s hard to beat.

You and I share the same birthday on November 22. You are described on your site as having the ‘Midas touch’, my nickname at Foxtons was ‘Midas’ – do you believe in star signs?

Hell no. But I do find the Chinese Zodiac interesting. We are both Water Tigers. All 12 Chinese signs are interesting. You just don’t want to be a Monkey. Have a read…

Last meal on death row?

That’s really hard. Either crispy skin chicken or a pepperoni pizza overrun with jalopinos. Then cold watermelon.

La Bodega Negra, London W1D

We all have numerous obstacles to overcome in life, what’s been your bigger hurdle to date that you are proudest to have overcome?

Getting ahead in London. It’s a tough city and I arrived with nothing. But the English are entrepreneurial. They like to back good ideas. People with energy.

If you could relive the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, which decade would you chose and why?

The 90s for sure. I should have done more and I would like to have another go.

Favourite nightclub or venue from back in the day?

Hmm, never been a clubber. Although I do look better in the dark. The Atlantic was pretty special.

Favourite part of London town?

I like taking the Uber boat up the Thames to Greenwich and see all the architecture along the way. Soho is hard to beat…

Stoke House, London SW1W

The house that started started a friendship on Portland Road, W11 which Wilfords sold for £6,800,000 in 2017.

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