Launching a restaurant in a time of crisis: Restaurateur Markus Thesleff makes it a hat trick

Forget working with animals and children; when it comes to unadvisable actions, launching a restaurant in the midst of a global crisis must be up there with the best of them. Unless that is you are celebrated restaurateur Markus Thesleff who has managed to triumph over adversity on two memorable occasions to date – and is about to make it three in row with his new London venture.

First came his celebrated nightclub collection Pangaea (NYC, Marbella, London) which opened its doors in Manhattan in the autumn of 2001 following the September 11 attacks. In February 2009, the now legendary OKKU made its debut in Dubai just weeks after the collapse of the world’s financial markets.

Now as we find ourselves gripped by the worst pandemic in living memory, so Markus is putting the finishing touches to Los Mochis, his unique celebration of Mexican and Japanese cuisine and culture in the heart of Notting Hill.

As if the ravages of COVID-19 were not enough, Los Mochis will be launching just weeks after the Brexit transition period comes to an end, with all the issues that could cause for everything from staff and food shortages to delivery delays. For Markus however, opening a restaurant in the midst of catastrophe presents more opportunities than threats, reasoning that “If you can open in economic winter and still do well, then when you come out on the other side you are set up for success.”

Although only too aware of the devastation that the pandemic has wrought on his beloved industry – with up to 50% of restaurants predicted to go to the wall – Markus opines that UK hospitality was in trouble long before the pandemic, thanks to crazy rents, confused legacy brands and labour shortages. “Now we have the opportunity to both secure super prime locations at realistic rents, with landlord and tenant much more aligned, and inspire the very best staff.”

Moreover, times of economic downturn also see a change in consumer habits which can give certain parts of the sector a boost. “People stop spending on high cost capital goods like cars and houses and instead look for instant gratification. Although they might not go out as often as previously, when they do they tend to spend more in order to make themselves feel better.”

The opening of Los Mochis will of course bring other more tangible benefits to the economy, such as employing over 45 people. “We are able to provide a safe, happy and inspirational workplace for our team – and additional revenue for the government in the form of taxes and pension contributions.”

In addition his restaurant will provide a meal for the homeless and less fortunate for every one they sell, further compounding a positive effect among the team as well as customers and the wider community.

Equally as important for Markus as these practical considerations is the holistic impact restaurants such as Los Mochis will have on the public during these challenging and uncertain times. “For me running a restaurant is something quite spiritual. We are in the business of creating memories and experiences. It is our job to bring joy and happiness to our guests. If we are able to make people a little happier, so they will hopefully go on to share this positivity with everyone they subsequently meet, be it a cab driver, their local newsagent, their colleagues, their boss or even their family.”

Scheduled to open as soon as the lockdown restrictions are lifted, vibrant new all-day restaurant and bar concept Los Mochis is the ultimate pan-Pacific pairing, mixing Mexican spirit with Japanese elegance, Mexican art and design with Japanese coolness and Mexican flavours with Japanese techniques. These two culinary powerhouses meet in truly inspirational style as the hands-on fun of classic LatinAmerican dishes, from breakfast and brunch through to supper, are taken to a new level with the clean, fresh flavours of Asia.

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