Andrew Jacobs truly has seen it all in the 17 years since he teamed up with close friends Russel and Juliette Joffe to create a restaurant brand that aimed to do nothing more than explore wonderful foods from around the globe and open its ears to music from every corner of the world. Initially focused on property and site acquisition as it became the clear the trio were onto a winner, Andrew’s operational expertise proved crucial as Giraffe rose to nearly 50 sites before the might of Tesco came knocking. Two years ago the supermarket chain paid £49m for a majority stake in the business as part of a strategy to develop the space in some of its larger stores and create more compelling retail destinations where customers can relax as well as shop.
Following the resignation of the Joffes from the business, Andrew swapped his daily operational duties for the managing director’s chair, with Adam Fowle, chief executive of Tesco Family Dining, hailing him the “natural choice” as successor. “He brings 20 years of experience with him and an unrivalled insight into the brand,” said Fowle. “His appointment ensures that the concept’s individuality and consistency will be retained.” It most certainly has, as Jacobs has set about adding stores where it makes strategic sense while remaining faithful to the values that made Giraffe so successful in the first place.
Today the chain has 65 stores to its name and become synonymous with quality airport dining. And nowhere does kitchen design matter as much as in an airport location, and not just because of the obvious health and safety factors. Some of Giraffe’s sites open to jet-setters at 4am and the equipment isn’t turned off until at least 18 hours later when the last flight departs. Robust kit is essential, but it also needs to work fast: kitchen staff are tasked with serving all dishes within 15 minutes to appeal to time-poor travellers. Andrew summed it up nicely at the launch of Giraffe’s first restaurant at Stansted Airport. “We aim to deliver on quality, efficiency and great value dishes, with a focus on healthy global food delivered with speed in a relaxing, casual dining environment.” The brand might make it look simple, but it most certainly isn’t.
“We aim to deliver on quality, efficiency and great value dishes, with a focus on healthy global food delivered with speed in a relaxing, casual dining environment”