Mark Cutler: How nightclubs made me my fortune
James McKeigue Oct 30, 2012
Supperclub's Mark Cutler
Few people would risk making the switch from chartered surveyor to nightclub owner. But Mark Cutler has no regrets. He worked at estate agents Knight Frank throughout the 1990s helping clients (included celebrity chef Marco Pierre White) buy and sell bars, restaurants and hotels in London. “It was a great experience and helped me understand what made a good location for a bar.”
In 2002, aged 28, he quit Knight Frank to set up his own property search company. The Leisure Partnership specialised in bars, hotels and restaurants. He and his business partner, an ex-colleague from Knight Frank, ploughed around £20,000 each into setting up an office. Cutler decided straight away to focus on the niche, high-end of the entertainment sector where clients are more demanding but pay well.
The pair’s “less stuffy” style worked. “I was surprised at how willing people were to give the new guys a go.” It helped that “London underwent this amazing transition and became a cosmopolitan capital of good cuisine and nightlife – it wasn’t always like that.”
But it wasn’t until a chance visit to Amsterdam that Cutler discovered his true calling. “I had been involved so much with bars and restaurants that I was starting to get bored of them. But then I visited Supper Club in Amsterdam and loved what they were doing there.”
Supper Club was a nightclub that seated clients on large beds, while serving food and putting on entertainment. Cutler began saving money for his new venture and in 2008 he finally found “the perfect spot” in his native west London.
“It was a site under a motorway, opposite a council estate in Ladbroke Grove – a lot of people thought I was nuts to try and use it as an upmarket venue, but I knew it was perfect.”
At first Cutler struggled to find the investors to help him raise the £1.5m needed to buy the property. But eventually he managed to cobble together the money from his family, the Dutch owners of the Supperclub brand and a group of private investors. He kitted out the interior with the iconic Supper Club beds and opened the doors of the new venue within months.
“Local people were very curious to see what we’d do to the place because it had been home to a popular club called Subterrania. I think they were worried we’d make something that they wouldn’t enjoy.” Fortunately, Cutler didn’t let them down and won punters through some keen pricing – “you can eat and have a full night’s entertainment for £50, which for London is not bad value”.
His customers seem to agree - last year sales at the 180-person capacity venue hit £3m. The success has encouraged Cutler to open a new American-style restaurant, Honky Tonk, in Chelsea. “It’s got an edgy design that you’d expect to find in Soho or Shoreditch, but in the comfort of west London. The food is very American, lots of steak briskets and burgers and we’ve got a lot of cocktails too.”
Cutler has also been active abroad. While on holiday in Brazil, he spotted a property in an underdeveloped Brazilian resort town and has turned it into a boutique hotel. Now 38, he is as confident as ever: “When I first went there, the town had just received electricity. Now it’s turning into a resort for the rich and famous.”
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