Interior and construction firm, 2G Design & Build has created some of the city’s most successful hospitality spaces. We talked with CEO Nick Jones as they prepare to branch out and take on the capital
You might not know 2G Design & Build, but the chances are you’ve enjoyed its work. The team at the interior design and construction company has worked on many top Brummie restaurants including Carter’s of Moseley, The Wilderness, Land, Chakana and Loki among others.
The company doesn’t exclusively focus on hospitality, but its portfolio is currently weighted towards restaurants and bars. We caught up with one half of the husband-and-wife team behind the business, Nick Jones on the cusp of opening a second office in London.
Hospitality is in Nick’s blood. His parents ran restaurants and he worked as a chef at Opus in his youth. He says: “I came to cheffing late at 27 and couldn’t really earn enough money.” Nick went back to university to gain a masters in construction – he also has a degree in psychology and a WSET level 3 qualification. Catherine – the other half of the dynamic duo – studied interior design at KLC School of Design and Central St Martins as well as building a successful career in the wine industry, so together they’ve a lot to bring to the table.
GETTING THE BUZZ
Nick says: “I knew how to lay out a bar/restaurant. Growing up dad was in construction and mum ran the restaurants. In some ways, a project feels like a service. You get that buzz as you work towards getting it ready.” Opening a restaurant of their own is not on the cards for Catherine and Nick despite their skills seemingly well suited to it. Nick explains: “I like being involved on a design/construction level – you get the excitement levels, but I also want to spend time with the kids.”
The focus has been on independents so far. Nick says: “It’s the challenge of doing something different. With a chain, once you’ve done the first, the rest is a bit design by numbers. We have done chains – we’ve completed three Lokis for example but they’re all very different.” The dream client is one with a clear idea of what they want. Nick says: “It helps channel our ideas and makes it better for them.”
The restaurants they’ve completed are all very different – while the focus is always quality and creating strong lasting spaces, the designs are inventive and uniquely tailored to the client’s needs. Nick and Catherine have built up a trusted and established team of 20 who share their vision and commitment to quality.
There’s a core team of designers and project managers along with tradesmen as well as some trusted sub-contractors. A new designer has just been recruited to start this month which has been a lengthy process. Nick says: “It’s important to pick the right person.” Their reputation means clients now seek 2G out in contrast to the early days when the couple had to go out and sell themselves.
Word of mouth has spread beyond Brum with the company picking up work in Lichfield and Derby for instance. “Birmingham is a small community and once we’d done a couple of projects well, more work followed.” The London office means a bit more selling themselves although a body of impressive work helps. Catherine worked in London for years and has a network there, so she’ll be spending more time in the capital than Nick. He says: “It’s exciting and quite stressful. It’s important we can handle the extra capacity while keeping the quality. We don’t want to go too big too soon.”
Recent challenges have been plentiful, not least a global pandemic and rising costs. “People are cautious. Bills, food, energy costs have all gone up as well as inflation, but more than that the hospitality industry is struggling to recruit and retain staff. A lot of people left the industry during Covid and didn’t come back.” Staff retention as well as customer experience is a consideration for 2G when designing a restaurant.
Nick explains: “Good design is more than just about the customer. The better laid out a place is, the happier the staff which impacts on customer experience. If you go to a restaurant and the experience isn’t brilliant and you just can’t put your finger on why, the chances are the staff aren’t happy. You might not go back even if everything else was spot on.”
Covid meant that work on site stopped for three months but the design work continued. They worked through the pandemic on a large job on a heritage building in the Jewellery Quarter as well as two Lokis and Tropea in Harborne. Costs in a lot of areas of the business have gone up ranging from tradespeople day rates to plasterboard and timber which they’re hoping will level out soon.
Listed buildings present a challenge that Nick welcomes. “There are more things to consider like planners and conservationists. I enjoy mixing modern and traditional and putting old things back.” The Joint Works in the JQ is a great example of mixing old and new which has prompted industry accolades. The scheme made it to the final two projects in the Fit Out of the Year category at the Insider Awards.
Nick says: “The awards are a big thing in construction. There were multi-million-pound businesses and projects in the room with us. To be in the same arena as those people was great. It’s a different level that might lead to bigger projects.”