Fri, 20 Sept 2019
Everyone strives for a perfect work/life balance, but one Newbury man created his business to ensure he could achieve it.
And not only has he taken the local gastronomic world by storm, picking up a host of awards as he goes, but he also ensures he still has time to spend with his wife, two children and their dog.
Born in Reading, Richie Sanderson spent his childhood in Thatcham, where he attended St Mary’s School.
His family then moved to Lambourn Woodlands and Richie went to John O’Gaunt School, before going on to study catering and hospitality at Newbury College.
“While I was at school I did some work experience with an outside catering company in Lambourn and they offered me a part-time job, which I just loved,” he explains. “It just didn’t feel like work.
“I then went to the original Newbury College and did day release for the two-year course, studying in the workplace.
“I was working at The Bell at Boxford, which was a very nice restaurant.”
After completing his course, Richie worked at a number of restaurants across the area, including the Madagascan Gin Palace, a venue synonymous with Newbury nights out for those of us of a certain age.
A stint at Shepperton Studios catering saw him make the move to London, before he went to work at the two Michelin-starred Pied à Terre restaurant; an experience he describes as “pretty cool”.
He was drawn back to West Berkshire in 2005 by the Crab at Chieveley, where he became the junior sous chef for the two AA rosette restaurant.
“The Crab at Chieveley was one of the places to be in the area at the time,” Richie says. “But after a year there I felt I wanted to do event catering and take a break from restaurants and pubs.
“So I went to run Complete Catering in Oxford.
“We were doing between five and 10 events a week, ranging from product launches to weddings and parties.
“That was a really cool time and one of the best jobs I have ever had.
“Then in 2009 I started RS Catering and Events.
“I used to see some really talented chefs, but they burnt themselves out for someone else and didn’t have anything at the end of it. I didn’t want to be like that.
“It was just me and my wife, Charlotte, in the beginning, which was really hard work.
“Charlotte had worked in the equine industry, but she moved over to work with me after having our daughter, so she could work the hours that fitted around her.
“The emphasis of RS Catering wasn’t about making money, it was about creating a lifestyle.
“We planned it so we could still do what we loved, but also get what we wanted from our careers.”
Richie says that having his little girl was “a big turning point” in his life.
“I wanted the opportunity to make a living, but not be in the kitchen for 18 to 20 hours a day,” he adds.
“Now I have got an amazing staff and people who have stayed true to me, so I have stayed true to them.
“I have given parts of the company to people who have really worked for me.”
In 2015, Richie made a move back into restaurants when he took over The Bladebone in Bucklebury.
He fully refitted the pub, opening in January 2016, and hasn’t looked back.
“We were doing so many events and getting such good feedback and people kept asking us where we were based,” Richie says.
“It was really nice to hear it a few times, but when we were hearing it from a lot of people at every event, we started to think maybe it wasn’t a bad idea.
“Events are also very seasonal too so it did make sense. We realised we had a great team and a great product, but no shop front.
“I wanted to give people restaurant food in a pub environment and I saw a gap in the market as there weren’t many independent restaurants in the area at that time.”
And the Sanderson empire continued to expand last year when Richie took on The Bull, at Stanford Dingley.
“The Bull is fantastic,” he adds. “There were so many reasons for The Bull; it was a real natural progression.
“We had great staff and I realised if I didn’t move forward I couldn’t offer them the progression they needed.
“It was much easier to open The Bladebone though, because nobody knew us and there were no expectations.
“But we couldn’t open The Bull and enjoy that organic evolution. We had to open it looking perfect. There was a lot of personal pressure too.”
The price point at The Bull is intentionally lower than at The Bladebone, because to own two gastro-pubs just 1.2 miles apart was not good business sense, explains Richie.
“We offer a much more relaxed dining experience, with simpler food,” he adds. “It is very much a pub and that’s what I want it to be.
“We are already hitting second year targets and it isn’t as busy as I would like it to be, but I am a realistic businessman and we have it on a very long lease.”
Richie will now be focussing his attention on The Bull, as it approaches its first birthday, and looking at what has worked and what hasn’t.
“The tills provide us with every detail. I need to go through the analytics and revisit and tweak what we do there,” he says.
“You have to keep revisiting and tweaking and listening to what people want and then you can go forward from there.”
And although he is keeping busy enough at the moment, Richie says he will “never say never” to another pub – if the perfect opportunity arises.
But for now he is content with the work/life balance he has achieved.
“I am a worker, so I always have to work,” he adds. “I’m always cooking even when we’re on holiday, but I think I have got the right balance for me.
“I get to go to school plays and sports days and that is perfect for my family.”