Your new favourite restaurant? It was probably Jules Pearson's idea
Jules Pearson is responsible for designing restaurant and bar concepts around the globe with hospitality group Ennismore. Molly Codyre speaks to her about travelling the world, juggling over 350 spaces and the importance of women in the workplace
You might not know what your next favourite restaurant is, but Jules Pearson probably does. Officially titled the Global VP of Food and Beverage Development at Ennismore, the group responsible for, among others, The Hoxton , Gleneagles and Mondrian, Pearson has a direct hand involved in almost every restaurant and bar developed for new and existing hotels within the company. She’s also the co-founder of digital publication London on the Inside (LOTI), which tracks everything exciting going on in the city, and has even launched a mini publication brand, Sausage Press . Phew, it’s safe to say she’s got her fingers in a fair few pies.
Pearson is the kind of defining presence in the hospitality world that often goes unseen, but whose influence could be said to be quite literally global. Tying her down for an interview was enormously hard. Could she do Monday? No, she’s in Barcelona . How about in two weeks time? Can’t do that – she’s in Istanbul. When we do eventually get to chat, it’s the day after a successful pop-up launch where she brought one of New York’s best wine bars to London in collaboration with Brooklyn Brewery, an event that was so boozy we’re both feeling fairly worse for wear and I’m barely capable of stringing coherent sentences together.
And yet, even on a raging hangover, Pearson is full of insightful industry comments, intelligent trend forecasting and a fair few cracking jokes to boot. It’s a life that might look glamorous from the outside – travelling regularly, eating out constantly, curating a selection of highly successful restaurants – but the side you don’t see is brutal, involving long days, endless jet lag and an unmatched juggling act. It requires immense stamina and hard work to tackle it all.
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“When I joined Ennismore as communications director, we were a start-up with a tiny team and just one hotel,” Pearson tells me. “As we grew, I could work across a lot of things, including food and drink. Once The Hoxton went global and Gleneagles joined us, we had a handful of independent eateries to look after. Eventually the role got too big to do both, so I took the food and drink pathway, and here we are today. Now Ennismore has 16 global hotel brands with a lot of restaurants and bars to create.”
Even the term “a lot,” in this context, is an understatement. With a small team, Pearson is currently working on 365 upcoming projects – never mind the ones that have already launched, of which there are many. She has a knack for international cross-pollinating, bringing chefs and professionals from across the world to design and set up concepts within properties thousands of miles from where they are based. She’s the reason you can get incredible, Detroit-style thick crust pizza in Barcelona, and California-accented Thai in the soon to be opened Hoxton Shepherds Bush. It’s mind boggling to consider, and requires an unimaginable amount of forward-planning, not to mention discovery trips, travelling to far-flung places to sniff out the coolest food and drink operators in town.
I’ve been lucky to always work in smaller companies, so my gender hasn’t impacted my career in a positive or negative way
“I spent 12 months backpacking the world and decided that I wanted a job that included travel,” Pearson tells me. “I initially entered the industry as a travel PR, working in an agency in London, and was lucky enough to work on some incredible properties around the world. Through that, I met a lot of journalists who became friends and allowed me to contribute to publications – that passion for writing developed into me creating London on the Inside, with my co-founder Ben.” It’s a successful publication, running it is no mean feat, and yet it’s a testament to Pearson’s work ethic that she still describes it as her ‘side hustle’.
Pearson works at the kind of level that, for many years, remained the reserve of men – high-powered, intense and often influential positions that sit above the glass ceiling and were made near-impossible for women to step into. When I ask if she’s ever been treated differently because of it, she acknowledges the benefit of working for a boutique company, where work ethic tends to weigh out over other influences. “I’ve been lucky to always work in smaller companies, so my gender hasn’t impacted my career in a positive or negative way,” she tells me. “I’ve been recognised for my hard work and always been encouraged to be myself.”
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Although, she adds, she’s “definitely noticed a difference in some cultures and countries – the way that senior people can react differently to males and females” she emphasis that she’s lucky to have surrounded herself with “work colleagues, male and female, that always ensure everyone has a voice in the room, no matter what gender they are. Though I have come up against men who have respected me less because I am a woman, this hasn’t impacted my career – just made me sad for a day or two.”
She’s been particularly good at surrounding herself with accomplished women and offering a helping hand to assist others climbing the ladder behind her. “I have an all-female creative team at Ennismore and, aside from Ben, an all-female team at LOTI, all of whom are incredibly good at their roles and inspire me daily,” she tells me. “I think the industry needs more female leaders globally. I’m keen to work with more female-led businesses to help accelerate their growth, too.”
Pearson’s career has been an incredibly successful one, regardless of her gender and how we measure her achievements against it. I wonder if there are any highlights? She references opening the first Hoxton hotel outside of the UK, bringing on incredible industry partners including Tayer + Elementary and Oklava, and consistently being a part of the CODE Hospitality most influential women in hospitality list. But ultimately says she “celebrates all the wins, big and small.” With 365 hospitality venues on her cards for the next six years, it’s safe to say there are a fair few of them coming up.