Q&A with Philip McGuinness, Founder, Tootoomoo
Philip McGuinness is the founding brains (and stomach) behind Tootoomoo. This week, we’ve been chatting to him to find out why he opened the restaurant, what’s important to him and how often he eats Tootoomoo food himself!
- Why did you decide to open Tootoomoo?
The simple reason I started is because I wanted to bring fresh, healthy, good quality, great tasting food to people. I firmly believe that Pan Asian food and ingredients delivers on all of this, plus it offers variety as its very broad.
I think people want more choice, they want to see the food being cooked in front of them. Customers want to know where we source the ingredients from and how we cook the dishes and this is something it was very important for me to provide. I wanted to create a restaurant and takeaway which was transparent – offering good, healthy, affordable food with ingredients that speak for themselves to the local communities of Highgate, Crouch End and Muswell Hill.
I also wanted to essentially recreate a takeout, so part of our business does just that. Customers have a choice to buy the ingredients from our mini market and create their own dishes at home or to buy the real thing cooked in front of them at our restaurant.
- What is the ethos behind the restaurant?
The ethos really comes from the story of Tootoomoo, which is a well known Indonesian folklore story. It demonstrates perfectly who we are as a restaurant as it is all about sharing with your community, new ideas and ingredients, fresh dishes coming to together and eating together in a fun, warm friendly environment. The story is a great one – you can read it on our website.
- Customers are very concerned with the provenance of their food – Where do you source your food from/Is it local/Who are your suppliers?
We use a range of local and national suppliers that are all British. I invest heavily in only the best ingredients, most of our vegetables are organic and our chicken is free range. Our fish is ethically sourced and our meat is fully traceable.This is important to us as it allows use to deliver the freshest and healthy food, made to order.
We use a company called Shield Foods for our seafood who have a huge reputation and have leading clients on their roster. Direct Meats is our meat supplier who is well known in the catering trade. It is important to me to have strong relationships with our suppliers to ensure that my customers receive only the best end product.
- How important is the issue of sustainability to you and Tootoomoo?
All our seafood, chicken and meat is all traceable from our suppliers. In fact, we spent months talking to them and inspecting their factories before taking them on. It was a great help that Ricky Pang, our executive chef, has worked in the trade for a long time and knows who delivers the best products.
- In terms of the quality of your ingredients, how do you decide which ingredients you buy or serve on any given day?
We have someone assigned daily on quality control, so that person is responsible for checking all our ingredients. If they aren’t up to scratch, they are sent back. On specific days we go to the markets for to source our vegetables fresh, so that also determines what is on offer.
- Customers are clearly important to Tootoomoo – what do you do to ensure they receive the best experience?
We hire and train only the best people. As we are all a happy team, the customer feels like our restaurant is a happy place to be. We serve great food and are very proud of what we have created so the customer feels proud to be a part of it as well, right from the beginning. Really our customers have become our friends.
- Who is the Tootoomoo team?
Well, I think you know a bit about me now, but just in case! I have been involved in food and retail for a number of years, identifying and investing in opportunities in the UK.
Ricky Pang, our executive head chef, has years of experience as well in restaurants such as Yoobi and Mori.
- You’ve been spotted eating Tootoomoo food yourself quite often – how often does Philip McGuinness eat in the restaurant?
Three times a day every day. I constantly eat my way through the menu making sure the standards are being not only kept, but also improved.
- What experience would you hope to leave diners with every time they come to Tootoomoo?
Happy, healthy and looking forward to their next visit, I want customers to feel like they belong and are part of the family.
- What are the next steps and plans for Tootoomoo?
We are extending our kitchen soon and getting the back area of the restaurant ready for the good weather. Currently we deliver to Highgate, Muswell Hill and Crouch End, soon we will extend our delivery area to cover more of North London as well. We’ve got lots of plans, so all I can say is watch this space!