City Fringe agency specialist is looking for a “USP” with a private restaurant

Compton, a city fringe office agency specialist fired in the pandemic, has taken the extraordinary step of opening a public-facing restaurant and deli on the ground floor of its new offices.

CoStar News visited the team in the opening week to see how the groundbreaking move forms part of a campaign to rethink what real estate advisors have to offer.

Shawn Simmons, Michael Rybin and Elliot Stern Made headlines in May of last year leaving Colliers to launch Compton, an office consulting firm.

The trio re-established themselves as an independent agency five years after selling their Hatton Real Estate business to Colliers, taking with them the 10-person City fringe global brokerage team.

The team is now 21 years old and already has a reputation for promoting itself and real estate across social media and technology, just as they did at both Hutton and Colliers. What doesn’t have a good reputation is running a commercial restaurant.

Simons explains that the decision is relatively recent and not taken seriously, given the risk of failure and challenges in the competitive arena. However, the only challenge when he visits CoStar at Thursday lunchtime is finding a table.

When the Trio left the Colliers, they took the lease of their Old Street base for the remaining six months while they planned to move to a new home in St. John’s Square in Clerkenwell, “Berkeley Square in Clerkenwell,” as Simons calls it.

The group was planning to move to a smaller building, but during the pandemic, the closed building at 47 St. John’s Square was where the modern store began calling them.

“It was set up as a restaurant and was 4,000 square feet, so it’s a bit too big for us. But we spoke to our landlord Meritcape about it. We had never planned to run a restaurant there but loved the building as it really is the most prominent address in the square. We started to think we would put the offices Up front at first and on the ground floor there is a barista and a reception for our customers with some pastries and coffee. Then we started to think that it could open up a bit to the public as a local service to them, many of whom are our customers.”

The thinking changed again when Simons and Stern, the “coffee men of the company,” began to think about the coffee they wanted. “We started looking at the operators and one of them said why don’t you have a lunch menu too. Then the next step was that Michael Raybin on the team knew Alex Kay, a leading restaurateur, and asked him for some advice. Alex really was very impressive and pointed out that we really needed To someone to manage the operation. So we all realized that it had to be Alex. Then I spent a lot of time begging him to look into it!”

The next turning point, Simons says, was the appointment of BaxterStorey, a leading provider of hospitality, as operator. “It fell into place then. We own it, but BaxterStorey runs it and Alex is the channel that runs it all.”

But what do office consultants do when opening a restaurant?

“It’s a good question,” Simons says. “Especially during a pandemic. The truth is that we’re never going to make a lot of money running this, and it’s never going to come close to the returns of the real estate business. And then there are risks associated with your reputation if you fail. But we’ve taken the view that it’s really important to increase your outreach to the local audience and your base. customers. We are ambassadors on the outskirts of the city.”

Since Hatton Realty, when the group became famous for its innovative social media use and for being the “Facebook generation” of advisors, says Simmons, they’ve been keen to embrace and disrupt new ideas.

“In 2021, most businesses launching again of course makes good use of social media as well. I think launching the restaurant helps give us a different brand again.”

Simmons says long-term knowledge of the area has also been crucial to understanding how much to shout about for the restaurant and deli. The evidence is already in the dessert.

“We’ve been open for 10 days now and it’s crowded. Before that, when we launched it smoothly, we were tasting the food and a guy in Clerkenwell came and started talking to us and it turns out he’s an architect who turns out to have 85 employees and his lease is expiring in August. Here’s an example Brilliant on how beneficial it is to meet local customers in the most popular building in the area. We also learned that the building misses an affordable price point, an easy-to-eat restaurant with a deli attached in the back with artisanal food. And we have a chef producing the food.”

Ultimately, Simmons says he believes fortune favors the brave. “Even if this isn’t a massive success, and I think it will be, it would be a differentiating factor that we’d be really proud of.”

As for the real estate sector, Simmons says Compton has big plans for growth.

“This is pretty much the first phase of growth. We want maybe two years under our belt and work and settle well and then we want to grow our business and take our unique way of doing things and spread it – across London then in the UK and eventually internationally.”

Regarding the London market, Simons says the recent very strong recovery has been clearly affected by the recent mix of downbeat economic winds in the UK and globally.

“There has been a view that reduced supply coming into the pandemic has led to some flexibility and this is true for some parts of the capital but for most of the UK and much of London it has not. Towards the end of last year the gates reopened for most of this year And that hype has been steady until May but that obviously slowed down on the back of the whole story. Parts of the market are paralyzed because you’re finally going to stick to something now? But I think there’s going to be a very busy end of the year because there’s a lot of pent-up demand. Likewise, Many companies I know have spent the past 12 months on a workplace strategy that I think will be finished in the summer and companies and employees just want me back in the office.”

Simmons says it’s far from an advocate for working from home but it’s there to stay to some extent. “We carried the hashtag Don’t work from home, we always came to the office. But I think companies and employees know there is a corporate social responsibility to support the economic structure of our cities as well, and eventually they will drive a big return to offices.”

So what did Compton’s peers think of the restaurant’s opening?

“The property is very competitive as well as friendly so I wasn’t sure it would be. But we’ve got a lot of support from the real estate community. Someone from another company has already made a deal at the restaurant – I’m just sad it wasn’t me!”

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