In the company of: Jay Rennard, proprietor of Harrogate's Hidden, which provides a unique and exclusive dining experience
The Harrogate Advertiser talks to Jay Rennard, the proprietor of Harrogate bar Hidden.
Q: In a nutshell, what does your business do and how did it start?
A: We launched Hidden last year after taking over from Porco Rosso in the Ginnel. As an independent local business, we wanted to provide something different that would complement the existing bars in the area. We are passionate about using local produce, and sourcing new and innovative products and drinks.
Q: What’s the most surprising thing about it?
A: We are unique and offer a different dining experience in Harrogate. Whilst many in the hospitality sector are having to tighten their belts, we are sticking to our guns with how we wanted Hidden to be – exclusive and a focus on quality. We use all our own cocktail recipes which are handmade fresh to order using locally-sourced produce. We make the best cocktails in Harrogate, with edible flowers and fruit. Over 90 per cent of our drinks are exclusive in the area like our Deus (Beer Champagne), and Gosset – not off-the-shelf drinks. We want to offer people something different and give them a reason to try out Hidden… and to then come back.
Q: What do you do?
A: My role encompasses both managing the bar and staff, but also sourcing all the unique and different produce and drinks. We always want there to be something different at Hidden, so whilst keeping firm favourites in place, there is always a surprise or two.
Q: How did you end up here?
A: I was born and bred in Yorkshire with very humble beginnings. I have always made opportunities for myself in all aspects of my life and worked in industries I am passionate about as diverse from cars to hospitality. Opening Hidden was a dream I had been planning for a long time.
A: I have always worked for myself and have crossed industries from football to cars, interior design and now hospitality. Just focus on what you believe in and if you are doing something you love, it will never feel like a job.
Q: What motivates you?
A: Anyone who knows me will tell you it is perfection. I want customers to have the top-quality experience, whatever I am working on. I love working with like-minded people who are inspired by the same approach. Why give 50 per cent when you can hit 100 every time? Also, being able to spend time directly talking to customers and seeing their reaction when they enjoy what you have suggested and want to come back again.
Q: What one thing do you wish you had known when you started out in business?
A: Customer expectations and the need to constantly hit that level of service. It isn’t easy and, particularly in hospitality, it is often hard. I have the utmost respect for anyone working in hospitality at any level. It is long hours, sometimes unappreciated and when facing the challenges we have in the last 12 months, a bit more understanding would go a long way.
Q: What excites you about business?
A: This is where I excel: getting to taste all our amazing products and ensuring our customers have the ultimate food and drink experience. Literally opening the doors, as we did on our first night and have done ever since, and knowing we have given people an amazing night out – one they want to come back for. Being independent and making all these decisions ourselves – just mega!
A: Just go for it. You never know if you don’t try and keep pushing to strive for your goals and you will get there. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new if it doesn’t work out.
Q: Who in business do you most admire and why?
A: The honest answer is my previous bosses in the past, who taught me to stick to my guns and not deviate. Also, celebrities like Guy Ritchie who have gone from making films to diversifying into pubs and making his own beer. I admire people who follow the trends and move with the times.
Q: What moments of your career so far stand out?
A: So many to choose from, but one of them is when we exchanged contracts on the first day they announced we were in recession in 2020, and then opening the doors to Hidden.
We were open for four weeks and then closed for several months, but we are still here. It was a life-changing experience.
Q: What sets your company apart from the competition?
A: We are just an exceptional independent venue, and one people can hire entirely for parties and work events. Perfect for Christmas, birthdays or work events, with capacity of 60 people.
Food is literally made fresh in front of you with our open kitchen. Nothing is hidden – we are an open slate: what you see is what you get.
Q: What is the most difficult challenge your business has faced...?
A: For most businesses I assume this would be the pandemic, but in some ways Covid initially helped us, as it was another business sadly closing that gave us the opportunity to buy the bar. Then again, it then held us back opening it with the national lockdown in place last autumn. It has certainly been a baptism of fire with the challenges it has thrown at us, but if we can make it through this, we can make it through anything.
Q: …and what challenges are you experiencing at the moment?
A: Like most of the hospitality industry at the moment, we are facing recruitment challenges. The repetition of lockdowns has made many people look to different industries for a career, but people can still have an amazing career in hospitality. That’s particularly true of an independent business like ours – we have an amazing clientele and there are great opportunities to learn and progress.
Q: Have you got a five-year plan for the business?
A: I would love to expand, probably with a drinks-only bar. It is all about following the trends and moving with the times. Look out for a potential spin-off from Hidden coming soon!
Q: Why is it good to do business in Harrogate?
A: It is a great town to work in, with people like me, who say it as it is. I was born and bred in Yorkshire and this is where I want to be, albeit introducing people to meats and wines imported from Italy and new brands like Whispering Angel, Dues and Lucky Buddah beer, and showing how diverse we can be at the same time.
Name: Jay Rennard
Job Title: Proprieter
Company name: Hidden
Unit 4, 1A The Ginnel,
Harrogate HG1 2RB
Company founded: 2020
Number of staff: 6