In association with American Express
Sitting in a pub garden on a sunny Friday afternoon in March 2007, Tim Foster felt giddy with excitement.
Reaching across the table that he was sharing with his two friends, Anthony and Colin, he grabbed a napkin and began writing. The trio had just had a brilliant idea: they were going to open their own pub with a difference.
It was a moment that would not only change the trajectory of his own journey but, in coming years, would see him change hundreds of lives in the process.
“It was Colin who first suggested it,” says the now 43-year-old, who worked in sales and marketing at the time.
“We’d spent a lot of time working together as a group and were all frustrated at the lack of innovation in the hospitality industry, constantly feeling like we were banging our heads against a wall.
“It wasn’t the first time we’d considered opening a pub together but that was the moment we decided to go for it.
“I didn’t have any paper handy, so I just grabbed a napkin from the table and started scribbling down some ideas and the beginnings of a business plan on the back of it.
“That’s how Yummy Pubs began.”
Although he had no idea what the future would hold, Tim felt positive about one thing: this was a step in the right direction.
Fourteen years and six pubs later, he is a well-known figure on the scene and will happily talk anyone’s ear off about why he loves pubs so much.
“There’s no industry like it,” he says.
“It’s such an open and inclusive environment. We’re all in it together and I know that if I reached out to other people in hospitality for a chat or advice, they would always say yes.”
Passion for people
Aside from his passion for pubs, Tim – who in 2021 owns four venues in London and Surrey – is a fierce believer in giving back to the community.
The drive to ‘do more’ is linked to his own personal experiences. Tim had a tough childhood – at one point he was almost expelled from school, so he knows the value of second chances.
A few years ago, he reached out to New Horizons Youth Centre, which works with young people who are vulnerable, homeless or at risk.
They paired him with a young man who had no money, regular accommodation or family. That man went on to become a general manager in one of Tim’s most popular pubs.
“My childhood experiences have stuck with me,” he says.
“When I was at school, there was a teacher who didn’t give up on me. He got me interested in graphic design, which I later went on to do a degree in, and that saved me.
“Like him, I now have the opportunity to help others.
“The young man I was paired with came to London with £50 in his pocket and went into a homeless shelter a week later. We took him in and trained him, and I tried really hard to move him into new roles so he could learn as much as possible.
“Years later, he told me that we’d ‘saved’ his life. That was incredible to hear.”
Tim has since worked with countless young people to get them back on their feet.
“I’m so proud of what we’ve managed to do, we’ve made a real impact,” he says.
“A lot of people won’t give these kids a chance because they’re afraid. There are challenges; they come with heavy baggage because of what they’ve been through.
“But if you invest in them, it’s a win-win.”
Giving back to the local community is a lesson Tim hopes his own sons, Finn, 11, and Theo, seven, will learn as they grow older.
He regularly takes them into work so they can meet his team.
“They love getting involved; I sometimes take them into the kitchen and have shown them how to grow vegetables in the garden,” says Tim.
“Finn and Theo are both very considerate people, which, as a dad, makes me very proud.
“They know what I do and that I have a passion for people and I want them to learn that people are the most important thing.
“Everything I do is for my wife, Lucy, and them.”
In 2022, Tim is getting involved with Only A Pavement Away, a charity that links homeless people with operators in the hospitality industry, to get them back on their feet.