The man who sold his house to make his dream come true
Entrepreneur Philip McGuinness sold his house to make his dream of running a pan-Asian restaurant and takeaway business come true.
Tootoomoo was started in Crouch End on a shoestring, at the age of 35 Philip risked everything he owned and worked day and night for four years. Now he has branches in Highbury, Highgate and Whetstone too.
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He told the Local Buyers Club: “At the time the quality of the take-out offering wasn’t that great in London, I wanted to reinvent the takeaway. I found a cheap site in Crouch End and invested in that. I never planned to do a restaurant, just a front-of-shop takeaway but before we knew it we’d built a 40-seater restaurant and it took off.
“Our whole idea was fresh food and healthy ingredients. A lot of Asian restaurants buy in cheap cuts of meat and use a softener. We buy good cuts of Irish and British meats and spend a lot on ingredients - there’s absolutely no MSG. We’re not the cheapest but we hope people will see us as the Waitrose of the Asian food scene.”
The restaurant chain was named after the folk law tale of a young girl called Tootoomoo who lived in a tiny village where a giant also lived. When the giant grew sick of eating the same dish each day, Tootoomoo prepared him a feast… each dish was tastier than the last. The restaurant’s website states: “We now prepare inspired, tasty and healthy food for Giants and little people alike.”
Philip became a father eight months ago to his son Tiernan. He divides his time between London and Ireland, where his wife Jill works at Google.
The menu at Tootoomoo includes Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese and Japanese dishes, carefully prepared by chef Ricky Pang. The menus at Tootoomoo are at least 20% gluten free; partly inspired by Philip’s sister who has coeliac disease. They also offer Bento boxes for children.
Philip, who has a degree in Hotel Management, went on to work for a DIY franchise and with Tesco. He’s travelled to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in his late teens and always had a love for the food.
He started Tootoomoo with his life-savings in 2012 and was living in Ireland and travelling every week to London. He added: “I sold my house and got on with it. Everything is scary when you’re setting up your own business, you put everything into it. Because my wife works it eases the burden.
“I set up the business on a shoestring – now I bank with Natwest and they support me going forward.
“When I first set up I had no idea what I was doing, I was learning about the area too – I tried new things and figured out what worked and what didn’t. I worked 24-hours a day; I don’t know if I would do it again! I gave my life away for four years. But it has definitely been worth it, I really enjoy what I do and we have a great team.”
Tootoomoo, which employs around 60 full and part time staff, is always on the look out for new sites within the M25.
The business supports the Alexandra Wylie Tower Foundation, a charity helping underprivileged young people in London.
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