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Giggling Squid restaurant creates a delicious stir

PUBLISHED: 11:20 02 May 2014 | UPDATED: 11:20 02 May 2014

Andy Laurillard, a man on a mission

Andy Laurillard, a man on a mission

Archant

The arrival of Giggling Squid restaurant in Marlow with its highly successful ‘Thai Tapas’ concept was always going to provide a talking point in a town that deserves its growing reputation as a ‘must visit’ food destination.

But who could have guessed that its owners, Andy and Pranee Laurillard, would turn out to be to be such entertaining characters as well as obvious business whizzkids?

Since Giggling Squid opened in February we’ve had the closure of rival operation Thai Square in West Street, with staff there descending on Giggling Squid in hope of jobs. Thai Square had been in Marlow for some five years and the premises will be taken over by French Bistro chain Cote Brasserie.

Meanwhile, the Laurillards are hoping to find roles for most of Thai Square’s former employees.

The dust had hardly settled when Andy Laurillard turned his attention to the tax man and VAT rules, accusing HMRC of “coming down like a ton of bricks” on honest restaurateurs, while failing to deal with abuse of the payment system.

“For my last VAT inspection they had clearly done little homework,” he says. “I laid out the receipts for all takings for three years on the floor of the office, in weekly bunches. I had presumed VAT inspectors would have been and eaten, paying cash a few times in the months before an inspection, and then would look for the receipts.”

But apparently they don’t, and Andy is now calling for “the playing field to be levelled” through proper controls. He riticises HMRC for coming down like a “ton of bricks on people that are honest and disclose their liability but get into trouble when they occasionally make late payments because of cash flow issues.”

“More hard work needs to be done sniffing out the massive frauds,” says Laurillard, who pays a third of his takings to the taxman in VAT, payroll taxes, corporation tax and business rates. Even staff tips are recorded and decaled.

Andy, who knows of restaurants that do not even use tills, is urging customers to pay for meals by debit or credit cards to “wipe out all manner of cheating and theft.”

Meanwhile, all is going well at 90-seater, two-floor Giggling Squid after a £300,000 refurbishment of premises previously used by Pachangas Mexican restaurant.

The Marlow opening means they now operate eight restaurants, including one at Henley. Two more are on the way as part of a plan to become the first national Thai chain in the UK, with a portfolio of 80-strong properties inside seven years. Customers definitely seem to love the ‘rustic’ Thai menu, with its emphasis on ‘sea and street food’.

The lunch menu offers a choice of six Tapas-style ‘tasting sets’ that allow diners to sample different dishes in at a single sitting, costing between £8 and £10.50, with 16 individual dishes priced under £4. ‘Big’ dishes with rice cost £6.50 to £7.95. ‘Combi’ meals with starters are priced between £6 and £7.25. The evening menu is more extensive with over 50 dishes, including Thai Green Chicken Curry at £8.95.

Pranee, a masters business graduate, who runs the operations side of the company and has an extensive database of good staff, all eager to join the organisation.

Treating people well and paying them above the norm, is the solution to staff shortages which the industry has encountered since the introduction of new, stricter immigration controls, according to the Laurillards.

“Thai managers are pretty thin on the ground – you can’t buy in our type of food from national suppliers and just have Polish chefs reheat it,” says Pranee.

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