Resilient Mitch - an example of how to cope and come out the other side

Picture of chef Mitch Tonks

Mitch Tonks at his Brixham restaurant - Credit: Rockfish

I first came across Mitch Tonks a few years ago at South Devon College. He was speaking at the launch of a seafood academy. I listened to every word he said. Totally off-the-cuff and totally inspirational. 

Remember he was talking fish here, not exactly a captivating subject. But he was so passionate that he had us eating out of his hands, albeit not literally. 

Mitch was not only passionate about seafood - he was even more bonkers about where a lot of it came from. namely the South Devon coast, the Devon coast, the West Country coast, the best, the richest coast in the land as far as he was concerned.. 

Move forward a few years later and there he was being once again the ever-inspirational businessman but in totally different and absolutely more challenging circumstances. 

Mitch was a guest on the Torbay Business Forum's Breakfast Bytes 'show' to talk about the hospitality industry and how it had been battered (excuse the pun) by Covid. 

He explained in only the way he can how the past year had been probably worst in his illustrious career and not just because of the virus. 

He was about to re-open his Seahorse restaurant in Dartmouth after the first Lockdown only for the building to be flooded by a burst water main. 

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His Rockfish restaurant on Torquay harbour has been closed for months – a flood during heavy downpours adding to the chaos caused by the virus. 

And then the hat-trick he didn’t want as storms wrecked part of the Rockfish building at Exmouth. 

But despite all these setbacks, if not disasters, with Mitch’s empire closed and him ‘burning money’ on a daily basis he remained totally positive. He emphasised that the most important thing in all this mess was his people, his staff. He was in daily contact with them to make sure they were ok. 

It was a story of resilience, fortitude, determination and passion and a great ‘case study’ for those people and businesses who had joined the webinar. 

Mitch was also there as one of the leading supporters of a ‘Seat at the Table’ campaign which is being driven by the hospitality industry who are battling to have their own, specific minister fighting their corner in Boris’s cabinet. 

More than 200,000 people have signed a campaign petition which triggered a debate in the Commons and is being seen as just the start of the fight to have a louder, more influential voice in the corridors of power. 

Harry Murray, former boss of Torquay’s then five-star Imperial Hotel, is another leading campaigner and also joined the ‘show’. 

He emphasised the importance of marketing our lovely Bay. And it is worth noting what a  brilliant job the English Riviera BID Company does on that score. 

Its official website attracts over one million visitors a year, promoting more than 1,200 local businesses. 

The Torbay Tourist Board was shut down due to council cuts 10 years ago and the Torbay Hospitality Association has been closed for nearly five years. So it was down to the BID Company to ‘picked up the pieces’. 

The Bay’s Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID), one of just four across the country, was launched in 2017 and has raised over £3 million to market the resort. 

Quite frankly, tourism and hospitality in the Bay would be lost without it! 

They are fully behind the Seat at the Table campaign and with the likes of Mitch Tonks and Harry Murray alongside them who says they won’t win? 

By the way, to top all the challenges and struggles facing Mitch, he revealed he is recovering from Covid but is absolutely fine!