Iqbal, the founder of multiple businesses including The Cinnamon Club and Roast, describes himself as a "restaurateur with social meddling tendencies".
Now focussed on developing local restaurants that are designed to create positive social impact, Iqbal is also an active mentor to many. He has helped developed a programme to address the rising number of Muslims ending up in prison through Mosaic, and is passionate about the responsibilities that employers and leaders have towards those who work for and around them.
What keeps you busy?
The constant questions in my head! They’re quite varied in their subject matter. Currently they range from “what do I need to know about how AI can be used in restaurants?” to “how do I convince the Metropolitan Police Commissioner that the Gangs Matrix is inherently biased against young black men?” and “why don’t more armed forces veterans go into business?”
Why do you do what you do?
Without knowing the term, I’ve been driven by 'purpose' in business for years. The idea that eating and drinking in restaurants can not only be pleasurable in itself but have the added bonus of making social impacts - both inherently and along the way - encourages me to want to do more of them.
What do you think helps make you good at what you do?
I’m obsessive about engaging teams around me in what I’m thinking or doing because unless they buy into the thoughts and ambitions that drive me, I won’t get the results I want.
What piece of advice has most influenced or assisted you recently?
A former veteran recently told me about a time when he was heading a Nato command in Serbia and had to quell an imminent Kosovan attack on their border. With a small troop he had to convince both sides to stand down. He said he managed to do so by staying calm – a much understated key component in running a business.
What are your plans or ambitions for the next 6 months?
I’m keen to inject some life and soul into our high streets by creating a group of neighbourhood restaurants which have a common identity but which are served at a local level with community engagement and buy-in. I’ve created The Purpose Restaurant Company to acquire one, possibly two, groups over the next six months.
What's your morning routine?
The morning is all green! I wake up around 5.30 and make a pot of Sencha green tea with a slice of lime, go through what’s in social media first and then a few online newspapers, then a Nutrilbullet juice of spinach, kale and cucumber and then download whatever’s been festering in my head and offload them to the people unfortunate enough to work with me on those matters.