Dr. Jonathan Lockwood Sutton Jo: A Passionate Hospitality Industry Leader In The Hong Kong Region
Hong Kong has evolved into one of the finest locations for international business in recent times. The Special Administrative Region (SAR) has strongly bounced back from the Covid crisis, wherein in 2021 alone, over 110,000 new businesses were incorporated. Ease of company incorporation, low corporate taxes, free trade arrangements with other countries, no foreign currency restrictions and having a very well-developed banking & payments system are some of the factors catering to Hong Kong being such a fertile business market. As a result, it is home to many business leaders and industry experts who are key to maintain its international leading role.
Dr. Jonathan Lockwood Sutton Jo (COO, Steak King) is one such eminent business professional in Hong Kong who has not only been driving his company towards success, but has been a true inspiration to upcoming entrepreneurs in the region. CEO Insights Asia recently had the pleasure to interview Dr. Jonathan about his journey so far, his company Steak King and various other aspects. Below are excerpts of the exclusive interview.
Tell us about your educational & professional background.
I was born in Australia and moved to Hong Kong when I was around 10 years old, where I completed my basic schooling. Later, I moved back to Australia to study Hospitality and where I did my internship at the Sheraton Mirage Hotel, in Port Douglas. At this point, I still felt there was something missing and thus moved back to Hong Kong to further my industry and tertiary education, completing a Masters in Science and a Doctorate both in Hospitality.
Being passionate about hospitality, I like to push the boundaries of the industry. My life has always been about looking at both the theoretical and practical side of business. I like the idea of theory in practice. So, bridging the gap between the two, I get a kick of producing a product that is accepted by the market. There is always an unknown whether your product will be well received, but its quite exciting launching new brands and new concepts. I have worked in setting-up many night clubs and other hospitality related businesses. One, more recently, is a coffee roasting company - Dr. Sutton’s Coffee. Prior to that, we started a cocktail bar in Vietnam named Apt852, which was rated among the top 10 cocktail bars in Ho Chi Minh City. I have been working in the hospitality industry for close to 15 years now, and still love it!
Tell us about Steak King and your role there.
I am the Chief Operating Officer at Steak King Holdings. We are an upper midscale meat provider, but more so a growing lifestyle brand – a way of life. We also import products like coffee and fresh fruits with the main idea of cutting-out the middlemen and intermediaries. For this, we approach the producers directly and connect them with the customers, who can then order directly online or through our retail outlets. This way, we can offer our customers access to the best quality products at the cheapest prices possible.
Briefly explain about the various offerings of Steak King and how they add value to customers.
We primarily offer beef products that are sourced from some of the best producers in Australia, Canada and the US. Steak King is very famous for its hamburgers, sausages, Beef Wellington’s and now lobster rolls. We aim to bring the freshest seafood from the Sydney Fish Market by giving customers the luxury of selecting the product of their choice through our newly launched app. Our seafood provider in Sydney, John Susman, provides the videos of seafood products available for that particular week, Customers then refer to them and select the product they like through the subscription box. We then shipout the products through air freight and distribute them to our consumers within days of them being freshly caught on the Australian Eastern coast.
We also offer a Nutrition Box that is low in fat and perfectly suitable for gym & fitness enthusiasts who are very cautious about their food intake. For the pet lovers out there, we have a sole distributor for premium pet food - Proudi, which is a very famous Australian pet food brand. Having been in the industry for a very long time, our founder (Jonathan Glover) has a plethora of unparalleled experience within the industry and has launched a number of successful international brands (Argyle Butchers, the Butchers Club and now Steak King), as well as receiving notable awards (SME entrepreneur of the year). He has extremely strong connections with a lot of producers, because of which we have been able to establish direct connections with farms in Australia, Canada and US. He is currently forging new connections in Japan, as we speak, notably in the Hokkaido region. Jonathan Glover is the Lionel Messi of entrepreneurship and as such I count myself lucky to be able to learn from such a seasoned professional.
Another key individual of our brand is Brandon Tomkinson, our Head of Production, he has governed important previous industry roles, such as being the Executive Chef to Gordon Ramsey in Hong Kong. He oversees the QA/QC of all our products as well as making sure our culinary team remain cutting edge and World class.
What is the future roadmap planned for Steak King?
We are opening a very high-quality reasonably priced Steak House in Central (Macelle), which will be launched in February 2023. We are also launching our Lobster Boss concept in the newly opened K11 Musea – Hong Kong’s most glamourous, newest and expensive shopping mall.
Steak King is rapidly expanding, as such we are increasing our centralized storage. This will see a further expansion to a 10,000 square foot location in Wong Chuk Hang, Aberdeen. This will help meet the increased demand for both our online and physical retail, restaurants and event locations.
"Our Company is only as strong as our team, building this is key to our continued success. I’m blessed by having a fantastic team! Treat your team right & anything is possible"
How do you expect the industry to evolve in the coming times, and what opportunities do you foresee?
Given the various uncertainties the recent Covid crisis brought with it, there has been a tremendous shift in consumer behavior especially in Hong Kong. A majority of the customers now prefer online mediums, and we have a strong online presence with about $1 million USD sales happening every month. Additionally, we have six retail outlets as well. In terms of market behavior, we are trying to target the local consumers in Hong Kong as a stepping stone to jump from here into the Greater Bay Area. It is easy to understand the dynamics of the GBA once you understand that of Hong Kong, and that’s where we anticipate to grow.
Having such vast experience in the industry, what would your advice be to upcoming entrepreneurs or professionals in your industry?
Work hard, work smart, and work on something you truly like. This has definitely worked for me. Also, make sure you don’t give up. Don’t waste your time on stuff that won’t yield any results or help you learn anything. My job right now is the culmination of everything I enjoy. So, I don’t really see it as work. Thus, Our Company is only as strong as our team, building this is key to our continued success. I’m blessed by having a fantastic team! Treat your team right and anything is possible.
Dr. Jonathan Lockwood Sutton Jo, COO, Steak King
Dr. Jo Sutton has worked in a number of different hospitality areas, including; hotels, cafes, bars & restaurants, and tertiary education for over 15 years. Jo has a doctorate from Hong Kong Polytechnic University where he also worked as a lecturer and helped coordinate and manage the F&B courses at the hotel school.
• Hobbies: BMX Rugby, Surfing and kickboxing
• Favorite Cuisine: Japanese
• Favorite Book: A Dictionary
• Awards & Recognition: Top 100 Education Leaders Award in Dubai and Outstanding Leadership Award in Las Vegas