Kuckoo – The Background

“Bartending has been my life,” said Richard Powell, founder of Kuckoo.

From working long hours every weekend behind some of the most popular cocktail bars and restaurants in Manchester, his dream was always to open his own place.

Richard’s career first began at the exclusive Living Room cocktail bar, Manchester, in 2001.

“I worked very hard but loved my job,” said Richard. “I moved to The Circle Club- after here, which was a very popular spot back then! Then I became restaurant manager at Restaurant Bar & Grill in 2003 and gained experience in a further three bars in the city, including M Twenty bar in Didsbury, South Manchester.”

During this time, Richard met two great friends, Johnny Culkin and Rodrigo de Araujo, who were to become key members of the Kuckoo team, and still work with Richard today.

Richard continued: “After spending almost a decade in Manchester, I was ready to go it alone. I’d learned so much from my experience – how to do it, and how not to do it in some cases – and I knew this was my time to branch out.”

Growing up in Preston, Richard’s entrepreneurial, motivated and fun-loving personality, along with the support from his business minded family, helped him pursue his dream.

“In 2007, I was part of a team that opened a bar called The Cocktail Factory in Preston – but this was just the beginning of the journey.

“The Cocktail Factory was great, but it didn’t have that strong, brand presence I was looking for. I wanted to build something unique and the Factory felt a bit like it was ‘just another cocktail bar’. That’s when Kuckoo was born.

“In 2010, we opened Kuckoo in Preston – the first rock and roll bar of its kind in the city, serving creative and fun drinks, made by professionally trained bartenders who really cared about their jobs. Kuckoo is very much a family business, and we were under a lot of pressure and a very tight deadline to open, but we did it and the bar is still busy every weekend, as well as weekdays.

The Kuckoo interior has an eye opening 'Onyx' style bar as its centrepiece with matching Onyx stone islands

“A lot of people ask me where the name Kuckoo came from, but it’s as simple as this – it’s just different.

“Ordinary is not what Kuckoo is about – we’re fun, outrageous and atmospheric, and we wanted a name people wouldn’t forget – much like their nights spent in Kuckoo!”

Richard introduced a ‘manager-less’ system to the brand concept from day one.

“It means each team member is individual and equal,” explained Richard, “bartending is their career, not just a weekend job, and they are salaried – which in turn, encourages a skilled and motivated workforce. Many of the bartenders we have today have been with us since we first began and have undergone professional training and continued development to ensure they are happy, having fun, and doing the best job they can – which they do.

“In 2013, a fantastic opportunity arose and we were able to open Kuckoo in Chester – which is a bigger site than Preston and has table service drinks downstairs too. The location of Chester is ideal (Watergate Street), right in the heart of the cultural city and a stone’s throw away from Chester Races. The bar has gone from strength to strength and we’ve just undergone a new refurbishment of the premises earlier this year (January 2017).”

Following the opening of Kuckoo in Sheffield in April 2017, another Kuckoo site in Knutsford is set to launch in late spring 2017, totalling four bars across the north. Rich says he doesn’t want the Kuckoo brand to stop growing there.

“I’m a businessman so I’m always thinking of the next bar. I’d love to open a Kuckoo in Manchester and London – who knows where we will be next.”

During the last three years, the Kuckoo concept has been finetuned and now stands on ‘four pillars’ which, as Richard says, is followed by all the Kuckoo sites.

He said: “These pillars include offering incredible cocktails derived from classic cocktail-making roots with fun at the heart of everything; playing true guitar-led Indie rock and roll music from Elvis and The Beatles, to Jimi Hendrix and The Strokes; providing interactive customer service through multi-serving, highly trained professional bartenders, who engage with customers and elevate their experience to ‘awesome’; and creating an atmosphere that makes guests never want to leave.

“And this is what we achieve – every single day. For more information, images or to book an interview with Richard Powell, founder of Kuckoo, please call Helen Wardley on 07766 666 913 or email [email protected]

Richard Powell, founder of Kuckoo.