Restaurant table booking

Mark Norris

We talk to Mark Norris, an international marketing executive who’s used his skills to transform Da Vinci from ‘just another restaurant’ into a Phuket icon, in less than a year. Their new V lounge is where you go to be seen.

Where are you from originally?
I’m from the UK, but I lived in France for 10 years and then 16 years in Switzerland although 80% of the time I was travelling all over the world, for my business.

When did you move to Phuket?
My wife and I have had a house here for five years, although we were living in Singapore. We decided to move here permanently in January of this year.

Had you been here before?
I’ve been coming to Phuket on vacation and for seminars for over 20 years.

What made you decide to come and live here?
I needed a change of pace and lifestyle. I was travelling too much. I decided I needed an activity which fitted within a 30 kilometre radius instead of 30,000. I’ve two young children aged seven and five, so spending time with them is important to me.

What did you do before you came to Phuket?
I was the Executive Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, for an international electronics company.

Did you come here intending to set up a business?
Yes. Originally, I wanted to set up a Japanese retirement community called Kiraku dedicated only to Japanese retirees, who would stay for five to seven years. However, it was very difficult to raise the equity required. Then an opportunity came up to buy the Da Vinci restaurant in Nai Harn. Both my partners and I liked the place and we thought it deserved some investment and targeted marketing. We set out to make it one of the best restaurants on the south of the island.

How long have you been running Da Vinci?
Since January of this year.

Why did you choose the name ‘Da Vinci’?
That was already the name. We did not want to change it. We just completed the branding with the ‘vitruvian man’ logo, which a lot of people recognise easily.

What problems did you face and how did you overcome them?
Firstly, we had to get the staff on our side, by taking care of them. Secondly, we had to advertise. However, marketing will only get people in the door, one time. If it’s good, customers will tell one or two people, if it's bad, they’ll tell everyone.

How do you approach your job?
With an open mind and some trepidation. I’ve never run a restaurant before and it’s a lot harder work than I ever imagined.

What would you say is your motto for running the business?
Keep it simple but sophisticated. Hire good people, let them do their job, and be there to help when needed.

Whereabouts do you live in Phuket?
In Nai Harn. The south of the island is still like all Thailand used to be.

What influenced your choice when you bought your house?
Proximity to the beach and the advice of the architect.

What do you like and dislike about living in Phuket?
I love the overall atmosphere of the island and Thailand in general. What I don't like is the way tourists tend to behave here. They put their lives at risk renting motorcycles they don't know how to ride and often don’t wear a helmet. They then say that Thailand’s roads are unsafe, which may be true, but they don’t help.

How is Phuket from your point of view?
Growing every year and despite all of the difficulties, will remain a very strong tourist destination for years to come. I see it becoming more and more of a place for retirement.

How old are you?
48 this year.

What school do your kids go to?
Headstart – a really great new school at an affordable price, with a maximum of 15 children in each class.

How do you spend time with your family?
Going to the beach and jet-skiing, and before you ask, “No, I’ve never had a problem with the guys in Karon who rent them.”

Who is the person who has most influenced you?
My wife, who is Japanese. She’s the calmest person I know.

Motto for life?
Live it, and try not to regret anything.

Could you tell us about your lifestyle?
Work hard and play hard. Enjoy the children, family and friends.

Where is your favourite place in Phuket?
Nai Harn Beach, it's such a great location.

Are you involved in any local charities, clubs or associations?
I’m a member of IBAP, BBAP and the Chaîne Des Rôtisseurs but I’m not really active, as the restaurant takes most of my time and any free nights I try to spend with the family.