Prezzo executive chair Karen Jones has told MCA’s Restaurant Conference about her decision to take charge of the struggling brand and mission to “make customers love it again”.

Jones said Prezzo had lost its core focus on hospitality, and it was no longer serving customers, something she said she was working to restore.

Jones, the co-founder of Café Rouge, said a key part of this turnaround was being clear about the values the brand stood for, and inspiring staff to be ambassadors for Prezzo.

She emphasised her entrepreneurial background in driving the turnaround, insisting boldness and change were required to wrest a brand such as 18-year-old Prezzo from its malaise.

Jones, who is also the former chief executive of the Spirit pub group, suggested there could be some lessons for casual dining in the reinvention of the pub sector following the smoking ban.

On her decision to take on Prezzo, she said: “I thought it was a business were the focus on hospitality was somewhat lost.

“Events had slightly overwhelmed them. Customers have an innate fondness for the brand, but it was not serving them very well.

“That was the main driver, I really wanted to restore that, make us all proud of the brand, and make customers live it again.”

She continued that the difficult situation at Prezzo, which has been forced to close 100 sites, appealed to her.

She said: “I like tough times – I think your best thinking and work happens when things are really difficult. It separates people who are in it for the love and people who are in it for the money – you don’t do it for an easy buck.”

Jones said the turnaround was focussed on key areas – people, customers, differentiation, environment, quality, value – as well as re-establishing its core values.

She said: “What are our values? How are we going to work together and how are we going to make sure everyone that works within Prezzo is an ambassador for those values, even when its hard?”

Jones said her entrepreneurial background gave you a different take on managing a brand.

She said: “Having that mentality of an entrepreneur means you don’t have a narrow view of your role. I really see the value of being broader, always trying to find out the answer, and accountability.

“You have to do something different. The thing about if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got, its true.

“If you want to make a change you have to be bold. Not everything is going to work, but you have to be into the idea of doing things better.”