THE best way to learn about business? According to Yacine Titi, time spent on the shop floor is far more valuable than doing an MBA.

And with a growing restaurant empire employing 75 people to his name, the East Kilbride-based entrepreneur knows what he’s talking about.

Mr Titi, who is of Scots-Italian heritage, was an accomplished pizza chef in his father’s restaurant by the age of 14. He left school at 16 with no qualifications, stepped outside the family business and worked his way up to a management role before opening his own place at the tender age of 26.

Sixteen years later, Zucca in East Kilbride shopping centre remains one of the town’s most popular eateries, with a second branch in the Village area of the town also proving a hit with diners.

In December, Mr Titi opened his third restaurant, Boh Cucina in Uddingston, which specialises in tapas-style small plates.

“Being hands on is the best way to learn in business," he explains. "You make mistakes and learn how to correct them, and you take these lessons to your new businesses,” he says. “I’m still learning every single day.”

With a trio of busy sites across Lanarkshire, the 42-year-old recently changed his role, moving to oversee business development across the company, a step upwards he wouldn’t have been able to make without support from his staff.

“Over the next while we’ll work hard to make a success of the small plates concept and decide whether we want to expand it,” he says. “I’ve got an amazing team and I wouldn’t have been able to open the third place if I hadn’t been able to take that step back. Getting the right staff is absolutely crucial to your business. Developing them helps you develop your whole business.

“My head chefs in East Kilbride have been with me for 15 and 10 years respectively, my area manager for six, and family members have always worked in the business. I now have the opportunity to concentrate on what makes the business thrive and support the people who help me drive it forward. It’s an exciting time.”

The other side of that growth and excitement, however, is the stress.

“The responsibility of employing 75 people is huge and can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially when you have a young family as well,” says Mr Titi, who is dad to Roman, five, and Angelo, two. “I’ve had some sleepless nights over the years but you get up in the morning and move on.

“When people depend on you for their livelihood you can’t afford to sit there in a gloom worrying about things – you have to get out there, show some leadership and make things work.

“That’s what I enjoy most about being my own boss, seeing people develop, watching your business grow, growing as a person at the same time. And being self-taught I get an extra sense of satisfaction.”

Part of that growth, he says, has been down to the strong relationship he has forged with his business managers at RBS over the years. “They’ve always been really helpful, presenting different options at different times,” he says. “RBS is a good partner to have.”

Food businesses have some of the worst rates of success five years after launch, and with this in mind Mr Titi has sound advice for budding restaurateurs.

“Do your research,” he says. “You need to know your market and be aware of the levels of spend in your area. Don’t try something new without doing your homework. Is the level of spend you are relying on really going to be there?

“Staying ahead of the competition is also important. To get ahead you have to be different from everyone else, so be prepared to think creatively. Test things out and develop your chefs.”