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The art of making a restaurant a destination Searcys explains how, 172 years after the brand was founded, it continues to progress and develop to maintain its brand truth of quality, service, and craft.
earcys was established in 1847 by John Searcy, a confectioner and pastry chef working for the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. He identified a niche in the market with providing events catering for the up-andcoming middle class, and the business was founded. Today, the company is one of Britain’s longestrunning hospitality businesses. Anna Fenten, the Head of Brand, Marketing, and Communications at Searcys, explains the research undertook on global trends and Searcys’ own customer base when she joined the company in 2017. “When looking at macro-trends, it became very obvious that driving the consumer today, particularly in the dining out market, was the tension between local and global authenticity. London is the capital of global cuisine at the moment, but we as consumers also care so much about the provenance of our produce.” She also highlights how Searcys navigates tensions between traditional attitudes around dining out with new emerging trends, such as the consumers’ want to indulge against the health and wellbeing scene coming into the mainstream. “We try to really tie those things together and weave big global trends into our own brand stories and narratives.” Fenten continues to note the importance of value of experience for the consumer. “Value for money is a cornerstone of our purchasing decisions. If we as restaurateurs, as event providers, can understand what drives that value, what makes it
unique to the customer – the quality of ingredients, of presentation, of service, all of the attributes that make a guest feel special – we can try to really strengthen the perception of value.” “We try to create value at every single corner of our journey. We need to give something unique to talk about and remember. We’re not competing on price, but on the uniqueness of experience.” This distinction of offering something “unique” is not just explored in the food and drink, but in an all-round dining experience. For example, in January 2019, Searcys ran a “wellbeing campaign”, where “nutritionists and yoga instructors, and artists and painters” were involved to “augment the experience in restaurants and at events”. The reason Searcys places such a focus on this is due to the feedback they gathered when researching what made a restaurant a destination, both at Searcys and in the wider market. Fenten highlights the top five drivers. The first was the quality of food, with 49% of participants naming this as the most important. Fenten says that culinary craft is a key competency of Searcys: “It’s intrinsic to our company: the love for ingredients, ensuring the chefs have creative space to be themselves, to show their personalities through the dishes.” The second was the “place that makes you feel special”, and the remaining three were “the menu, the service, and the reputation”. Fenten says that with such a high percentage
placing emphasis on the venue, “feeling special became a cornerstone of Searcys’ brand proposition going forward.” This is in addition to Searcys’ focus on its “Britishness, its no compromise on ingredients, the quality of service, and the delivery of food and drink.” This research also showed Searcys that the focus of its marketing activities needed to lie in strengthening brand awareness and consistency of messaging around an established “brand truth”. “Ultimately, we looked at what the customer was looking at: the big marker of trends of localisation, provenance, and the personalities of brands. When we overlaid those three buckets of insights with our own internal competencies, competitor gaps, and customer demands, we realised at the crossroads of these is our brand truth.” This “brand truth” was for Searcys to be “known for its provenance, and famous for its warm, generous hospitality”. Fenten says: “Hospitality is an art, and we want our customers to feel special every day when they cross our doorsteps.” She explains: “Any brand promise or truth needs to be internally and externally facing. The way we have articulated the brand truth is that Searcys is there to make the people we serve feel special by being consistently exceptional.” She highlights the word “serve” as particularly significant in the hospitality industry. “I also think it’s so important to talk about the people we work with, both our