Propel Quarterly Winter 2019

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uarterly The essential information resource for pub, restaurant & foodservice operators

Built for success Chief executive Ralph Findlay says Marston’s heritage sees it bettering rivals in all the “interesting parts of the market”

Inside: Comptoir Libanais’ Tony Kitous British bakeries are hot Simmons Bars’ Nick Campbell Creating emotional engagement Rates reform is vital Pragmatism over preciousness Fabulous food trucks Keeping customers engaged


ISSUE 29 • WINTER 2019


This issue... 6 04

Keep your head up or miss out


Rates reform is vital


Pragmatism over preciousness

Welcome from insights editor Mark Wingett






Hot coals

Comptoir Libanais founder Tony Kitous says quality of food and design will see his Lebanese concept thrive as it expands in the Middle East

Nick Campbell, owner of London’s largest independent bar chain Simmons Bars, says not all success is down to social media and trends


Keep on truckin’


Pining for Christmas trees

Interesting times

Marston’s is doing things as well or better than other companies in the market but with a great story attached, says chief executive Ralph Findlay

Festive fizz

Martin Cooper looks at drinks ideas for the winter season and sees added opportunities for the on-trade

22 55


It must be love



Ian Dunstall says brands that fail to create positive emotional engagement are less likely to survive a crisis and thrive in the long term

Managing Director Paul Charity T: 07899 984814 E: Managing Editor Paul Bishop T: 01444 817690 E:

Women’s Entrepreneur Conference Martin Cooper rounds up highlights from the sector conference featuring an allfemale line-up of company leaders

Think Hospitality managing director James Hacon presents views from the latest edition of Restaurant Marketer & Innovator

Published by Propel Hospitality Unit 26, Graylands Estate, Langhurstwood Road, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 4QD

Consensus in a posttruth world

Paul Chase looks at “group think” surrounding research into alcohol and its supposed harms

Bakeries are heating the sector as they get into click and collect and delivery, says The NPD Group’s Dominic Allport

Heart of innovation

Glynn Davis says technology can help food trucks provide an environmentally friendly alternative to the delivery scooter

Ann Elliott reveals her top tips for optimising customer engagement during the enormously important festive season

British bakeries are hot



Fact-based analysis, structured decision-making and experimentation will go a long way to getting a business or brand back on its feet, says Michael Ingemann


Against the grain

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls says action is required if we’re to turn our high streets back into thriving community hubs

69 Director Jo Charity T: 01444 810304 E: Partnerships Director Jill Harrington T: 01444 810306 E: Events Co-ordinator Anne Steele T: 01444 817691 E:

Deputy Editor & Chief Sub Martin Cooper T: 01444 817689 E:

Design & Production Jonathan Taylor T: 01403 256614 E:

Insights Editor Mark Wingett E:

Paul Lawrence E:


Personality and atmosphere win

Chris Edger says when it comes to hospitality, what you stand for, how you make people feel and the fond memories you generate trump financial engineering Contributors Dominic Allport, Paul Chase, Glynn Davis, Chris Edger, Ian Dunstall, Ann Elliott, James Hacon, Michael Ingemann and Kate Nicholls Printing and Distribution Bishops Printers, Walton Road Farlington, Portsmouth PO6 1TR



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Keep your head up or miss out Welcome to Propel Quarterly winter 2019


question constantly asked of operators at the inaugural Propel Casual Dining Summit in November was “what is the biggest challenge for your business in the coming 12 months?” The most common answer, unsurprisingly, was “to survive”. Such is the perfect storm that has buffeted the sector during the past few years and the continuing uncertain political and economic landscape, many operators are left looking no further than a month or week ahead, especially so close to what, for some, may be a make or break festive season. As Byron chief executive Simon Wilkinson said at the conference: “It would be nice if the winds of this so-called perfect storm eased off for a while.” As I have written previously, the problem for the majority of the sector is as they run fast to survive, they are falling behind those businesses that have their heads up looking at the opportunities to move further ahead. Next year could see that gap widen further. Technology is one such field where many businesses have only just started touching the sides while others have been increasingly pouring resources into it. Speaking at the Propel Operation Directors’ Conference in September, new Pret A Manger chief executive Pano Christou said the brand was “at the start” of its digital journey – but it “wasn’t hanging around”. As first revealed by Propel, Pret is trialling a number of digital innovations at its Houndsditch site including several different digital options plus layouts to make the food-to-go experience quicker and easier for its customers. Pret freely admits it has been slow to the digital party but a rollout of new technology emerging from this trial could be a further game changer for the brand and consumers and is sure to have a knock-on effect on not only the food-to-go sector but also the wider industry. Pret is a brand that has constantly set standards in terms of service expectations – this could raise the bar further.

Size matters Size will also increasingly matter. A recent report in the US said the definition of “restaurant” would change as takeaway sales continued to drive industry growth. The National Restaurant Association’s report entitled Restaurant Industry 2030: Actionable Insights Of The Future, forecast the restaurant of the future would be smaller and incorporate more automated kitchen equipment, while nutrition and sustainability would drive menus.

McDonald's To Go being trialled in Fleet Street, London In the UK, the quick service restaurant/fast food and fastcasual sectors are leading this journey, with companies such as McDonald’s, KFC, Nando’s and Tortilla all tweaking their models to embrace the trend. This year has seen McDonald’s open its first UK “dark kitchen” in a bid to meet a boom in demand


Mark Wingett Insights editor Propel

for home deliveries, while in the summer the company began trialling a new “to Go” concept in London, which has seen it remove in-store seating and focus purely on takeaway options. Results of the trial have been “encouraging”. Of course delivery has driven much of this model innovation and will continue to drive changes in the sector in the coming months. While the delivery model’s profitability continues to be questioned, its importance to operators cannot. Many businesses initially stand-offish in regards to the influence of Deliveroo, UberEats and Just Eat are now embracing them. Sales mixes in many businesses in regards to delivery are edging above and beyond the 20% mark and the rise of virtual brands goes on unchecked. The question and concern is how much operators are handing over in terms of consumer data to make delivery a success. In October Propel revealed Deliveroo had trademarked its first virtual brand – Chicken On The Green – after developing it in partnership with Casual Dining Group. The move is part of Deliveroo’s plan to license brands to restaurants, with the delivery app using its Editions sites to create and test brands before licensing them with its partners.

“The worry is the industry has been in survival mode for too long and some businesses will fail to get their heads up to take advantage of opportunities when they come along” Under the arrangement, Deliveroo and its restaurant partners, in this case Café Rouge and Casual Dining Group, create a brand, test it and then licence it. As with any other contract with Deliveroo, the restaurant partner pays commission on orders fulfilled through the brand. In what seems like another step in collecting consumer data, Deliveroo recently introduced food collection service Pickup, which allows customers to pick up their own meals without paying riders to deliver them. The general view is while the restaurant sector has been under the pump and going through considerable change as a result, its pub cousins have been enjoying a renaissance. Of course, that’s a nice simple narrative to tap into but doesn’t take in the full picture. Yes, in comparison pubs and bars have had the better of it during the past few months but there have been signs, fuelled by recent tough comparables, that even here trading has become tougher. Not that this has put investors off exploring an asset class that, although unsexy, should provide stable and consistent returns. Looking ahead, 2020 should see the dust settle from Stonegate’s deal for Ei Group and CK Holdings’ acquisition of Greene King, with both set to have an impact on the wider market. The expectation is more deals, large and small, will follow. While restaurant mergers and acquistions finds itself in a logjam, the high levels of trade and private equity interest in some of the more recent pub packages from Marston’s and Heineken point to further deals and new entrants. The worry is the industry has been in survival mode for too long and some businesses will fail to get their heads up to take advantage of opportunities when they come along. Let’s hope this isn’t the case.



“I genuinely want Lebanese food to be eaten as often as Italian food. It’s just a matter of time”


Hot coals Comptoir Libanais founder Tony Kitous tells Glynn Davis quality of food and design will see his Lebanese concept thrive as it expands across the Middle East


omptoir Libanais is on the expansion trail in the Middle East, where the Lebanese canteen concept will start selling cuisine inspired by countries from that very region. This might sound like selling coals to Newcastle but founder Tony Kitous is undaunted. Having faced similar challenges in the past, he remains confident in the business’ prospects in the region. He says: “These aren’t just any old coals, these are good-quality coals. The quality of the ingredients and design are different. Comptoir Libanais is all about the experience and you can feel it’s different to other restaurants over there. The Middle East is a great opportunity for us.” Algerian-born Kitous has long held the same positive views about the UK. Since he landed in the country as a young man, he has been on a mission to introduce food from Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria and Egypt to UK diners. He says: “Comptoir Libanais was in my mind for years before the first one opened in 2008. I’d seen burgers, Chinese and French food on the high street but not my food. I wanted to make it accessible. I genuinely want Lebanese food to be eaten as often as Italian food. It’s just a matter of time.” His mission began with hard graft as a kitchen porter, waiter and bartender before taking a major leap in 1993 to open his own restaurant, Levant, in central London aged only 22. He says: “It was a European restaurant I ran for six years before taking the cuisine back to my own culture and roots. I was a bit naïve but fearless and at the time Levant was probably the first Lebanese, Middle Eastern restaurant in the country.”


1,000 employees


average spend on lunch


average spend on dinner


weekly customers at Westfield Shepherd’s Bush


Tony Kitous cookbooks

Big break

“We really owe the brand to Westfield. It started us on the right foot and many people know us from there. We recognised it was a no brainer to open more” ¡ WINTER 2019 ¡ PROPEL QUARTERLY



Kitous opened and sold various other restaurants including Pasha, Levantine and Kenza while retaining Levant. However, the restaurant’s £50-per-head spend failed to open up his home cuisine to the masses. He says: “The cuisine went down very well, which I wasn’t surprised about, but I wanted something that was fun, casual and open to everybody from students to nurses and teachers.” The big break came when Kitous teamed up with Westfield and the landlord’s head of food and beverage leasing, Rachel Belam. Although the rest of his team was against the plan to launch

a more relaxed brand, Kitous worked closely with Belam to create the Comptoir Libanais playbook. He says: “We talked deep about it and I bought into her vision. It was almost a fantasy but the end result was even better. This is rare with restaurants and landlords and Westfield did a great job. I’ve never met a landlord that will challenge you on the operations like it did. That helped put us on the map.” Comptoir Libanais was an instant hit, with 3,000 customers on day one, and Kitous had to ring round his other restaurants after it ran out of ingredients. He says: “We really owe the brand to Westfield. It started us on the right foot and many people know us from there. We recognised it was a no brainer to open more.” His cuisine was unusual for the UK market at the time and Kitous knew he needed to change perceptions to keep it authentic. He says: “We wanted to get away from late-night kebabs. People understood kebabs, houmous and falafel but we also knew we had to position the food as healthy and accessible with pomegranate, orange blossom, rose water and tahini – all superfoods.” In reality the cuisine sits in a sweet spot that’s becoming even sweeter – with its healthy sharing plates, vegan dishes, fresh wraps and dips ticking all the right boxes. The well-being element helped with the chain’s roll-out as it opened units in locations such as Wigmore Street in London, Manchester, Bluewater in Kent and Heathrow airport. In those early stages Kitous met business partner Chaker Hanna, which allowed Kitous to focus on the business’ creative aspects. He says: “Once Hanna joined I carried on with the menus, restaurant design and being the face of the company. He’s a strong, hands-on chief executive.” In addition to its main Comptoir Libanais chain, the company also opened two smaller outlets under the Shawa brand and high-end restaurant Kenza. However, they closed as the leases expired and only Levant remains outside the core brand. Once the company hit 15 outlets, Kitous looked at the best way to take the business to the next stage, opting for a flotation on AIM in 2016 that raised £8m. He says: “I didn’t plan to float but we needed to expand. I explored all the opportunities and ▲

“It is sad to see Carluccio’s, Giraffe, Jamie’s and Byron’s problems but it hasn’t really created opportunities for us as their failures have been partly down to high rent, and these haven’t reduced” found that was the best option. The float didn’t change anything except we got new investors who believed in the journey.” Since the initial public offering the company has grown to 23 restaurants in the UK, including four franchised sites, and one overseas franchise in Utrecht in the Netherlands. Further overseas franchises are set to open, starting with Dubai airport this year and Abu Dhabi airport in early 2020. There has been caution regarding companyowned openings of late but the addition of London Bridge in late 2018 was important because the site is larger than the brand’s regular units – 200 covers compared with 80 – and focuses on all-day and evening dining. Kitous says: “Dinner is growing and the design at London Bridge is part of that. We’ve also got a bigger wine list, cocktails and beer. As we open sites and carry out refurbishments we’re going softer and cosier. Comptoir Libanais originally had a canteen look and feel but we’ve gone softer to encourage more evening visits while there’s an increased focus on breakfast.”


current lunchtime revenue compared with



35% dinner

Toasting success Current revenues are split between breakfast (15%), lunch (50%) and dinner (35%) but the split is changing as witnessed by the amount of turnover derived from drinks. Historically wet sales accounted for only 15% of sales but this has been moving towards 35%. Lebanese wine is another product Kitous is keen for more UK diners to try. Such ambitions present challenges and Kitous admits the cuisine, with 60 freshly made items on the menu, is a lot more complex than burgers and pizza. Big sellers include mezze platters, chicken wraps, halloumi wraps and tagine. Although all his dishes have the necessary authenticity, Kitous acknowledges



there has to be some commerciality hence the creation of a burger made from a kofta kebab. Fortunately, many of these dishes are suitable to take away, which has become a growing part of the business. Kitous says: “Takeaway is having a huge impact with millennials. It used to be a menu posted through the door but now it’s Deliveroo and UberEats and we have to adapt as the segment keeps growing. The 20%-plus we pay them is a serious hit to the bottom line so we need to be clever about how we deal with it.” Clever moves have included removing some items from the delivery menu, developing packaging that contributes to better replication of the in-restaurant experience, and adapting restaurants to handle delivery logistics. Kitous says: “With some restaurants we can have a separate delivery entrance for the couriers. We’re trying to do this wherever we can but it’s a challenge because of the typical size of the restaurants. There are lots of benefits to delivery – but they come with a cost.” Rent and rates are other big cost pressures that are causing problems when it comes to the brand adding sites. Although there are many empty units in prime locations Comptoir would find attractive, the group is still seeing landlords seeking the same high rent. Kitous says: “It is sad to see Carluccio’s, Giraffe, Jamie’s and Byron’s problems but it hasn’t really created opportunities for us as their failures have been partly down to high rent, and these haven’t reduced.” Overseas franchising, however, presents Comptoir with a sound opportunity for growth, he adds. Kitous can also comfort himself with the great progress he has made in introducing the food of his homeland to UK diners. He says: “We have done an amazing job. Nando’s and most pubs now offer halloumi fries on their menu. That was my objective – but it’s still a work in progress.”

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Against the grain “I believe you can make something genuine when you don’t have a lot of cash. It’s all about creativity and love”


urrent wisdom suggests the success of modern hospitality businesses relies greatly on building a sizeable social media following and creating clever content aimed at driving people to your venues. This isn’t a strategy adopted by Simmons Bars owner Nick Campbell, however, who has built the largest independent bar chain in London by ignoring such views. He says: “It isn’t smart to build a business on social media as you’re susceptible to the winds of change. We don’t have millions of followers, instead we have genuine customers who keep returning to us. It’s good for people to discover us – we’re a hidden gem.” Such an approach reflects the character of Campbell, who prefers not to shout about things or show off and uses this philosophy to run his growing enterprise. It certainly seems to be working with 16 venues currently in operation and annual sales forecast to hit £13m for 2020 as Campbell looks to operate a 30-strong estate within the next three to five years. This is impressive progress for a business that began in 2013 as a small bar in London’s King’s Cross with a modest investment budget. Campbell had moved


Nick Campbell, owner of London’s largest independent bar chain Simmons Bars, tells Glynn Davis not all success is down to social media and trying to follow trends into a flat above what was then a tea room and spotted its obvious failings, believing he could do a better job. He says: “It was a confused business and the landlord was bored with it. I’d been working for Proud at the O2 and felt motivated to do my own thing. I went down and had a chat to the guy running the team and told him I could turn it around by way of late-night openings. He gave me half the business and I bought him out in 2013. We shifted it from a tea room to a late-night bar.” The original shoestring budget has been an important element behind the company’s ongoing success. With only £3,000 available to start the business,


which Campbell raised by selling his car, the original unit had to develop organically. He retained the venue’s original tea cups, pots and bric-a-brac because he couldn’t afford glasses and Campbell only invested in a DJ booth and dance floor and changed the site’s layout when the cash started to flow. He says: “What we have is a genuine product and not a concept. It’s not about having X, Y and Z and combining them to create something. Certain venues are overdeveloped and this often comes from having too much money at your disposal. I believe you can make something genuine when you don’t have a lot of cash. It’s all about creativity and love. There’s definitely an element of the more cash you have, the higher the failure rate.” This methodology clearly worked because there were major improvements in trade within months while sales have continued to climb exponentially with regular double and triple-digit increases. For instance, like-for-like sales across the group for the six-week festive period of 2018 were up 20.1% and up 16.3% for the fourth quarter. Total sales over Christmas and New Year were up almost 40%. It was the introduction of happy hour, ▲


Feature however, that had a massive impact on the business. Taking inspiration from promotions he put on when running bars as a student at Bristol University, Campbell looked to make a splash. He says: “We thought this would really show we had made the change from day to night trading so we went for it, with a five-hour ‘happy hour’ offering drinks for £2. It was pretty much the same offer I ran in Bristol.” This five-hour promotion still runs across the group with beer at £2.50, wine at £10 per bottle, and two cocktails for £10. The value it provides acts as one of the big differentiators for Simmons and appeals to its core customer base of 20 to 25-yearolds. Campbell says: “They aren’t paid much SIMMONS BARS BY NUMBERS and it’s so expensive to live in London – our customers need value. There are Sales split: too many places in London that are too expensive with loads of money spent on the venue. It’s a silly game to play. I think Cocktails people deserve to have a good time.” Flushed with confidence, Campbell opened a second site, in Mornington Crescent, north London, in November Spirits with mixers 2013, with a capacity of 90 compared with 110 at King’s Cross. He says: “I was comfortable with this size and the Beer and wine rentals were small. We’re also non-prime because our offer doesn’t require prime pitch. We just need an office population Other drinks and proximity to the Tube. It has to be a convenient location.” The ideal capacity for a Simmons bar is 150 to 200, while there’s flexibility with Average spend a mixture of ground-floor, basement and first-floor sites. Fit-outs of the 16 bars Food: opened so far retain the original tea room Rare, chic, with soft, friendly and colourful unless the licence demands it elements. The look has continued to prove particularly popular with a female audience, which typically accounts for 65% Best-sellers: of Simmons Bars customers and can reach Mojitos, Long Island iced tea as high as 90% on a Friday night. Women are a prime driver of the As well as injecting money into the group’s high cocktail sales, which account business, Campbell acknowledges the for 30% of total sales. The drinks are Lonsdale deal was also about bringing relatively simple to make as bartenders in the expertise to improve operational only have one minute to create them. This processes. He says: “We were a small methodology supports the volume-driven company 30 steps ahead of where we nature of the business but Campbell is should have been – we had more venues quick to point out the company “prices than we should have had. It smartly” and plenty of premium took a year with Lonsdale to drinks help support margins professionalise back of house across the overall mix. and nail down the systems He says when the and infrastructure.” second Simmons Bar of Simmons Bars Roy Ellis, who joined opened it became customers are the business as nonapparent the model female, a figure executive chairman, was working well and that can reach as helped to introduce appealed to a lot of high as 90% on a those changes. Campbell people. Using this Friday night says: “I think he saw a lot of template he set about Revolution Bars Group in our opening more units at a business. It’s a young business rate of three to four each year that’s grown quickly with all hands on before private equity firm Lonsdale deck. He saw he could add value as he has Capital Partners took a majority stake in seen and done it all before. When we met, the business in February 2018. Campbell we got on very well.” says: “The plan was always to grow as fast What hasn’t changed following as we could and take investment before the Lonsdale deal is the bars’ core pushing to 30 units.”

30% 25% 20% 25%

£10 to £15




“There are too many places in London that are too expensive with loads of money spent on the venue. It’s a silly game to play. I think people deserve to have a good time” proposition. Campbell says: “We aren’t changing the fundamentals of the business. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. For a private equity backer it’s a no-brainer as we can replicate it and roll out and it doesn’t require millions of pounds for each venue. It’s fairly low risk for them.” The roll-out will include a move outside London but Campbell sees more opportunity in the capital and plans to take the group up to 25 outlets with locations such as Clapham, Battersea and Putney able to handle one or two sites. He says: “When we decide to make our move outside London we want to make sure it’s the right city for the first bar. In 2021 we’ll look to extend outside and I see it working in Manchester, Leeds, Brighton, Bristol and Birmingham – but we’d need to nail the execution when we make the move.” As well as growing the number of sites there’s also plenty of mileage to be had from existing outlets, with Campbell saying even though like-for-like numbers are still running “crazy” and Thursday through to Saturday nights are busy, there’s an opportunity to build Tuesday and Wednesday nights and look to develop the brand audience across seven days a week. Another recent growth driver has been the introduction of pre-booking, with investment made to hire people and build corporate sales. Campbell says: “This has become a huge part of what we do. London is a busy place so knowing you’ve got a space is nice. It also helps us form a view of takings.” Campbell adds pre-bookings now account for about 25% of sales and are up 15% on a like-for-like basis for the rolling year to date for 2020. Another introduction has been a range of mocktails. Campbell believed the move would be well received but it has turned out to be a disappointment. Despite numerous surveys reporting younger people are drinking less alcohol, this trend has failed to feed through to mocktail sales in Simmons sites. He suggests it might be a case of people liking to think they are drinking less in a self-affirmation sense and conveying this pseudo-abstinence message widely on social media. This no doubt further fuels his lack of interest in social media.

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Interesting TIMES Marston’s is doing things as well or better than other companies in the market, but with a great story attached, chief executive Ralph Findlay tells Mark Wingett


n his 18 years as chief executive of brewer and pub operator Marston’s, it’s fair to say Ralph Findlay has seen everything the UK’s hospitality sector can go through. However, even he admits these are interesting times. With market consolidation and private equity interest on the pub sector agenda once more, Marston’s has come under the spotlight. However, that focus merely highlights the company’s key strengths. Call it great timing or simply fate, I meet Findlay at Burton train station on the same morning Stonegate Pub Company breaks cover on its takeover offer for Ei Group. The move comes a few months after Asahi agreed to acquire Fuller’s beer arm for circa £250m and a prelude to CK Holdings’ bid for long-term rival Greene King in a deal valued at £4.6bn. There would have been plenty to talk about anyway on the car journey to Marston’s brewery in Burton, one of six UK breweries the company operates, but the Stonegate and Fuller’s deals add another layer to conversation. Fuller’s decision to exit its brewing operation has a particular interest for Findlay in regards to Marston’s own


brewing arm and the power of distribution. He says: “Asahi has bought a London brand that hasn’t performed well in its own market for a while, which Fuller’s recognised. Secondly, Asahi has got a long-term distribution arrangement for its other brands, including Peroni. “The power of distribution in the drinks company world is huge. We are all fighting for that distribution and that’s where it gets interesting because if you look at Marston’s Beer Company, we don’t collect breweries because we like breweries, what we are looking at is how to build distribution across the UK. “In our mind local breweries work because they bring with them local distribution and people like the idea of

“When we acquired Charles Wells and looked at the brands, we could put them in a massive distribution chain – and that’s what I think is valuable in the brewing market”


provenance. We use our own vehicles to distribute to one in four pubs in the UK – it’s a huge distribution reach. When we acquired Charles Wells and looked at the brands, we could put them in a massive distribution chain – and that’s what I think is valuable in the brewing market.” So could Marston’s explore a similar route to Fuller’s? Findlay says: “The Beer Company is an intrinsic part of what we do but we’re a public company and aware economics are involved. Bear in mind about 90% of everything we brew is sold outside Marston’s pubs – the beer that goes to our own pubs is small in relation to the rest. It could be separated if the economic case was there but that’s not something we are pushing for. “Reaching that 90% figure was part of the strategy we started more than a decade ago, with Richard (Westwood, managing director of Marston’s Beer Company) the architect. We told ourselves if we wanted to be recognised as a leading brand operator, we needed those brands to work outside pubs where we could control the distribution, where people are buying them because they want those brands. ▲

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Feature “At that time the majority of our beer was sold inside our own pubs. We decided we needed to build the business outside the Marston’s estate and increase the proportion of brand portfolio rated as premium because of the whole premiumisation trend, which even then looked like to us like it was going to be long-term. “In 2003-04, we had the Bass and Pedigree brands and they had both been in decline for some time in a difficult market. We thought if things didn’t look like changing we should sell them but decided instead to look at what was happening in the market, particularly in the US, where the small guys were winning, no money was being spent on marketing and the market was fragmenting. We thought that was how things would go in the UK. That was the bet we took and we set about buying a portfolio of brands that fitted into that local, regional story. “We got criticised for it because the argument against is if you run a multisite operation your costs are going to be higher than if you run a single-site operation. That’s true but there are two things against that. One is those costs aren’t enormous and, secondly, they might cost you a bit more on the input side but you’ll get that back on the pricing. “You also spread your risk and can charge more because you’ve given people what they want. Ringwood was probably the first proper testbed for the strategy. Buying the brand was the first test of whether we could get the economics of what was then a 25,000 barrel a year brewery to stack up against Burton, for instance, which was then a 400,000 barrel a year brewery. You are never going to get there but people have been surprised how close the gap has become. As long as you apply the right process you can get the base operation near your best.” Findlay says Marston’s is analysing the market all the time, including geographically. He says: “We look at our free-trade operations within a 40-mile radius of a brewery. In free trade, we are

Lazy Pig In The Pantry, Chesham, Buckinghamshire

“A decade ago beer had a great story but no-one was telling it. This past decade has seen beer’s profile raised. We don’t have a romantic attachment to our breweries, we are making sure they are operating to their maximum efficiencies”

a composite supplier of a whole raft of brands so we can look at the average margin we get in the heartland of a brewery and that tends to be higher than in a geography where you don’t have a brewery. In other words, there’s leverage to be had by having, say, the Ringwood or Jennings vehicles. Saying that we are relatively weak in the south west, south east and north east. We do see those differences. “The south east one is interesting because we’re relatively underrepresented given our overall market share across the UK. The acquisition of the Wells business, which brought with it Young’s and Bombardier, really helped us in the

The Lost & Found, in Leeds



south east free-trade market. We see that as a huge opportunity. “The excitement and interest in beer is fabulous. A decade ago beer had a great story but no-one was telling it. This past decade has seen beer’s profile raised. We don’t have a romantic attachment to our breweries, we are making sure they are operating to their maximum efficiencies.”

Cost pressure Amid the multitude of costs currently hampering the industry, Findlay says the rise around minimum wage has hurt the most. He says: “It has become a political football and you can only see it going one way. The sector is really struggling with it, as is the entire hospitality market. We are a service sector so one of the main things the industry offers is under attack from rising costs. “Cost pressure has remained relentless for a number of years. One area were it has got tougher is in relation to people – the sector has a real challenge in finding good labour. We are operating in an environment where we pretty much have full employment – people have got choices. You can’t pull service away to try to deal with it. “You can use apps for payment, for example, and you may see more automation in kitchens. Where pubs have an advantage, however, is in the way they can treat their employees and create a sense of belonging, buying into the vision of what your business is about. That’s partly down to communication, how people are treated and the benefits they get. “The add-on benefits are getting better across the sector and the way people are treated is becoming a huge differentiator. I think one thing that differentiates Marston’s, and I hear this time and again, is people say working here is like being part of a family. We aren’t a family business but it’s something we have tried to recreate over the years. Our staff loyalty is high and we rely on our managers a lot to create that feel and link.” Talking of building a sense of ▲

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Feature The Bell Inn, in Shifnall, Shropshire

community, the franchise part of Marston’s business has been a fundamental part of its recent growth. Findlay says: “If you look at our performance over a number of years we have outperformed against the wet-led community market and the franchise model has played a big part of that. We have about 500 of those and I’m happy with it being around that figure. We bought 15 former M&B pubs from Aprirose at the start of the year and they’re now all open having been converted. Half are under the franchise-style model and working well. “Those small group deals work well for us. We’ve looked at joint ventures and work with great businesses – for example Pesto has three of our leases. We know how it works so that can be attractive to us. There’s a huge opportunity for us to get more from the existing estate as we get the investments right.” The company recently agreed to sell 137 pubs to Admiral Taverns for £44.9m.

“The private equity interest is encouraging and they are taking advantage of a valuation mismatch – we will see more of that”

The disposal is in line with Marston’s plans to reduce its debt partly through the disposal of certain non-core assets. The assets being disposed of are smaller, wetled, leased, tenanted and franchised pubs. Although a trade buyer won the race for this portfolio, it’s thought a number of private players also showed considerable interest, which Findlay says is encouraging for the whole pub sector. He adds: “Fundamentally, I think it’s about appreciation of asset-backed businesses with stable cash flow. The private equity interest is encouraging and they are taking Marston’s Brewery, Burton upon Trent



advantage of a valuation mismatch – we will see more of that.” Marston’s plans to reduce its net debt by £200m by 2023, partly by disposing of non-core assets. It hopes to achieve an accelerated £70m disposal proceeds target in its current year, suggesting further packages could come to market soon. The focus for now, however, will be on making its existing business future-proof. Findlay says: “For the past ten to 15 years our plan has been based around building the food part of our business. We had the ‘F plans’ – food, families and females. That has run its course so the issue is, what’s next? That’s what we are working on at the moment. “We have to build pubs that are engaged in their communities – live music, quiz nights etc. It all sounds basic – that’s what pubs do – but they could do it in a more modern and attractive way and in a more contemporary environment. I think there’s further opportunity there as people want engagement and to feel part of something.” With Ei Group and Greene King leaving the listed arena, Findlay knows his business will come further under the spotlight. As one shareholder put it: “With sterling still languishing, perhaps it’s time for another overseas investor to snap this up at a good price before the debt is brought down to a more palatable level.” Findlay remains confident any wouldbe suitors for Marston’s and, more importantly, its customers will find a quality operation that’s looking to improve further, while its brewing arm remains something of a secret weapon. He says: “We always knew Marston’s heritage was a huge asset but the challenge was how to make it relevant. I think we’ve done that, which means we’re doing things as well as – or better than – other people in all the interesting parts of the market, but with a great story to go with it.”


Book your FREE trade ticket at using priority code CD7 “Casual Dining is the essential event for our industry and not to be missed.” BEN MOGRIDGE, PROCUREMENT MANAGER, AZZURRI GROUP


@CasDiningShow #CasDining20


Festive fizz Martin Cooper looks at drinks ideas for the winter season and sees added opportunities for the on-trade as consumers seek low and no-alcohol alternatives alongside the continued popularity of traditional cocktails


hristmas is a key time of year for socialising amid a flurry of office parties and social get-togethers. However, an increasing number of people on a night out or Christmas lunch will be shunning alcohol. With one in five adults in the UK avoiding drinking alcohol, the demand for low and noalcohol drinks is gathering pace and offers an opportunity for the on-trade to move beyond run of the mill soft drinks and mocktails. All sectors of the low and no-alcohol market are currently in growth as an increasing number of consumers choose to stay sober or drink less alcohol. Alex Carlton is chief executive of Stryyk, which he launched in 2018 in a bid to “satisfy the increasing demand for a quality, modern and stylish alternative to alcohol”. Distilled and bottled in Cambridge, the Stryyk range consists of Not Gin, Not Rum and Not Vodka. Carlton says: “We expect demand for low and no-alcohol drinks to increase this Christmas from last year. The move towards abstinence is gathering pace among young adults and is being driven by a multitude of factors, including the rising cost of alcohol,


health concerns, the pressures of social media and, ultimately, being drunk no longer fits in with their lifestyle.” Of course a huge on-trade opportunity for non-alcoholic drinks lies in the Dry January movement. Carlton says: “The trade needs to embrace the low and no-alcohol trend and, while I think they should stock non-alcoholic offerings all year, they most certainly need to embrace Dry January – a staggering 4.2 million people signed up for it in 2019.”

“The move towards abstinence is gathering pace among young adults and is being driven by a multitude of factors” – Stryyk chief executive Alex Carlton Regarding his own brand, Carlton adds: “Our products are designed to act exactly like their alcoholic counterparts with no specialist training required. Consumers are becoming more aware and more educated on the variety of non-alcoholic brands available. Most importantly, they are becoming more discerning and looking for credible alternatives to alcohol and are moving away from sugary sweet mocktails.” Stryyk has launched a free menu-hack tool to help operators navigate the nonalcoholic spirits category. Carlton says: “Our free menu-hack tool adds a new dimension to menus, freeing space using icons in the same way as V for vegetarian or GF for gluten free, which are readily understood by consumers.


“Consumers are seeking non-alcoholic versions of their favourite serves so whether that’s a traditional G&T or a top-trending cocktail such as a mojito or espresso martini, they want to be seen drinking what everyone else is drinking and feel part of the party.” ▲

STRYYK NON-ALCOHOLIC COCKTAIL SERVES NOT VODKA, SODA & LIME 50ml Stryyk Not Vodka 12.5ml fresh lime juice 125ml soda water Garnish: Fresh lime wedge Method: Build over ice and serve in a highball NOT GIN & TONIC 50ml Stryyk Not Gin Indian tonic water Garnish: Fresh lime wedge Method: Fill glass with ice, add Not Gin and top with tonic NOT RUM & GINGER ALE 50ml Stryyk Not Rum 125ml ginger ale Garnish: Fresh orange wedge Method: Fill glass with ice, add Stryyk Not Rum and top with ginger ale



40ml Kraken spiced rum 20ml Havana Club Tributo 2018 rum

Fentimans offers some festive drinks with a difference. Here are just a few:

50ml Martin Frobisher’s orange juice


Martin Frobisher’s ginger and juniper sparkler

50ml sloe gin 125ml Fentimans pink rhubarb tonic water

25ml LBV port

Garnish: Fresh lemon and a sprig of mint

Method: Mix both rums with the orange juice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a glass and top with Martin Frobisher’s ginger and juniper sparkler. Drizzle the LBV port into the glass and garnish with a clove-studded slice of fresh orange

Cinnamon Collins 50ml whisky 25ml lemon juice 10ml cinnamon spiced syrup 10ml honey Top with Fentimans ginger ale Garnish: Fresh lemon and a cinnamon stick ROSE SNOWBALL 75ml advocaat Top with Fentimans rose lemonade Garnish: Cinnamon sprinkles WINTER CUP 25ml Sipsmith sloe gin or flavoured liqueur 25ml Fentimans ginger beer 25ml apple cider 10ml elderflower liqueur Method: Bring all ingredients to a gentle simmer Garnish: Fresh lemon

FUNKIN’S FESTIVE SERVES ALL THE TRIMMINGS 10ml Funkin Pro hemp syrup 25ml salted butter potato vodka 25ml smoked bacon wild Turkey Two dashes of cranberry bitters Method: Stir with ice and serve in a small gravy boat and garnish with a Yorkshire pudding containing a sprout and filled with gravy

Despite the huge rise in non-alcoholic drinks, data from CGA’s Mixed Drinks Report for the third quarter of 2019 revealed 10.3 million Brits sipped traditional alcoholic cocktails to the tune of £604m last year. The survey carried out on behalf of drinks expert Funkin Cocktails revealed the pornstar martini retained its title as the nation’s favourite serve, up an impressive 14% year-on-year. Funkin Cocktails marketing director Ben Anderson said: “The popularity of cocktails in the UK continues to grow and shows no signs of waning, with the market currently growing almost 10% year-on-year. The number of consumers drinking cocktails has increased by almost 10% year-on-year too. “The cocktail industry is thriving, bartenders are becoming more creative and consumers are becoming better educated and more discerning.” The mojito held second place in the list of Britain’s favourite cocktails, while other significant moves included espresso martini, which jumped to sixth, and piña colada, which benefited from a resurgence and grew a massive 35% to take it to eighth.


Classics are key

25ml Funkin PRO pear purée

“Classic cocktails are the key to driving customer footfall and maximising sales,” adds Anderson. “We offer a total cocktail solution for bartenders of all abilities and experience and our product portfolio, which is 96% vegan friendly, blends flavour innovation with natural ingredients.” Gold and dark rum are both seeing growth as their share of serves has doubled in the past year, mirroring the overall trend in the spirits category. Meanwhile, Funkin Cocktails this year launched the UK’s first range of nitrogen-

10ml Funkin PRO ginger syrup 10ml Funkin PRO rhubarb syrup 10ml Funkin PRO pure pour lemon 25ml London dry gin 10ml Sloe gin Method: Shake ingredients with ice, serve in a flute and top with prosecco (25ml to 50ml) Garnish: Sprig of rosemary


Funkin Cocktails get funky with it


infused canned cocktails. The range features four classic serves – espresso martini, passionfruit martini, amaretto sour and pink gin fizz. Each can delivers the same head and mouth-feel achieved through shaking a cocktail. Anderson says: “Funkin Cocktails offers insights, training, drinks development, menu development, point of sale material and, most importantly, works on the ground with bartenders to offer them tailor-made solutions to develop and create outstanding cocktails and maximise the profit opportunities cocktails offer.” Founded in 1999, Funkin Cocktails’ portfolio also including purées, smallbatch syrups, pre-batch cocktail mixers and cocktails on tap.

TOP TIPS FOR PROFITABLE WINTER COCKTAILS • Ensure your cocktail menu features the nation’s top two serves – pornstar martini and mojito • Berry and fruit-flavoured cocktails are the most sought after • More than three-quarters (77%) of consumers seek recommendations from bar staff. Ensure your staff are fully briefed and trained on your cocktail offering • Almost two-fifths (38%) of consumers are drinking more low and no-alcohol cocktails than they were a year ago. Ensure your cocktail menu offers these options


British bakeries are HOT Bakeries are turning up the heat in the British foodservice sector as they compete for a bigger slice of the £27bn food-to-go market and get into click and collect and delivery, says The NPD Group’s Dominic Allport


t could almost be a line from Groucho Marx: “How do you like your eggs, in a cake?” Cakes are comforting at any time, as are thoughts of the baker that made them. Have you ever walked down a British high street that lacks a bakery? Few people will have done so and, as the saying goes, “bakers make the world smell better”. If we catch a whiff it’s difficult to resist the temptation to take a quick break and grab a sit-down coffee or pot of tea and treat yourself to a sweet or savoury snack. There was a time when the word “bakery” would provoke thoughts of an “old-school” family run business that set to work each day well before dawn turning out bread, savoury bakes, pastries and cakes for sale across the counter. Those outlets still exist throughout Britain but these days it has become a bigger story than that. There are many other ambitious outlets competing head-on with the big high-street names. What’s more, bakery chains are ideally suited to riding some of the big trends in British foodservice and have responded imaginatively to consumer demand for convenience.

Strong growth Data from The NPD Group’s new Bakery Trends Tracker report shows bakery outlets have seen the strongest growth in onpremise business among major British quick service restaurant (QSR) channels during the year ending (YE) August 2019, with sales and visits up more than 26% and almost 18% respectively. Britain’s bakery chains and independents are in a strong position to increase their off-premise business and challenge the wellknown sandwich retailers, supermarkets and QSRs for a larger


share of the food to go, click and collect, and delivery channels. Britain’s bakers and patisseries are in good shape based on their recent performance in total sales, visits and servings. Bakery outlets boosted sales by 7% in YE August 2019 and increased visits by 3.2%, outperforming pizza and chicken outlets, which saw visits drop. The best evidence for success is in servings, with bakery outlets recording a 7% jump to 1.18 billion servings – the strongest growth in the past year of any other QSR channel. Growth was driven by savoury bakery servings in particular, up 3.0%, while sweet bakery servings rose 1%. Sandwiches and wraps are the leading items in savoury bakery – accounting for more than one billion annual servings and consumed on 4% of all eating out occasions. Breakfast is the main growth area for savoury and sweet bakery goods alike. As consumer lifestyles become busier and the demand for convenience continues to grow, bakeries are well placed to tap into this growth with traditional savoury breakfast offerings and sweeter alternatives.

Appealing to young and old The appeal of bakeries is broad. In the past year bakeries have achieved a 9% growth in visits from 16 to 24-year-olds and a 5% growth in visits from the 50-plus age group. Bakeries were the second-fastest growing segment for those aged 16 to 24.

Top ten What are the top ten bakery products by servings? The list comprises tried and tested favourites with toasted or sliced bread leading the way followed by chicken sandwiches, cakes, bacon rolls or sandwiches, and cookies. Top ten bakery and sandwich products purchased in British bakeries during YE August 2019 Bread – toasted or sliced: 315 million Chicken sandwich: 294 million Cakes: 284 million Bacon roll or sandwich: 259 million Cookies: 217 million Cheese sandwich: 193 million Croissant: 181 million Ham sandwich: 165 million Bagel: 144 million Brownie: 138 million Source: The NPD Group

How quickly this might change is difficult to say but it’s clear many new trends are in play thanks to craft bakers and new concepts. Vegan bakeries are definitely a growth area as they seek to replace butter, milk and eggs with coconut cream, dates, cashew, aquafaba or banana, for example. Many high-street brands already offer vegan cookies. With outlets in London, ▲


How prepared are you to reduce no-shows this festive season? On average, RQH LQ ÀYH GLQHUV IDLO WR WXUQ XS for their reservations in big cities, with costs estimated to be around £16 billion a year to the pub and restaurant sector. The problem is huge.


of UK restaurants were reported to be already taking/holding deposits

Why do customers no-show? • • • •


45% If no-shows are a re-occurring problem for your venue, here are four useful tactics: Create a booking policy for Christmas and New Year


Take deposits


struggle to find cancellation information



Send email and SMS reminders


82% average open UDWH IRU WH[W messages



Insight Crosstown Doughnuts offers a large vegan doughnut range that features plant-based alternatives and flavours such as cinnamon stroll and dark chocolate truffle. International bakery concepts have also seen strong growth in recent years. Asian bakeries, for instance, use matcha – powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves – to give their products a colour that’s ideal for the Instagram generation. In recent years a number of Nordic bakery concepts have also sprung up in London, including Swedish cafe business Söderberg, sourdough bread specialist Fabrique, and Scandinavian-style cafe brand Nordic Bakery. Premium bakery products are another growth area. Maitre Choux, founded by a Michelin-starred pastry chef, describes itself as the world’s only specialist choux pastry patisserie. It has outlets in central London including South Kensington, Soho, King’s Road and in Fortum & Mason and offers eclairs at premium price points. In recent years there has also been a surge in artisan doughnut concepts – examples include Doughnut Time, Dum Dum and Crosstown – often charging between £3 and £4 for one doughnut.

Delivery is another area that provides further opportunities for bakers. Breakfast and lunch deliveries to offices for meetings would be a good fit. Bundles and sharing deals are key for delivery as spend needs to be higher to cover delivery fees. Delivering one sausage roll doesn’t make much sense but delivering ten starts to add up, while having good packaging that keeps the food hot and fresh is critical.

Bakery has seen the strongest growth in the snacking spend out of key channels, up 10% to £377m Spend (£000) – Snacking 1000 800

Bakery outlets are already a popular option for food-to-go customers, with 80% of bakery purchases consumed on the move. However, with bakeries accounting for only 5% (£1.3bn) of Britain’s annual £26.7bn food-to-go business, up from £1.1bn five years ago, there’s clearly room to grow.

Bakery Food To Go spend has exceeded £1.3bn, but still accounts for only 5% of total Food To Go spend – there is room to grow this Spend (£000) QS Bakery Food to Go Share of Total Food To Go

1,250 1,200





700 600 400








200 100 0




Targeting food to go


YE Aug 18 YE Aug 19 % change year-on year


QS Bakery

QS Burger

QS Sandwich

QS Coffee

Source: NPD Crest TTM

Bakeries also satisfy part of the British demand for snacking – a market that includes confectionery and soft drinks, worth circa £9bn in YE August 2019 – with a 10% increase in snack sales in the past year, the strongest total sales growth in any QSR segment. Bakeries also enjoyed the strongest growth in coffee sales of any QSR channel in YE August 2019, with spend on coffee visits up almost 19%. About 150 million visits to bakeries during YE August 2019 involved a deal or promotion, up 12% during the year.

Bakery has seen the strongest growth in visits including a coffee, up 19% year-on-year


Spend (£000) – Visits including coffee



1,000 2014


Year ending August 2016 2017



Source: NPD Crest TTM

400 350

YE Aug 18 YE Aug 19 % change year-on year



Bakeries also only service 3% of total click-and-collect transactions but sales are already rising from this low base. While delivery for bakeries remains at a low level, volume is up almost 63% in the past year and the value of delivery sales has increased more than 47%. Bakeries and patisseries are an important part of Britain’s £57bn out-of-home (OOH) foodservice industry. Many businesses of all sizes are moving away from their traditional bakery offering to a sharper food-to-go focus. This involves putting on good coffee, offering new food choices such as pizza, salad, pasta, hot sandwiches, croissants, pasties and much more, and meeting demand for delivery and click and collect. Bakeries focus on food to go by their nature and this is where the growth is, with sales in this part of Britain’s total OOH market growing 8% in the year to April 2019. Bakeries can secure more growth by increasing their share of the food-to-go market from their current level of only 5% and bringing their food-to-go appeal to dayparts they don’t normally service, such as dinner. We have seen signs of this already at some bakery brands. Hot food items such as pizza are perfectly suited for dinner. Tailor-made dinner “boxes” that combine bakery items and sandwiches with sides could also work. To address this market opportunity, it would be important to have outlets close to transport hubs, where busy workers can pick up dinner on their way home.


250 200 150

-6.4% 18.7% 3.7%

100 0 QS Bakery

QS Sandwich

QS Coffee

QS Burger

Source: NPD Crest TTM

Celebrity baker Paul Hollywood is reputed to have said: “Civilisation was built around wheat, with people settling down and not being nomadic. Baking is one of the oldest professions.” It’s also an important part of British foodservice and underlines the industry’s ability to deliver new concepts and interpretations of what consumers are looking for. Bakers will continue to make the world smell better.

Dominic Allport is insight director foodservice UK at The NPD Group



IT PAYS TO TALK Find out how Yapster helped Tossed to reduce their staff turnover by 30% at Proud to be working with:



Heart of innovation

Think Hospitality managing director James Hacon presents the views from the latest edition of the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator newsletter

Joshua Craddock is director of marketing at The Doyle Collection


n 1777, Samuel Johnson wrote: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” The phrase has been recited so many times but, to be honest, I couldn’t think of a more relevant quote to lead on how quickly the city is changing. There’s an abundance of exciting hotel openings in the capital each year, many trying to draw in the crème de la crème of Londoners to its social spaces for champagne, cocktails and eclectic small plates. Locals and tourists are increasingly overcoming psychological barriers to enjoy visits to hotels on a regular basis thanks to strategies to move away from the reputation of being stuffy, overpriced and dull, making the choice more competitive and varied than ever. How could you possibly get tired of the innovation? Highly-considered design is arguably the most important aspect of opening a space today. Instagammability and the customer’s journey of discovery to reach a space that’s visually appealing, where social media content can be leveraged through user-generated content to give guests an opportunity to share with friends and spread the word for you can be worth its weight in gold. Not to mention the interest it gets from the press, particularly interiors, trade and lifestyle media channels, assuming your public relations team is on its game. Once in the venue, it’s essential the experience and outlet’s offering reflects the position you’re looking to explore in the local market. Before opening The Coral Room in 2018, The Bloomsbury hotel team visited 20 high-end bars across London. A tough job, I know, but this was a research expedition in which we looked at what staff wore, price point on a classic cocktail, opening hours and how the menu was presented.

It all counts Was there anything special to note – from martini trolleys to overwhelming support from big brands? It all counts. Competitive positioning analysis can help build a picture of where you should be and reaffirm decisions already made. This can be the cornerstone for creative sessions that develop the key selling points of a venue – its uses at any time of day and what might work in attracting a new audience. Having a unique offering in a venue can be highly beneficial – it instantly gives the space an identity or hook in the media – and can provide a foundation for future marketing activity. Whatever the offering, it’s crucial to be clearly defined across all potential guest touchpoints, from doorman to website and


“Having a unique offering in a venue can be highly beneficial – it instantly gives the space an identity or hook in the media” social to bartender – this is something that spans as far as OTA listings, trade show presence, sales teams and even recruitment, as potential employees should hopefully find it interesting. Energy and ambience are one of the least talked about aspects of running a great space but it’s often crucial to get the most out of the environment. It often takes a floor manager to leave a venue before you realise something needs to change to drive the vibe – the right genre and music volume can turn a regular evening into a memorable night. Similarly, lighting at varying times of the day can really make a difference. Combined, the right atmosphere can drive additional sales, bring guests closer and present further opportunities to retain guests. In many venues, such as Hotel Costes, playlists can be downloaded via Spotify enabling guests to take part of their experience away with them. Alternatively, using live music or DJs can help to evolve the atmosphere of a space. DJs can be far more adaptable but less


visually impressive for a weekend crowd, it depends on what you are looking to achieve and what best suits the venue. The guest experience must always exceed expectations, starting with the moment before they step into the space. A great greeting from a doorman goes a long way followed by a friendly front-of-house team that takes the time to get to know the customer, understand their preference, anticipate their next order or recall their previous visit. This all builds a long-term rapport that will encourage return visits. Be At One always did this well. I gather its bartender’s objective was to learn the name of the guest and introduce themselves within the first five verbal exchanges. Similarly, knowing when to reward good-spending customers or be more flexible can turn a good evening into something special. Having a dynamic content calendar keeps you relevant and front of mind for your audience. Unlike hotel marketing, in which campaigns are formed six to 12 months in advance, restaurant and bar marketing tends to be more dynamic and shorter lead, which works for a number of reasons.

Driving interest Availability of seasonal dishes and drinks makes life easier for the operation but also allows time for online coverage. Typically, our content is programmed three to four months in advance, which also allows the strategy to be more proactive in driving interest to key meal periods to select audiences. Of course if an activation or event is fully confirmed more than three months in advance, there’s more likelihood of achieving print coverage, if that’s an objective. Retaining your crowd and future-proofing your audience is essential to farming a captive clientele, even guests who may appear too young to visit luxury venues may influence the decision of others who can, which will become more relevant in years to come. A pitfall we often hear about is marketers or owners forcing circles into squares and attempting activity that’s not right for the brand. For example, if you’re running a French restaurant a Thanksgiving menu doesn’t need to be on your calendar but Bastille Day or galette des rois should be a highlight. Hotels are sometimes the exception as guests staying in-house might appreciate it but ask yourself what percentage of guests dine in the restaurant each night and whether it’s worth compromising your reputation and identity in the local market for short-lived promotional gain? ▲

Bibendum is proud to sponsor the Propel Multi-Club conference “We are delighted to be sponsoring the Propel Multi-Club conferences throughout 2019 and look forward to participating in these fantastic events.” Michael Saunders, CEO As a nationwide specialist distributor to the On Trade, Bibendum delivers to a wide range of customers from top restaurants and cocktail bars, to catering companies, pub groups and hotels. With a list of over 350 wine producers from across the globe, our portfolio boasts a wide range of award-winning wines across all price points. Alongside this, we also have a large, exciting range of spirits, from artisanal gins to premium tequila. Our training team travel around the country to help staff become well-versed in the different products they sell, while we have an in-house customer marketing and design team who help take a drinks list to the next level. Our dedicated market insights team use cutting-edge technology to stay ahead of the game, ensuring the right product gets to the right customer.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help your business, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to hear from you. | 07976 709958 | Michael Saunders


Russell Danks is marketing and strategy director at Punch


hile at university I read a book by Joel Barker, a business futurist from Minnesota, which included a great insight on change: ● Vision without action is merely a dream ● Action without vision just passes the time ● Vision with action can change the world So true. I see so many people changing things without a clear vision, leaving those around them in a state of confusion and misunderstanding. This is probably a more common scenario than people having a clear vision and failing to act but I also see this happen, especially in big business, which often results in inertia. I’m lucky in my career to have been thrown into roles where there wasn’t a clear path to the future with people around me waiting to have something to believe in and work towards and, ultimately, to be on a collective journey moving towards its destination. I’m sure my legacy in most of of the businesses I’ve worked for will be the “man who put the strategic plan on a page”. It’s common for businesses to spend forever devising a vision “strapline” only to put little thought into the workstreams, skills and resources that will get them there. They fail to describe what the output looks and feels like, underpinned by behaviours people can aspire towards. Most businesses also take

themselves too seriously. Their plans are dull, too complicated and use language that alienates 99% of the people they are trying to inspire. Oh, by the way, profit is an output not an input of the plan. People don’t just work to get paid, they turn up to be part of something bigger than the day job – but you have to help them believe. You have to be the one to take the first steps that make it acceptable to do something different. If you watch “Lone Nut” on YouTube, this is me in my organisations. The “Lone Nutter” is looking for first followers and, once you have those, you can get to the exciting part. Getting people involved in what the future may look like, painting it so vividly they can see it and feel

“Strategic change isn’t a side project it’s about being clear on the things you will do and, more importantly, the things you won’t”

it, this envisioning is key to getting people to understand if change is worth their energy and time. After all, in business you can’t do this alone. Strategic change isn’t a side project it’s about being clear on the things you will do and, more importantly, the things you won’t. It comes from creating a compelling reason to be different rather than being hounded into change by one of your competitors. It comes by having a clear action plan to get there and, most importantly, create a vision that generates a force so powerful it inspires a movement that lives and breathes through every corner of your business. Creating a movement needs momentum and this requires effort, energy and excitement. Strategic change isn’t easy but, if you create the right culture, skills, resources and incentives and deliver them in the right sequence (see Knoster Model below), change becomes invigorating and thrilling not just for you but for everyone engaged in the organisation – inside and out. You don’t need me to tell you a focused and engaged organisation delivers more – more enthusiasm, more determination, more passion, more sales, more profit. Fact. ▲

Model for Managing Complex Change =





Action Plan







= False Starts





Action Plan

= Frustration





Action Plan







Action Plan







Action Plan



Adapted from Knoster T (1991) presentation in TASH Conference, Washington DC. Adapted by Knoster from Enterprise Group






18 Store







improves team wellbeing with Catapult Tue



How freeing up manager time with Catapult’s flexible work force led to a 50% reduction in staff turnover

The first Planet Organic store opened its doors in 1995. As if predicting the major shift toward quality, organic foods and healthy living, founder, Renée Elliott, brought to life her dream of introducing a sense of discovery and adventure into food shopping. Twenty-five years later, the team at Planet Organic is once again an early adopter of another wholly modern movement: the flexible workforce. Observing the pressure understaffing was placing on store managers, Head of HR, Nic Porter, implemented Catapult’s flexible workforce to free up manager time and reduce turnover, which was consequently on the rise. Catapult, which looks after the recruitment, onboarding, and engagement of its own experienced retail workforce, was deployed to help cut the time Planet Organic managers spent recruiting part-time staff.

Challenge Planet Organic discovered Catapult at a time when some of its stores had several vacancies for front-of-house roles.


High £10.0

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Porter said:

“We got into a situation with a couple of stores where team leaders were having to spend so much time on the shop floor they weren’t able to do telephone interviews. That had a knock-on effect and people were feeling overworked so they were leaving, which was a big thing for us.” Planet Organic stores experience peaks based on their unique locations, so it was important that Catapult be flexible enough to allow store managers to tailor their usage.

Solution Catapult was piloted in three Central London stores with its workforce covering 3- to 4-hour shifts in food-to-go and working tills. By utilising Catapult staff to effectively cover intra-day peaks, such as the breakfast and afternoon rushes, the Planet Organic team was able to avoid adding a full-timer to the headcount. Porter said:

“You’re splitting that role out by saying ‘Someone from Catapult can do the busy time from 7:30 to 11:30 in the morning and someone [else] from Catapult can do 4:00 until 9:00

in the evening, without having to hire that extra person.’”

Results With Catapult staff covering these peaks, Planet Organic saved money on recruitment (Porter estimates the cost of hiring team members is about £870 per person) and freed up time by reducing the number of roles they needed to hire for. Furthermore, the Tottenham Court Walk store saw a nearly

50% reduction in staff turnover in the six months after implementing Catapult. “One of the things we look for in people is product knowledge... but we argued that for the roles we’re using Catapult for they’re actually areas of the business where you need the least product knowledge. So with Catapult, just being able to select the smiliest, happiest, friendliest people, that’s actually what it’s all about at the end of the day.”


David Charlton is commercial director, marketing technologies at Zonal


he role of the marketer in the hospitality sector is renowned for its variety. The influence of the hospitality marketer reaches beyond the brand and has an impact on all areas of the business – from menu design and development to operations. It’s a role that’s constantly evolving as consumer habits and behaviours change at pace and the sector competes for attention and loyalty in a crowded market place. The way in which we, as consumers, want to enjoy the food and experience from our favourite high-street eatery is also evolving. Convenience is key and the growth in food delivery and click and collect is proof of that. Zonal’s GO Technology report, developed in conjunction with CGA, tracks the technology habits of 5,000 UK adults and revealed more than one-quarter (28%) of British consumers are ordering more food deliveries from high-street restaurants than they did a year ago. With more than two-fifths (44%) using online channels to order, this presents an opportunity for marketers to identify and utilise the consumer data to drive sales and build brand loyalty. This step-change in behaviour has become possible because technology is changing the way we conduct our lives. The traditional way of doing things has gone out the window – we expect to get what we want, when we want it. As such, marketers are influencing the way in which restaurant brands deliver their experience to stay relevant and popular to demanding

consumers, as for many loyalty is being replaced with convenience. When it comes to click and collect, for example, more than one-third (35%) consider it a convenient way to pick up a meal when there’s no time to prepare food and by twofifths (40%) as an alternative to a traditional takeaway when travelling home from work or a day’s shopping. It seems busy parents are also fond of click and collect, with more than half (56%) using the service. Understanding these behaviours and customer profile is potential gold dust for marketers, as click and collect consumers are more loyal to the brands they like (48%) than the all-consumer average (36%). In other words, repeat visits can be won if a customer’s experience is good. With an average of 9.7 brands in their repertoire, click and collect users have plenty of other places to go if their experience isn’t positive.

“Recognising consumer hunger for convenience and tapping into this insight will shape the sophisticated data-driven marketing tactics deployed by brands, which will be key to business success”

That’s where marketing meets operations. The basics in terms of experience need to be nailed, especially when the orders are flooding in, such as getting orders correct and having them ready on time – the top two frustrations of click and collect users. However, for those brands that do get it right the rewards on offer are potentially huge, with almost two-fifths (39%) of consumers saying they would order more food for delivery if improvements were made to the speed of service and quality of food delivered. More than two-fifths (43%) would like to see faster delivery, which puts it at the top of their wish list for improvements, followed by better food temperature (36%) and price (34%). From an investment perspective the figures are encouraging as click and collect customers share a 90% demographic alignment with delivery consumers (source: Zonal’s GO Technology) but the margins are more favourable. There’s no doubt the consumer love affair with technology will continue and play an increasingly important part in hospitality. As operators and consumers alike switch to digital to book, order and pay for food and drink, the opportunity presented by integrated technology and the data footprint it leaves is giving brand marketers more customer data and insight than ever. Recognising consumer hunger for convenience and tapping into this insight will shape the sophisticated data-driven marketing tactics deployed by brands, which will be key to business success.

Sara Stark is head of marketing and creative at Dishoom


hen I joined Dishoom in 2011, myself (and the rest of the team) spent a lot of time working on the tangible and urgent things that sit way above “brand” and “culture” on the never-ending to-do list – menus, vouchers, Christmas reservations, mailshots, trying to make sure our breakfast covers hit double digits every morning. Success was pretty hit and miss and, if I’m honest, back then it felt like a ropey experience for all involved. A particularly blistering review of our Southbank summer pop-up became a turning point. It made us question what was really important and urgent and, thankfully, we eventually figured out that it was – above all else – about welcoming guests warmly, serving them great food and drinks, and making sure our team was happy and fulfilled. These continue to be our KPIs to this day and, as we started to mess up less, we found space to think about our business. We intended Dishoom to be a London homage to the cafes Iranian immigrants opened in Bombay in the early 20th century. Now mostly closed, these were lovely, nostalgic places with fascinating histories and charmingly eccentric owners. However, what inspired us most was finding out they were the first places where Bombayites of all classes, castes and religions could eat and drink together. These were true shared spaces and played an important role in making Bombay a more cosmopolitan and tolerant city. We noticed parallels in


our own restaurant – cash-strapped students taking advantage of our bottomless chai perching next to bankers who had booked a table for a celebratory lunch. Muslim families dining next to Hindu teenagers. Dishes cooked in Parsi, Muslim, Hindu and Christian traditions sharing space on the same table. Our team, consisting of all nationalities and backgrounds, serving our equally diverse guests. We realised this in itself was important. In a society that’s becoming increasingly divided, we need more shared spaces, not fewer. It became clear to us breaking down barriers and bringing people together over food should be central to Dishoom – a kind of modern version of Irani cafe culture. We were excited about this and set out to find ways to do more of it. At the Dishoom Family Mela (when we close for a day to throw a summer festival for our team and families) we started asking everyone to tie a white thread (or rakhi) on someone of a different faith or culture. This gesture was inspired by the great poet Rabindranath Tagore, who used the rakhi in 1905 as a symbol of solidarity to bring Hindus and Muslims in Bengal together when the British threatened to divide them. For every rakhi tied, we donated £1 to Seeds Of Peace, a charity that brings teenagers from conflict zones together at summer camp to begin to understand their differences.


We also started celebrating our different traditions together. Chef Naved fasts with our co-founders Shamil and Kavi for Janmastmi (a Hindu festival), and they fast with him for a day during Ramadan. On both occasions we hold a get-together to break fast with our team, who are also invited to fast, although they don’t have to. This is open to all team members of any religion – and those with none at all! Quite a few young Muslims in our team have expressed strong gratitude that we do this and speak of being understood and respected for who they are. In 2015, when we were discussing Ramadan, Naved, who is a Muslim, told us charity was a vital pillar of the Islamic holy month. We decided then and there to donate a meal for every one we served during Ramadan through charity partners Magic Breakfast in the UK and The Akshaya Patra Foundation in India. We then made these partnerships permanent at Diwali the same year. Since then we’ve donated more than seven million meals to ensure children raised in poverty turn up to school and get the sustenance they need to learn. We’ll continue to donate a meal for every meal we serve and, out of everything we’ve done in the past nine years, this is the thing I’m most proud of.

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love It must be

Ian Dunstall says brands that fail to create positive emotional engagement are less likely to survive a crisis and thrive in the long term


irst there was #KFCcrisis, with KFC-lovers urged not to call the police when their local store ran out of chicken, then #savepizzaexpress as love-letter articles appeared in media columns after PizzaExpress’ debt restructuring announcement sparked fears of brand closure. In our battle-hardened market, business crisis – and a proportion of resultant failures – are an increasingly regular occurrence. When the chips are down you want your customers to cheer you on to survival. So what is it about brands such as KFC and PizzaExpress that creates levels of love most others envy? The language used in the adulation of PizzaExpress says it all. “The pioneer that popularised pizza culture”, “PizzaExpress resonates with people like no other

restaurant business”. There’s a sense of nostalgia for a brand that, in its 55 years, has introduced several generations to Italian pizza flavours with the added soul of its Soho association with music legends such as Ella Fitzgerald and Amy Winehouse. The challenge for PizzaExpress now is to re-engage with those positive origins and not live off the nostalgia and over-reliance on discounting traffic. However, the original distinction and appeal of the brand over 55 years has

“The challenge for PizzaExpress now is to re-engage with those positive origins and not live off the nostalgia and over-reliance on discounting traffic”

deservedly won many fans. Credit to PizzaExpress too for its social media response to the media furore – “thanks for the love, it feels good to be kneaded, we are still making dough”. It will be interesting to observe what happens next. Most of my career, either in corporate brand development or more recently as a brand consultant, has focused on the two extremities of the brand lifecycle – the initial brand development and startup phase, and the maturity phase when companies reassess how to protect against longer-term brand decline. There is a delicious purity about involvement at the startup phase, helping to create a brand that starts life with bundles of positive distinction and relevant differentiation with an ambition to attract strong brand love. ▲ ¡ WINTER 2019 ¡ PROPEL QUARTERLY



The more complex challenges arise in projects that involve more mature brands, especially those tipping into decline and requiring stronger reinvention to restore consumer relevance. We must discover how much brand love remains and how to build on the positives of the brand origin and package in a way that stays relevant to today’s consumer needs. We need to understand to what extent customers still need this brand to exist in their lives.

Benchmark Before exploring brand love in the hospitality sector, let’s learn from the wider market on what’s the best practice benchmark for brand love ratings. The highest overall scores in the YouGov popularity ratings are shared between three categories – confectionary and snack brands with a high element of indulgence and nostalgia (Maltesers, Heinz, McVitie’s Chocolate Digestives); well-known charities that demonstrate social care and responsibility (St John Ambulance, Macmillan); and a small number of iconic television and film personalities (David Attenborough, Judi Dench). Within our hospitality segment the top ten brand ratings go to Greggs, JD Wetherspoon, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Domino’s, PizzaExpress, Subway, Costa Coffee, KFC and Toby Carvery. Obviously the YouGov survey is weighted towards larger-scale brands and many smaller brands are probably enjoying equally strong guest ratings without appearing on the national radar. For example, we recently commissioned a study for a client with 20 restaurants (Cosmo) that clearly indicated its brand ratings were benchmarking among the best in the industry despite not being large enough to typically appear in the league tables. I have had the privilege of working intensively on two of these top ten brands in my career (Pizza Hut and Toby Carvery) and they share similar positive attributes – a distinctive twist on a highly popular product category, generosity and indulgence wrapped in an accessible price point, and a democratic and accessible brand personality. Indeed, every brand in


“Whatever the cause of the crisis, the scale of pent-up brand love will have a major impact on a brand’s potential and speed of recovery” the top ten has clear brand distinction and leadership in its market sub-segment. These brands also work hard at innovation to ensure they remain crowdpleasers – they can’t afford to live off nostalgia and previous goodwill. Greggs, the sector’s brand rating leader, is a great case study in how to earn and retain strong brand love. In recent years Greggs has evolved its core appeal as an accessible baker of pastries and sandwiches into a food-on-the-go retailer with extended appeal into breakfast and coffee, a healthier product range and the evolution of technology and store formats. McDonald’s is another brand that has practically reinvented its offer in the past five years by investing in product premiumisation, kitchen production process, store model redesign, guest technology and service model.

Emotional engagement What all these highly rated brands also manage to achieve is a high level of emotional engagement between the brand and its target customers. However, these are the positive exceptions. The reality is most brand transactions don’t achieve a strong consumer relationship in our daily lives – their labels are used simply as a mental shortcut of an acceptable level of familiarity or standard. Probably lacking in real brand differentiation or stand-out, they are often consumed subconsciously with little consumer recognition or recall about what they have consumed or what the brand stands for. Brands that fail to create positive emotional engagement are less likely to thrive in the long term. The reality is most brands will have some form of “crisis” in their lifetime that rocks confidence. In some cases this


could relate directly to declining guest appeal – lack of brand innovation in response to changing tastes and needs or the disruption of new competitors in the market. Equally, the crisis can be unrelated to the appeal of the guest experience, as illustrated by KFC and PizzaExpress. As most UK brands know only too well, this can relate to economic or political issues, including negative impact on the brand economic model and resource availability. Equally, there can be corporate issues of leadership, investors, reputation and financing (as PizzaExpress). Whatever the cause of the crisis, the scale of pent-up brand love will have a major impact on a brand’s potential and speed of recovery from whatever issues it faces. Our sector’s recent history is becoming littered with brands that have failed or are faltering. Jamie’s is a recent restaurant casualty but many other casual dining brands are being rapidly scaled back by corporate owners in response to the current challenges. In retail, names such as Toys R Us, Blockbuster, Woolworths and Thomas Cook are all examples of brands that stood for something special in their heyday and must have attracted strong brand love in their best times. Ultimately, they failed to adapt or retain sufficiently high brand appeal and relevance to survive their market crisis. Investing to ensure your brand retains relevance, appeal and strong emotional engagement won’t guarantee you won’t have to manage a crisis. What it will do is give you relative advantage in your market and hopefully allow you to retain the power of positive customer love that strengthens the odds of your brand being a long-term market survivor and winner. ■

Ian Dunstall is a consultant in brand strategy, insight and development, and has supported more than 40 hospitality brands. Previous roles at Mitchells & Butlers include director of marketing and director of concept development

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Rates reform vital for healthy high streets UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls says action is required if we’re to turn our high streets back into thriving community hubs


party affiliation getting in the way as the health of the high street or too long business rates have failed to reflect the should be of concern to MPs regardless of political colour. realities of how our 21st century economy has evolved and, as a consequence, our high streets have been hit hard. In the past few years it has become clear business Range of views rates are a major contributor to the pain felt on Britain’s high The APPG’s programme of work, of which the report is a key streets and action is urgently required to turn them back into output, has been devised to address the key challenges our thriving community hubs. industry faces. While UKHospitality is vocal in defending members’ I make no apology for revisiting this subject. The current interests and is on the record with its position on this topic, we business rates regime clearly discriminates against the hospitality welcome the opportunity to support the APPG to be a forum for sector, which overpays by more than £2bn a year relative to real debate and hear the views of a wide range of stakeholders. turnover. High-street hospitality businesses have been badly hit It also surfaces genuine hope much-needed reform will be in particular. We were promised a full review of the business rates forthcoming to help reduce the costs burden the sector faces. system in the 2017 Conservative Party manifesto. Disappointingly, Let’s remind ourselves of recent history. In the October 2018 that review has yet to materialise. Budget the government announced a business rates discount A recent report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for scheme for small-sized high-street properties in England with a Hospitality (APPG), for which UKHospitality rateable value below £51,000. Under the acts as secretariat, offers some evidenceplan, these businesses receive a onebased recommendations on the path to “We were promised a full review third discount on their rates bills this year the sunlit uplands of a fairer and more agile of the business rates system in and next, which then-chancellor Philip system. Hammond said would help “up to 90% of the 2017 Conservative Party all independent shops, pubs, restaurants The report shows the issue of rates commands clear cross-party attention and manifesto. Disappointingly, that and cafes”. it’s critical this issue is examined without While welcome, the relief fails to ▲ review has yet to materialise”





tax required on digital goods to ensure local government is adequately funded

the business rates system in the support the vast majority of high-street businesses that are multispring. We hope the committee will site or have a higher rateable value because of their location. use the APPG’s report to inform its Furthermore, EU state aid rules prohibit effective relief going to recommendations to government. businesses that have a large number of sites in one country. There should be no more delays, to The unfair and disproportionate tax burden placed on the borrow a phrase from the Brexit narrative. A hospitality sector is a key cause of the so-called high-street commitment to action is required to support the crisis. Squeezed incomes, the rise of online shopping, changing sector in the short term – in the form of relief – and long term by consumer trends and escalating overhead costs are a potent rebalancing taxation towards the digital economy. and damaging mix. The fairness of the rates regime is further undermined by the poorly functioning appeals system. The valuation of a property can be a critical element in how successful Reflections on a busy year a business is. While efforts have been made to make simple UKHospitality has worked tirelessly this year alongside industry changes to make the system easier through the “check” process, partners to ensure the government is clear on the importance it’s clear this isn’t working effectively. More of our vital industry. It’s probably an complex “challenges” are often held up for understatement to say it has been a “The unfair and years and can lead to business failure. challenging and intense period, with Brexit disproportionate tax burden negotiations dominating the agenda and The APPG report offers a number of practical solutions to make the system fairer placed on the hospitality sector Downing Street becoming a frequent for hospitality. These include: is a key cause of the so-called meeting place. However, we’ve achieved a lot this year ● A Royal Commission with representation high-street crisis” to ensure our voice continues to be heard from all sectors of the economy and other by those in power in Westminster and stakeholders to develop a new system beyond. We led the efforts to secure a landmark sector deal, that’s more attuned to business in the modern era which sees hospitality prioritised and recognised as a key driver of ● A two-year business rates “pause” following investment in a economic growth, and made progress across a number of our key property for revaluation campaigns covering home-sharing, tourist taxes, music copyright ● Beefing up the Digital Services Tax, with the proceeds used and championing the night-time economy. to provide relief to sectors such as hospitality and supported Of course challenges remain and there’s much to do to by a 2% tax on digital goods to ensure local government is improve the sector’s trading environment, including reforming adequately funded the overall business tax regime to promote productivity and ● Greater consideration of the current valuations system competitiveness and incentivise investment in people and including frequency and methodology, an approach used in the property. Netherlands As we head towards the end of another busy year, I’d like ● More funding allocated to the Valuation Office Agency, to thank all our members and industry friends for their support which is currently under-resourced and underperforming. The throughout 2019. Check, Challenge, Appeal system should also be reviewed as many businesses aren’t paying the correct amount with little immediate remedy The Treasury Select Committee launched its inquiry into Kate Nicholls is chief executive of UKHospitality



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Pragmatism over preciousness Michael Ingemann says fact-based analysis, structured decision-making and experimentation will go a long way to getting a business or brand back on its feet


hen was the last time something in your business didn’t work out? It’s hard not to take it personally, which is only natural after pouring time, money and, let’s face it, your soul into a project or company. Nevertheless, failures are inevitable so it’s our task as leaders to prevent, control and fix failures in our organisations – and use those that do happen as constructively as possible. In our roles as operators and non-executive directors we have dealt with our own share of wrong decisions but have also been lucky enough to have worked with numerous business leaders to help them analyse their strategic options, recognise gaps in their plans, consider growth opportunities and, at times, get them back on track after taking a wrong turn. Bringing an outsider into the heart of a business can bring objectivity, experience and specialist knowledge as they aren’t embroiled in the daily operation or tied up by internal politics. It’s also worth remembering you only know what you know (and don’t know what we don’t know) so getting a fresh perspective will often bring new thinking and challenge to the status quo. When a business or project is in trouble, this may be exactly the bitter medicine required to revive the “patient”. Most businesses in our sector grow organically, leveraging opportunities that present themselves along the way. Leadership teams in our sector rarely develop and pursue strategic growth plans and the actions taken by even large and successful companies often seem to build on gut feeling. We are certainly not advocating going overboard with strategy planning but we do believe a little more fact-based analysis, structured decisionmaking and experimentation will go a long way.

Fact-based analysis In our client work we almost always find we need some early analysis up front – via surveys, interviews or scrutiny of existing data. We have yet to experience a situation where one or more key assumptions weren’t seriously challenged or disputed this way – with new ideas springing up in their stead. How about: “Our brand isn’t known in our community so our main thrust should be growing our local media presence.” In fact, most people in the target audience knew of the restaurant but didn’t find the offering relevant or compelling – changing the focus entirely. Alternatively, there’s: “Our pricing should be lowered across the board to better compete with X and Y.” However, whereas comparable prices were fine the menu and food offers weren’t communicated properly, leading to people perceiving the brand to be “more expensive”.

Structured decision-making We love models that can help decision-makers get a better overview of the situation, the options or the trade-offs in decisions. We invest a lot of thinking in finding ways to help us devise the most constructive way to frame a problem or ensure a solution takes all relevant factors into account. What has been


a striking revelation is not only how seldom “classic” business decision models are used in the hospitality industry but also how much those models (often developed by Americans for large corporations) require tweaking to be really effective in a restaurant setting. For instance, we have found a rigorous assessment of the “generic” options a restaurant has for driving revenue will force a team to think about where there is most “bang for the buck” instead of only reaching out for new customers, which is often the sexiest but also the most difficult task. We believe there are only four generic options – more new customers, more repeat business, higher average spend or better capacity use.

Constructive experimentation Finally, too few businesses in our sector actively test key decisions and assumptions on a limited scale before jumping into a fully fledged investment. The book Lean Startup introduced the concept of “minimal viable product” to technology startups a few years ago, effectively eliminating previous insistence on detailed business plans and long-term financial guessing. Instead, it argued a startup should devise limited and costeffective experiments that allow it to test the core elements in its business and keep tweaking them until it gets proper market traction. We need to do the same. Everything from menus and communication to business concepts can be tested through experiment, improving the hit rate tremendously once rolled out. We work with one client on a limited, yet real-life click-andcollect experiment that – when tested and perfected – can serve as a template for other units across the client’s markets. To avoid confusion and loss of focus, this was set up from scratch and run like a proper experiment rather than in an established store. Business failures are as inevitable as they are personally painful. The only bullet-proof strategy for avoiding failures is by doing nothing – although that won’t last long, of course. However, in our experience you can come a long way through structured decision-making based on fact-based analysis and tested through managed experimentation.

Michael Ingemann is chairman and partner of Think Hospitality Group, which works with multi-site brands, investors and developers as a consultant and venture partner


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Keep on truckin’ Glynn Davis says technology can help food trucks provide an environmentally friendly alternative to the delivery scooter


Probably not if it was a simple clone of the Pie & Peas model but nce a week around 6pm a bell could be heard ringing what has moved things on is the ability to incorporate technology. at the end of my parent’s road – the signal to head People can track the location of food vans and trucks using out with dinner plates in hand as the Pie & Peas man geo-location technology on their phones and tablets, and plan arrived in his food van. With his no-nonsense menu of meal times accordingly. This has proved beneficial in the US, freshly made meat pies and perfectly mushy peas alongside zero packaging, I’ve often wondered whether a similar mobile business where certain food producers have gained loyal followings as technology provides the level of visibility customers require. model would stack up in today’s more complex but increasingly San Francisco-based Zume has undoubtedly environmentally aware market? developed the most advanced take on the food Ice cream vans continue to bring their sweet “Such an delivery van so far. The company’s Forward treats to our streets and parks, mobile libraries offering has Mobile Kitchen trucks were designed for its cling on to existence in some rural areas, the advantage of own Zume Pizza brand but the firm recently Amazon is rolling out Treasure Trucks to a signed partnerships with other brands such growing number of sites in the UK, and freshness, with food as &Pizza. supermarket chain Kroger has been testing not being damaged in The wagons contain bespoke mobile its Zero Hunger Mobile Market truck in the transit and the potential kitchens that double as food trucks and US to take fresh food to people who can’t to limit packaging and delivery vehicles. One of the pioneering easily get to a store for reasons such as cut fuel by taking mass aspects is their use of automation – robots disability or lack of transportation. servings to groups create pizzas with the cooking time synched There are also mobile pizza and fish and rather than to the length of the journey. chip vans turning up at caravan sites to give Zume also uses artificial intelligence to better holidaymakers a convenient dinner option away individuals” understand and respond to customer demand from the cooker. These vans effectively mirror based on factors such as location and traffic patterns the food trucks that are cropping up in the growing and, as well as being able to optimise its delivery route number of food markets but the difference is they are a through technology that reduces fuel consumption, the company genuinely mobile proposition rather than being largely static. recently enhanced its environmental credentials further by We all know delivering to the home – or other convenient purchasing Pivot, a plant-based alternative packaging company. locations – has grown massively in recent years with companies This sounds like a world away from my encounters with the such as Deliveroo and Just Eat, but could there be a role for a decidedly zero-tech Pie & Peas all those years ago – but is it really? slightly less personal but more shared-service proposition that’s The ultimate objectives of providing tasty food combined with more environmentally friendly – a modern-day Pie & Peas? convenience remain the same but with the overlay of technology Such an offering has the advantage of freshness, with food not being damaged in transit and the potential to limit packaging and and environmental focus bringing things bang up to date. ■ cut fuel by taking mass servings to groups rather than individuals. This all sounds laudable but would it be economically feasible today when people can have things delivered to their door? Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends





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Pining for Christmas trees Ann Elliott reveals her top tips for optimising customer engagement during the vital festive season


s the cold weather draws in and the months end in “brrr”, hospitality is gearing up for the annual festive madness. All operators will have strategies in place already to manage increased volumes of people, deliver a great experience and end the year on a high. With a few tweaks based on consumer insights around the festive period, some brands can make this a Christmas to remember. The Elliotts Insight & Strategy team conducted a survey of 1,084 consumers earlier this year, asking respondents what makes them tick at Christmas. The results revealed valuable insights into consumer Christmas habits, which meant we could make targeted recommendations to our clients on how to obtain their customers’ co-operation to boost business. More than three-fifths (62%) of respondents said they would dine out at least twice during the Christmas period, with 50% of those planning to eat out at least three times. This is a huge opportunity for operators in the coming weeks. So how do we encourage customers to become brand ambassadors? Unsurprisingly, our survey found by far the best way to achieve recommendations is by providing a great experience. Almost two-fifths (39%) said excellent food would encourage them to recommend the brand to a friend or family member, with excellent service (33%) and excellent drinks (31%) close behind. As ever, quality reigns supreme – it’s obvious operators can’t


“Consumers expect, need and want operators to help them celebrate Christmas in a traditional way that marks out the season from the rest of the year” expect new guests or repeat custom if they fail to consistently deliver excellent quality. However, when asked what would enhance an experience in a venue during Christmas, a tree (33%) and decorations (31%) were the most frequent answers, closely followed by an open fire (28%) and festive music (26%). What this clearly demonstrates is consumers expect, need and want operators to help them celebrate Christmas in a traditional way that marks out the season from the rest of the year. While an open fire isn’t always possible, a Christmas tree and decorations are patently low-cost and simple ways to meet customer expectations and enhance their experience. Moreover, almost one-quarter (24%) of respondents said decorations would encourage them to recommend a venue to family and friends, making this an easy way to keep customers talking positively about a brand after they leave. It would seem going contemporary or alternative at Christmas isn’t a way to drive covers. After quality and decorations, respondents said deals were a real reason to recommend an operator, with


almost one-third (30%) choosing that option. For many, Christmas isn’t an easy time financially and two-fifths (40%) said deals and offers would convince them to visit a venue, highlighting the importance of value for money during the season. The research suggested offers encouraged customers to recommend a venue to others while influencing their own decisions regarding venue choice. It seems counter-intuitive to put offers in place at the busiest time of the year but developing deals that work for operator and customer alike has to be a win-win – particularly this Christmas, particularly now. Social media is a huge part of modern marketing and savvy operators look to maximise the opportunities for customers to post pictures of their visit. Almost one-third (29%) of respondents said they shared images of Christmas trees or decorations during the festive period, while 25% said they upload pictures of friends and family while out for a meal. Perhaps combining the two and having wearable Christmas items available for guests – think Santa hats and reindeer horns – would make them even more likely to share their experience? The mind can run riot with ideas. Operators need to encourage customers to do their marketing for them through social media – it’s cheap and effective. Providing prompts, ideas, stories and creativity to bring customers’ imaginations to life is paramount. Acknowledging the importance of user-




generated social media content to market the brand is critical. A customer-owned quality image taken on-site will spread festive cheer – and spread the word. While it might be great (and relatively easy) to encourage customers to promote a bar, pub or restaurant through their own efforts, most operators can’t rely solely on that particular mechanic to drive sales – they still have to run their own, separate marketing activity. Apart from the chance to increase sales, one of the main benefits of the Christmas season is the opportunity to add to your customer database. Customers don’t always readily volunteer to join a mailing list and only 4% of customers cite “server persuasion” as a reason to sign up, so how can operators encourage customers to opt in and share those all-important personal details? Almost half (49%) of those surveyed said special offers for members or cash rewards would encourage them to join a customer database. While operators may flinch at this, data rarely comes free.

“Acknowledging the importance of user-generated social media content to market the brand is critical. A customer-owned quality image taken on-site will spread festive cheer – and spread the word”


Most businesses are paying the price of high-profile data abuse by other companies, with customers becoming understandably skittish about giving away personal information. Therefore developing a real sense of exchange with customers over their data will encourage uptake and ultimately increase the marketing pool. Perhaps a Secret Santa promotion simply offering customers something in return for their email address would work? Quality of offer is also vital to customers when deciding whether or not to join a database, with more than one-quarter (27%) saying excellent food would encourage them to sign up. There’s no avoiding the role a consistent quality offering plays in encouraging customers to part with their personal data. Opportunities for data capture in a crowded venue may seem scant but in fact this isn’t the case. More than twofifths (44%) of meals eaten out of home this Christmas will be planned and not spontaneous, giving operators the chance to get ahead and ensure engaging POS is in front of almost half their diners. Tapping into the idea of “Christmas” and “giving”, providing high-quality service, and ensuring relevant POS promotions are in place mean operators can maximise the chances of earning a new audience for their marketing. At the risk of preaching to the choir, there’s obvious value in increasing the size of the customer database – more

of respondents said they would dine out at least twice during the Christmas period, with 50% planning to eat out at least three times

email addresses means more recipients and more opportunities for marketing messages to land. Using this database to survey customers is also incredibly valuable and an important reason to spend effort growing the mailing list. Research can be conducted as a highticket survey run through partners or a simple pulse option via Survey Monkey, for instance. Whichever way operators choose to run them, surveys are a brilliant way for operators to develop a real picture of the market and how their offer appears. Results allow operators to begin segmenting the database to target people more effectively with relevant promotions. Much in the way exclusive offers lead to more database sign-ups, offering deals to survey respondents is a great way to maximise responses. Christmas presents a fantastic opportunity for operators to cement their relationship with new and existing customers by blending traditional experiences with new communication methodologies – all based on in-depth understanding of their specific habits at this specific time of year. Arguably doing this in 2019 is more important than ever – not only this Christmas but also the year ahead.

Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliotts, the leading integrated marketing agency in the hospitality and leisure sector – ¡ WINTER 2019 ¡ PROPEL QUARTERLY


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Consensus in a post-truth world Paul Chase looks at “group think” surrounding research into alcohol and its supposed harms


have been studying alcohol science and the various claims made about alcohol and its effects on individuals, families and society for almost 15 years. I’ve written two books, one lengthy critique of the revised low-risk drinking guidelines, and more than 1,200 articles on alcohol and society issues since 2005. When I reflect on the welter of claims and counterclaims about alcoholic drinks and the industry that produces and sells them, I am struck by how difficult it is to separate science from politics and truth from opinion. This modern trend to present everything as a “matter of opinion” and deny there’s such a thing as “truth” isn’t restricted to the controversy surrounding alcohol use. We see this tendency in respect of almost every controversial issue that bubbles to the surface of public consciousness – climate change, Brexit, trans-rights. The claim “science is on our side” seems to have replaced “God is on our side” as the means of adducing authority for the most tendentious of viewpoints. Anyone who has studied the history of knowledge knows scientists, researchers and especially apostles of pseudo-science epidemiology aren’t immune to “group think” and the irrational instincts of the herd. This is especially true in relation to alcohol science. The predominant

ethos of those researching and pronouncing on alcohol use is puritanism – the belief pleasure-seeking is bad for you and will result in you or others paying the price sooner or later. What should the public and those in our industry make of the constant litany of research about alcohol and its supposed harms? We can’t all study alcohol science let alone untangle the various claims made by epidemiologists about the links between alcohol and various diseases – here the use of the term “associated with” is often deliberately conflated with “caused by” when in fact they don’t mean the same. How best then to sort the scientific wheat from the pseudo-scientific chaff? Here are some suggestions about what should raise the suspicions of the intelligent sceptic in relation to claims made about drinking alcohol and its harms.

Conflation not separation When a variety of things get bundled together it enables dubious claims to ride on the back of more credible ones. In most scientific controversies there’s more than one claim being disputed. For example, claiming heavy drinking causes liver disease, which is true, but bundling that together with a risible definition of what constitutes “heavy drinking” and linking that to how even moderate drinking can increase your risk factors for various other diseases, such as cancer, where the claim of a causal link is much more dubious. Actually, we are talking about four different things here – heavy drinking and liver disease; the definition of heavy drinking; the definition of moderate drinking; and finally the link between that and cancer. The evidence to substantiate each claim will be different too. By bundling together one credible claim with three dubious ones, activist scientists aim to establish a narrative to ▲ ¡ WINTER 2019 ¡ PROPEL QUARTERLY



set the paradigm of the debate. If you observe this happening, your sceptic’s radar should be activated.

‘Most experts agree’ or ‘science says’ When claims about the effects of alcohol are based on an appeal to authority rather than evidence, you should be suspicious what you’re being told is politics, not science. No-one says: “Most scientists agree the hydrogen molecule is heavier than the oxygen molecule.” No-one says: “Most scientists believe the planets orbit the sun, so the debate is over.” No-one says: “Experts are unanimous that water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen.” These facts are so well established they speak for themselves, so be suspicious of claims that are pre-faced by “science says” or some variant because they are symptomatic of an attempt to prematurely close the debate.

When published research and peer review is cliquish Here you should definitely be suspicious what you’re reading has more to do with politics than science. In the field of alcohol research, cliquishness is common. The University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group (SARG) and the University of Stirling are the source of much of the research about alcohol and SARG is the go-to group of researchers for anything to do with minimum unit pricing (MUP). Indeed, SARG’s credibility as a research group depends on its success. A small number of activist groups and sockpuppet charities also exercise huge influence The Institute for Alcohol Studies (IAS), Alcohol Change UK (formerly Alcohol Concern) and its Scottish equivalent Alcohol Focus Scotland all share the same “group think” about alcohol and the world view we need to dismantle capitalism to create a public health utopia. The review of the low-risk alcohol consumption guidelines was packed with temperance campaigners from the likes of IAS and they prevailed on SARG to change some baseline assumptions to produce a reduced guideline of 14 units a week for men and women. Cliquishness, therefore, serves to subvert science in favour of policy activism.

“A sure sign researchers are really political activists is when they engage in ad hominem attacks – playing the man, not the ball”


“The temptation to distort evidence-based science to make it fit political or policy aims is amplified by social media” Ad hominem attacks A sure sign researchers are really political activists is when they engage in ad hominem attacks – playing the man, not the ball. Often this takes the form of asking “who pays you?” Of course anyone producing alcohol research paid for by a brewer or distiller is automatically attacked as an alcohol industry shill – regardless of the quality of their work. The group-think that says anything from industry is produced to justify what bad guys do whereas universities and so-called charities are motivated only by unalloyed altruism is common in alcohol research circles. There’s an old legal saying: “If the facts are on your side, argue the facts; if the evidence is on your side, argue the evidence; but if you have neither, attack the witness!”

When scientific research is being used to justify political or regulatory intervention When that’s the case, ask whether this is evidence-based policy or policy-based evidence? The classic example of this is MUP. It’s abundantly clear the research carried out by SARG on the impact MUP would have on consumption and harms was intended to justify the policy from the outset. It is illuminating to see how supporters of this policy are scrambling to create an alternate reality based on counterfactual research to support the narrative #MUPworks when it manifestly isn’t working in Scotland. Remember when someone asserts “science says” that “science” is an abstract noun and can’t say anything. Scientists, on the other hand, have a lot to say and the temptation to distort evidence-based science to make it fit political or policy aims is amplified by social media. The paradox is that the internet has hugely increased access to knowledge while simultaneously enabling its distortion.

Paul Chase is principal of Chase Consultancy and author of two books – Culture Wars And Moral Panic – The Story Of Alcohol And Society, published in 2014, and Alcophobia – An Exploration Of Puritanism And The Alcohol Issue, published in 2019




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Conference Overview



Martin Cooper rounds up highlights from the sector conference featuring an all-female line-up of company leaders, an event launched by Propel and Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott

Mira Manek, author and founder of Chai by Mira


ira Manek launched cafe, chai lounge and events space Chai by Mira at Triyoga Soho in Carnaby, while she has also written two books and hosts supper clubs, workshops and retreats. Fitting so many disparate parts into her busy life has led Manek into forming

“I started looking at what time suited me best for working and found it best to write at night and do all the cafe admin work during the day”

a “zen and zeal” business philosophy that allows her to keep calm while dealing with day-to-day pressures.

She told delegates: “The ‘zeal’ is being energised, motivated, passionate about what you do. There are times

when everyone goes through dips of motivation at work. One way to deal with that is by having a variety of people around you who give you a diversity of thought and keep you energised. Inspirational people. Having a number of different tasks at work will also keep up that passion during your work day. “Trying to run Chai by Mira while I was writing my second book meant I struggled to get rid of that ‘jittery’ feeling. I started looking at what time suited me best for working and found it best to write at night and do all the cafe admin work during the day. Zen isn’t about just meditation, it’s about finding your own strategy and toolbox of what makes you feel better. It’s also about working out your best ‘rest mode’ for switching off from the office when you get home. The mind-body connection is so important, it’s about finding that balance.”

Amanda Pritchett, founder of Stanley Pubs


tanley Pubs founder Amanda Pritchett told a “tale of six pubs” regarding her estate of foodled venues in north London. She said: “Our concept is a ‘restaurant within a pub’, so everything is ordered at the bar. That means we can maintain the sociability of a pub while offering a great plate of Mediterraneanstyle food. There’s no music and the menu is short and changes every three weeks.” Pritchett was a restaurant chef but her life changed in 1991 when she walked into The Eagle in Farringdon Road, which had been taken over by David Eyre and Mike Belbin, who had turned it into one of the capital’s first “foodie pubs”. The Eagle’s greengrocer was MasterChef

judge Gregg Wallace while the bar staff included out of work actor Graham Norton. The Eagle inspired Pritchett to start searching for her own pub to start a food-led venture

“There are lots of challenges, including looking after old pubs where some of them were unloved and taking on new staff, some of them also unloved”

at a time that coincided with a decision by the Mergers & Monopolies Commission to force a number of major brewers to release a batch of managed pubs on newstyle leases. She found The Lansdowne in Primrose Hill, operating it into the early 2000s by which time she had acquired The Lord Stanley in Camden Park Road. The business had expanded to four successful sites with the help of a business partner. However when they fell out Pritchett decided to split the business and start afresh in 2012, founding Stanley Pubs with Tom Gilroy and Martin Larnach and taking The Lord Stanley and the Tufnell Park Tavern in Tufnell Park with her. She said: “I now had two sites, a great team and a

wealth of experience so we started looking for another site and found The De Beauvoir Arms in Islington and within two years we had quadrupled the sales. The Lady Mildmay in Newington Green and the Landseer Arms off Holloway Road followed and we have just opened the Dame Alice Owen in John Street. This has all been done without outside investment and influence. There are lots of challenges, including looking after old pubs where some of them were unloved and taking on new staff, some of them also unloved, but I can now focus on the part I love, which is looking after the food – 30 years after entering The Eagle as a wide-eyed young cook.” ▲ ¡ WINTER 2019 ¡ PROPEL QUARTERLY






Conference Overview

Emma Reynolds, founder of Tonkotsu


mma Reynolds and Ken Yamada founded ramen restaurant group Tonkotsu when they spotted a gap in the market and realised the profit margins were way better than at the sushi business they had set up. Following a number of pop-ups they secured their first bricks and mortar site for the concept, in Dean Street, Soho. Reynolds said: “It was insane. We were working double shifts seven days a week. We did that for six months straight. We were exhausted but loving it and we realised magic could come from chaos. Unlike the sushi restaurants that were just ticking over, Tonkotsu was making money and people were queuing out the door. We went from pop-ups to six restaurants in five years.” By that point Reynolds and Yamada had realised “instinct and hard work can only get you so far”, so they brought in Stephen Evans as managing director. Reynolds said: “That made such a difference We didn’t open any more restaurants in that first year with Stephen on board but we consolidated and worked out what the brand stood for. He made us discover the brand’s DNA and we’re really proud of it.”

In June, Tonkotsu secured new investment from YFM Equity Partners, which invested £5m for a minority stake. Having a “male-

“The ramen sector, and the Asian market as a whole, still has plenty of space for us all to exist and grow – outside London there’s a huge opportunity”

heavy” head office, however, led Reynolds and Yamada to insist their chairman must be female. Reynolds said: “We wanted representation at the top with someone who would think differently and for women in the organisation to be able to look up and think, ‘ok, you do take this seriously’. We chose Dragons’ Den star Sarah Willingham, formerly of PizzaExpress and Bombay Bicycle Club.” Asked about the hardest parts of expanding the now 12-strong brand, she said: “Doubling from one to two was hard but I think we got to a wobbly point when we reached six and it was still just Ken and I. We had pedalled as hard as we could up to the point where the wheels were about to come off.” Regarding expansion, she said: “The ramen sector, and the Asian market as a whole, still has plenty of space for us all to exist and grow – outside London there’s a huge opportunity. We are going to slowly expand over the next couple of years, two or three sites a year. The investment that’s come in means we can invest heavily in training people, which I’m really excited about.”

Wendy Bartlett, founder of Bartlett Mitchell


endy Bartlett, founder and executive chairman of independent caterer Bartlett Mitchell, which has £55m turnover and a 97% contract retention rate, told delegates some of the things she has learned from running a business. She said: “The fun is sharing what you know. We have fundamental values the teams learn and they realise what I expect from them. I also use dashboards across the business – my adage is ‘what gets measured, gets done’ – and they allow me to spot spikes so I can head-off problems. I also run league tables during training and staff

get quite competitive. I have a company full of personalities because it’s really important for company culture to have people who stand up to you and put their point of view across.” Bartlett Mitchell serves 40,000 customers a day in more than 90 locations in London and the south east, many of them office canteens, so the company works out demographics to match its offer to customers, including price point. Asked about the company’s remarkable average team turnover of 9% from a workforce of about 1,000, Bartlett said: “We work really hard on being a family, to

“We have a plan for all team members and clients to make sure we stay pro-active – contract catering is a competitive market”

make staff feel special. Team members have touch points. They get a welcome card, a birthday card, appraisals, job chats and we map out that journey from the time they join to the time they leave so, even in exit, if it’s someone

we want to keep we carry on communicating with them. “We have a plan for all team members and clients to make sure we stay proactive – contract catering is a competitive market so you have to find a difference so people want to join you – and we make sure new staff meet all the other team members to create a glue that sticks them together.” Other tips for budding entrepreneurs included hiring a financial director early on – Bartlett admitted to not being great at finance so she hired the best person she could find – and to talk in plain English rather than corporate-speak so all staff, from kitchen porter up, understood the company’s values. She summed up: “Most importantly, people don’t want unwelcome surprises – so be honest.” ▲ ¡ WINTER 2019 ¡ PROPEL QUARTERLY


Conference Overview

Petra Wetzel, founder of WEST Brewery


etra Wetzel admitted when she took on German-style brewer WEST Brewery in Glasgow after it initially foundered under the direction of her first husband Gordon, she didn’t know anything about beer. She said: “Just because you don’t know something, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You apply yourself, you learn. At WEST we have the saying: ‘We hire for attitude and train for skill.’ You can’t teach someone to smile. What started as a tiny beer hall became a buoyant brewing business. I actually started delivering our first kegs in my own car. Today we own 25,000 kegs and sell to between 3,000 and 4,000 on-trade customers, every supermarket in Scotland, and export to Japan, South Korea and Brazil – we even sell beer to Germany!” Wetzel puts full faith in her team and said her proudest moment was transferring 10% of her shares in April into an employee ownership trust so everyone who works at WEST for more than 12 months becomes a shareholder. She said: “For me, the company was never about making lots of money it was making sure Glasgow had a really great beer.”

“What started as a tiny beer hall became a buoyant brewing business. I actually started delivering our first kegs in my own car”

Having made a bit of money, Wetzel launched the WEST Women investment fund for female-led or majorityowned businesses, mainly in the foodservice industry. She said: “This is the best thing about starting a business. I’ve made all the mistakes you can make so having a ‘bag of mistakes’ is a really powerful toolkit. If someone asks me for investment, I can spot any wrong

paths they may be going on because I will have made that mistake. I have invested in half a dozen businesses in Scotland and it has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done.” Wetzel is also making a huge investment regarding sustainability. The company has started a £10.5m project, WEST Beverages, where it will build a facility that produces its own energy and has its

own water source. As well as sustainability, the site will be able to produce any drink in any format, especially as future generations start to turn away from alcohol. Wetzel ended her presentation with a tip for budding entrepreneurs based on her early experience: “Making friends through business is better than starting in business with friends.”

Joycelyn Neve, founder and managing director of Seafood Pub Company


oycelyn Neve founded Seafood Pub Company (SPC) in 2010, making use of her family heritage in the fishing industry. The company has grown to ten seafood-led gastro-pubs in the north of England, most with accommodation. She spoke to delegates about “head versus heart decision-making” when building a business from scratch. She said: “You’ll be offered tons of advice – from punters, other business people and investors. All advice is useful, but it’s not always correct for you. Advisers, for instance, may have no experience in your sector and, while they add value in all sorts of ways, having the confidence to push back and decline advice around areas of the business they don’t understand is the right thing to do. Some


advice will bring a quick cash return but it won’t build a sustainable business.” Regarding mistakes she had made while building her business, Neve said: “When you’re passionate and driven, admitting defeat is tough. My biggest mistake was taking on a bistro, Roaming Roosters, which had no synergy with SPC. My head should have said ‘no’ but other factors swayed my decision-making. I was helping a friend who was struggling with the site and

“When you’re passionate and driven, admitting defeat is tough. My biggest mistake was taking on a bistro”

it gave us our first real office. Anyway, how hard could it be to run a simple bistro? “We soon learned it was really hard. The customers, food and drink were so different to SPC and none of our staff wanted to work there, seeing it as the poor sister or somewhere they were sent for being naughty. This was our first taste of not making people happy with food and drink – complaints and bad reviews kept coming, which we’d never experienced before. “After 12 months I accepted I had made a mistake and, when an opportunity arose to get out of the site, we snapped their hands off. Taking on the site was naïve, I should definitely have used more ‘head’ decisionmaking and been happy to stick with what we were good at rather than taking a supposed opportunity that turned out to be the opposite.


“When any decision turns out to be wrong, valuable lessons are learned. It plants seeds of doubt in your mind as to what could go wrong and leads to better decisionmaking in the future. You can learn from others’ mistakes but none like your own.” Penta Capital bought a majority stake in SPC in July 2016, arranging an £18m funding package to acquire a majority stake in the business and provide funds for expansion. Asked whether the private equity move had been a good one for the business, Neve said: “Really good. The business had grown in a tight geography and got to the size where I needed support and guidance to expand further. There have been bumps in the road but Penta has always been incredibly supportive and it believes in the business.” ▲


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Conference Overview

Pranee Laurillard, founder of Giggling Squid


iggling Squid founder Pranee Laurillard, speaking at a conference for the first time, told delegates: “Believing in what you do is the most powerful tool to keep you going and to stop your business from going off at a tangent.” In 2002, Laurillard told her husband Andy she wanted to open a Thai restaurant. The couple remortgaged their house to fund their first site, in Brighton. They opened a second restaurant in Hove under the name Giggling Squid – a name that proved so popular with customers the couple decided to focus expansion on the concept. Laurillard said: “That was a lesson to me that if you believe in something, sometimes you need to change in order to move on. It worked for me.” Laurillard also talked about “gut instinct” when building a business. She said: “You can’t explain it in logic but you just feel it. It might be some trivial thing that becomes big. My first head chef was flown in from Thailand. He was young and had the arrogance and confidence of youth. When I was working front of house, a

customer complained about the food. When I took the food to the chef he was so defensive and blamed the problem on the restaurant’s crockery. I made the decision I had to let him go and started working in the kitchen myself. I worked in the kitchen with the team for six months. It was such an experience, I learned so much about the business.” Giggling Squid has grown to more than 30 sites with further openings in the pipeline. The company is backed by the BGF, which

“I worked in the kitchen with the team for six months. It was such an experience, I learned so much about the business” invested £6.4m in the then 13-strong business in 2015 and remains supportive of its selffinanced roll-out strategy. However, no matter how big

the brand grows, Laurillard said the company would stick to its principles. She told delegates: “My most firm belief is profit isn’t the most important thing. It’s more about having respect for the people and, when they have respect in what they do, they will produce their best. “When you believe in something it becomes your personality and is your torch to guide your way ahead. The company shouldn’t be faceless and only concerned about turnover. It’s all about the customer and they have grown with us. If there is a problem, many customers email us direct because they want to see us do well. That is such a big reward.” During the conference, Laurillard was named Wireless Social Women’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Laurillard was presented with the trophy by Wireless Social chief executive Julian Ross. He said: “Pranee has built Giggling Squid into one of the UK’s largest Thai restaurant chains, with more than 30 sites. Andy describes his wife as the ‘brains behind the operation’, overseeing menu creation and development, while she also leads on the operations side.

Karen Jones, executive chairman of Prezzo


rezzo executive chairman Karen Jones revealed her top tips for starting a hospitality business. She told delegates: “Firstly, you must be able to sum up your business in one sentence. It’s difficult but so important because if you’re not exactly clear about what you are and what you want to do, you’re never going to get that across to your customer. “If that’s your strategic ‘what’, you then have to define your ‘how’ – the values on which your company will operate. It’s an invaluable and irreplaceable management tool because it focuses on building a culture that, if led properly, will give you a competitive advantage and a nice place to work. You know this culture has caught fire when those values enter the company vernacular and get talked about all the time. That means they need to be


short and simple. “When I got to Prezzo, the brand definitely needed some direction and turnaround and I used those values – genuine service, one team, be the best you can be, and community. Hawksmoor and Mowgli have similarly clear and powerful values. Everything aligns behind that ‘what’ and ‘how’ – the strategic pillars, the people, the plans and, most crucially, the energy. If

you’re not intensely aligned you lose power and building and turning around businesses takes positive energy every second of every day of the week. We need to create good businesses in every sense of the word.” Talking about the secret to turning a business around, she said: “Having had the privilege of building two businesses from scratch – Pelican and Café Rouge – it is no less fascinating sorting out a big company. The defining jobs aren’t that different – sort the strategy, have a clear goal, find the right people, build a culture, execute brilliantly, don’t forget


hospitality is at the heart of what you do, and look after your people and customers. Social media and online give us so much access to customers’ reactions. If we don’t listen forensically all the time and do something better with that feedback, we’re fools.” Jones also told delegates the time of the woman entrepreneur was now. She said: “There is white space in the market and now, as a woman, you have natural competence that’s vital to business and entrepreneurial success, particularly in the hospitality industry.” ▲

“When I got to Prezzo, the brand definitely needed some direction and turnaround and I used those values – genuine service, one team, be the best you can be, and community”

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How to control costs in times of uncertainty


olitical and economic uncertainty has created tough trading conditions for the UK retail and hospitality sector over the last few years. Operating costs have continued to rise – hitting a 12-year high in 2019 according to UKHospitality – while consumer FRQČ´GHQFH KDV EHHQ VKDNHQ meaning hospitality operators are Č´QGLQJ LW KDUGHU WKDQ HYHU WR VWD\ LQ EXVLQHVV The pressure is already having an impact. According to the most recent Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners, there was a 3.4% drop in restaurant numbers and a 2.4% fall in pub and bar numbers in the 12 months to June 2019, an average of 18 closures a week. Size of business has little relevance to its success either. While independent businesses are said to have borne the brunt of the closures, large chains have also EHHQ DÎ?HFWHG (DUOLHU WKLV \HDU ZH encountered the demise of the 22-strong Jamie’s Italian restaurant chain with founder Jamie Oliver citing the decline of the UK high street and soaring business rates as reasons for its failure. Indeed, rising costs associated with increased business rates, higher UHQWV DQG IRRG DQG GULQN LQČľDWLRQ were listed as one of the biggest concerns for hospitality businesses in a recent trends survey of 217 hospitality operators carried out by Access Hospitality and The Caterer. ΖQ -XO\ LQČľDWLRQ URVH E\ compared to the same month in 2018, meaning we can expect higher prices for food and drink while energy prices, business rates, rents and wage bills are all likely to rise in the year ahead.

However, while hospitality operators may be anxious about rising costs, many possess an appetite to mitigate the impact they have on their business. Access Hospitality’s recent trends report revealed that 47% of operators found controlling costs delivered their best ROI in 2018. So what can be done to reduce some of those key operating costs?

6WDÎ? DQG 3D\UROO Payroll costs are the single largest cost for hospitality businesses – almost 30% of turnover, according to the 2018 UKHospitality Christie & Co Benchmarking Report – and it is unlikely to change, especially with the National Living Wage now standing at ÂŁ8.21 per hour for employees aged over 25. Whilst UHGXFLQJ SD\UROO FRVWV LV GLÉ?FXOW ZLWKRXW DÎ?HFWLQJ TXDOLW\ RI VHUYLFH operators should ensure they are using the right processes and technology to avoid inaccurate payroll data and having to do PXOWLSOH VWDÎ? SD\PHQW UXQV

One solution to keeping costs down, particularly for operators with multiple sites, is to move from a manual to digital SXUFKDVLQJ V\VWHP $Q HÎ?HFWLYH system streamlines procurement, reduces indirect spend and automates invoice processing, so operators have complete control and visibility over every stage of the buying process.

5HQW DQG 5DWHV These two overheads may not be as KLJK DV VWDÉ?QJ DQG IRRG EXW WKH\ are certainly responsible for keeping many hospitality operators awake at night.


Historically, 12% of turnover is the maximum rent restaurants, pubs DQG EDUV FDQ DÎ?RUG KRZHYHU LQ WKH last year, average rents have risen to 21% of turnover, according to a report by leisure property agent Cedar Green Group.

Both the buying of raw materials DQG GLVSRVLQJ RI ZDVWH Č´JXUH highly in the budget for hospitality businesses. As previously noted, ULVLQJ LQČľDWLRQ PHDQV D ELJJHU food bill; this is without taking into account the complexity of Brexit and the pressure this will also place on food costs. It leaves hospitality RSHUDWRUV DVNLQJ PDQ\ TXHVWLRQV Č‚ GR WKH\ Č´QG FKHDSHU VXSSOLHUV re-engineer the menu, or simply pass on the costs to their customers in order to continue trading?

To avoid leases suddenly leaping up, Gannon Solicitors advises that when negotiating conditions, RSHUDWRUV VKRXOG QHJRWLDWH D Č´YH year lease with no review of rent with their landlords. When negotiating conditions, operators should ensure the lease contains the appropriate type of rent review, they say, reminding operators that they can UHTXHVW UHQWV WR EH GHFUHDVHG RU increased depending on the market. This is vital to help plan costs.

Many business owners are reluctant to present customers with price hikes, but when your GP is being VTXHH]HG \RX PD\ KDYH OLWWOH choice. Add waste management fees into the mix and it becomes even harder to keep a handle on costs.


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For more information on controlling costs across your entire operation visit

www.theaccessgroup. com/solutions/ controlling-costs

Conference Overview

Adele Ashley, founder Filmore & Union


ilmore & Union founder Adele Ashley talked about the lessons she has learned during her time as an entrepreneur. Her entrepreneurial journey began when she discovered she was gluten intolerant, which led her to found a chain of wellness clinics. On discovering a lot of her clients had very little choice when dining out, she sold the chain and created Filmore & Union, aimed at people with dietary intolerances. She told delegates: “Families could eat together. My menus were 90% glutenfree and I opened a gluten-free bakery. This was ten years ago so it was pretty revolutionary and, believe me, when I put avocado on toast on the menu in Yorkshire, people were horrified. No-one had seen anything so out there, up there. “We faced a lot of opposition but I stuck to my guns. We let dogs in, they’re part of the family too, and we didn’t serve ketchup, white bread or fizzy drinks. Basically, we didn’t sell anything we didn’t make ourselves but I’m glad I stuck to my guns because way more people liked what we did than complained. Sticking to your ethos and what you do well is so important.”

Budding entrepreneurs should always ask for advice on things they’re unsure of and be careful when choosing a business partner, Ashley added. She said: “Have they got the same vision as you? Have they even got the same timeline? My business partner and I had different visions for Filmore & Union. I wanted to consolidate after we opened nine restaurants,

“Investment doesn’t work if it’s not the right time. It can force you into expanding when you’re not ready”

Silla Bjerrum, head of food product innovation at Sushi Daily


ushi expert Silla Bjerrum told delegates how to “set up a business, take a new investor on board and exit hard”. Bjerrum and Jeremy Rose launched London’s first sushi delivery service, Feng Sushi, in 1999, opening a first shop that same year and then one of the first food stalls at Borough Market a year later. Sites followed in Kensington and Notting Hill before “something started happening”. Bjerrum said: “It was clear everyone wanted to do chains. Everyone was coming up with concepts they were rolling out and if you had 50 locations across the UK you could make a lot of money. We got quite excited by this and started talking about


who could take us there. We were doing well and opened a couple more stores then everything went wrong in 2008 when my business partner became terminally ill and had to retire. Suddenly, finding an investor became much more pressing. I was only a minority shareholder but I found an

“Deliveroo launched in Chelsea, which ate into what we were doing, and I suggested we go into business with them but to no avail”

three takeaways, three cafes in John Lewis stores, two delis and a gluten-free bakery, all in six years. It was manic – but all sites were profitable.” Ashley’s partner wanted to continue expansion and, although she would rather have looked to round and consolidate the brand, investment was brought on board. She said: “Investment doesn’t work if it’s not the right time. It can force you into expanding when you’re not ready. I’m proof of that. We should have consolidated for a year and maximised on the sites we had. That’s the way most brands fail, because they’re not ready to expand.” After problems arose between her business partner and investors, the investment team sold Filmore & Union in May without Ashley having a say. However, she is rebuilding on her own terms. She said: “I’m doing menu analysis and development, focusing on dietary intolerances, allergies and healthier options. I’ll be looking at brands’ menus and working with them on more interesting options. I’m also working on restaurant design and marketing, and I’m finally going to be able to write my cookery book!”

Panel sessions investor, we opened a few more stores, and it seemed like everything was going in the right direction. Then things started to change and I wasn’t able to do things my way. Deliveroo launched in Chelsea, which ate into what we were doing, and I suggested we go into business with them but to no avail so I did the high-risk thing – I walked with nothing. Did I do the right thing? Yes.” Bjerrum now heads up food product innovation for Sushi Daily, which offers products in many high-end UK stores, with Bjerrum leading the launch of a grab-and-go concept for the company, in London’s New Oxford Street, early this year. She is also working on a large new superfood campaign.



lliotts chief executive Ann Elliott, who partnered with Propel to launch the full-day event, also hosted two panel sessions. The first saw her talk to Kanishka Holdings managing director Tina English, Livelyhood owner and director Sarah Wall, Hola Guacamole chef Margarita Garcia, Goldfinger Factory chief executive Marie Cudennec, and The Chilli Pickle founder Dawn Sperring about their experiences in the sector. For the second panel, delegates listened as Bombay Burrito owner Maria Savage, Farmer Copleys owner Heather Copley, and Yum Bun founder Lisa Meyer revealed what they “would do differently next time”.

Our hospitality team is a fast growing, forward thinking group of accountants and tax advisers who understand the specific needs of clients in the hospitality sector We can offer assistance in all areas including: DXGLW DQG DVVXUDQFH FRUSRUDWH ¿QDQFH due diligence • EIS • EMI • PAYE restructuring • VAT • tax compliance Contact Andrew Ball 020 7969 5530 Gareth Ogden 020 7969 5507 Jessica Powell 020 7969 5607 Mark Shewring 020 7969 5583

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Personality and atmosphere win every time Chris Edger says when it comes to hospitality, what you stand for, how you make people feel and the fond memories you generate trump financial engineering


was fortunate to be invited to speak at Propel’s first Multi-Club Conference in 2013, where I opened up with the proposition that although this was “our time” in hospitality – with new concepts being “bankrolled out” at high velocity – at some point the tide would turn, ruthlessly exposing uneconomic fads that would quickly disappear. In short, a bloody reckoning would come for badly conceived food-led concepts, much in the same way poorly constructed wet-led concepts vanished from the high street in the 1990s. To be fair, I was hardly Nostradamus predicting what lay ahead – other commentators also warned of sector over-exuberance in those heady days of expansion. But in the end, why have so many casual dining concepts stumbled or failed in the past few years and what can we learn from propositions in our sector that have prospered? CASUAL DINING COLLAPSE Firstly, why the demise of so many casual dining brands? Much has been written in Propel about underlying reasons

“Many of these converged concepts lacked a focused position and failed to make enduring emotional connections with customers”

behind a catalogue of company voluntary arrangements and receiverships, including a perfect storm of higher input costs, unviable site economics, overcapacity, and changes in consumer tastes and behaviour. As an academic, delving into the book I wrote with Tony Hughes in 2015 entitled Effective Brand Leadership – Be Different. Stay Different. Or Perish!, I would allude to the fact many of these converged concepts lacked a focused position and failed to make enduring emotional connections with customers. A gaggle of confected homogeneity, they failed to locate a market place with customer space, struggling to gain any sustainable “mind share” with customers.

WINNING FORMATS But what about the companies and propositions in our market that have prospered? What do they have that the failures lacked? Orthodoxy would have it that successful service brands – alongside some of the factors listed above – are trusted, consistent and fulfil genuine consumer needs that are unmet elsewhere. But stepping back as a teacher, writer and researcher in this segment, two things stand out about the brands, formats and concepts that have produced sustained outperformance, namely they have a distinctive personality and a warm atmosphere. Who and how? DISTINCTIVE PERSONALITY Brands in our market that are thriving – such as Nando’s, Pret A Manger, Wagamama, and Miller & Carter – all have distinctive personalities that mean something to customers and staff. Their carefully crafted brand positioning speaks to customers, offering authentic functional and emotional benefits that can’t be found elsewhere in the market. From a ▲ ¡ WINTER 2019 ¡ PROPEL QUARTERLY


Insight functional point of view their core product offering – spicy chicken, fresh ingredients, funky noodles and prime steak respectively – is undeniably best in class. From an emotional standpoint they have achieved salience between their external and internal branding, with staff personifying the core values of their respective brands. WARM ATMOSPHERE However, something magical has happened in another segment of the market! The recent moves by CK Holdings and Stonegate Pub Company to buy Greene King and Ei Group respectively has reignited interest in what was – until recently – regarded as the industry’s Cinderella segment. Commentators have pointed to the fact pub acquisition activity has picked up because the financial markets have undervalued pub freehold assets and predators can access cheap capital – but there is another reason. Throughout the past ten years the pub sector has proved to be remarkably resilient, posting growth in viable geographical and demographic areas of the UK. Why? Because in spite of its rather premature obituary the British pub – as advocates such as Tim Martin, of JD Wetherspoon; Simon Longbottom, of Stonegate; Phil Urban, of Mitchells and Butlers; and Simon Emeny, of Fuller’s; have steadfastly maintained – remains the existential heart of UK hospitality. It has maintained its relevance by adapting its offer and improving its quality while doing what great pubs have always done down the ages, namely providing a warm atmosphere. Indeed, the sentiments expressed by JM Richards in his foreword to the 1949 book Inside The Pub are as relevant now as they were then! “If I were asked what are the qualities I would like to find in a pub I would say simply ‘the right atmosphere’, and if asked

to be a little more precise I would say the right atmosphere is one that provides warmth and cheerfulness. A pub should make people feel at home and yet have the capacity to lift them a little out of themselves.” These are the enduring qualities of a well-run pub and the reason why so many pub-based propositions – run by outstanding national, regional and local operators – have flourished in recent

“In spite of its rather premature obituary the British pub remains the existential heart of UK hospitality”

times. Great pubs are havens, providing a sense of community, conviviality, comfort, collegiality and celebration. A place where – in these politically disorienting times – people can enjoy quality service and a warm atmosphere that makes them feel better about themselves and better disposed to fellow mankind! MEANING AND FEELING My simple argument is this. The collapse of swathes of casual dining companies and units, while connected to economic factors, can essentially be explained by the fact their soul-less, fabricated, designengineered concepts were doomed to failure from the start. In a crowded, converging market they lacked distinctive personalities and warm atmospheres that meant and felt something to employees and consumer franchises alike. Hooked on vouchering to incentivise customer traffic, these failing entities relied on promiscuous casual switchers rather than loyal advocates to sustain their business models. On the other hand, those brands and formats that really did mean something to consumers and made them feel uplifted – such as well-run, well-situated pubs and some best-in-class casual dining operators – have continued to prosper because, in the end, it comes down to customers, not economics. What you stand for, how you make people feel and the fond memories you generate trump financial engineering in hospitality. A lesson that should be absorbed by any nascent operator planning to fritter away a fortune on a “here today, gone tomorrow fad” is hospitality with a distinctive personality and a warm atmosphere wins out – every time!

Professor Chris Edger is a lecturer, coach and multiple author on multi-site franchising, branded and service leadership



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