Propel Quarterly Spring 2018

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www.propelhospitality. com


ISSUE 22 • SPRING 2018


UNMISSABLE SPORT Boost your takings with Sky Sports, and make your venue the home of live action. Live Premier League action including:

Man City v Chelsea

Man Utd v Liverpool

Sunday 4 March, 4pm Premier League

Saturday 10 March, 12.30pm Premier League

West Ham v Man Utd

Man City v Brighton*

Sunday 18 March, 1.30pm Premier League

Sunday 18 March, 4pm Premier League

Arsenal v Watford

Tottenham v Newcastle*

Arsenal v Stoke

Chelsea v Tottenham

Sunday 11 March, 1.30pm Premier League

Sunday 1 April, 1.30pm Premier League

Friday 16 March, 8pm Premier League

Sunday 1 April, 4pm Premier League

Plus, action from the Sky Bet EFL, Women’s 6 Nation, Formula 1® and boxing including:

JOSHUA PARKER Aston Villa v Wolves

Saturday 10 March, 5.30pm Sky Bet Championship

England v Ireland

Friday 16 March, 5.30pm Women’s Six Nations

Australian Grand Prix Sunday 25 March Formula 1®

Anthony Joshua v Joseph Parker

Saturday 31 March Sky Sports Box Office**


Plus with our dedicated marketing support on your side, you’ll have even more pulling power

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*Subject to FA Cup R6. **Anthony Joshua v joseph Parker is a PPV event and is availble to existing customers at a additional cost. Sky Sports requires Sky subscription, equipment and installation. Scheduling may be subject to change. Further terms apply. Calls to Sky cost 7p per minute plus your providers access charge. Correct at time of supply 07.02.18. THE F1 LOGO, F1, FORMULA 1®, FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, GRAND PRIX AND RELATED MARKS ARE TRADE MARKS OF FORMULA ONE LICENSING BV, A FORMULA ONE GROUP COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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

Raising the bar Barworks’ Andreas Akerlund on building a hospitality empire

Inside: Restaurant Marketer & Innovator Cocktail sales shake up the sector Post-Brexit skills shortage Delving into TripAdvisor data ALMR and BHA merger Sweetening the sugar tax Nanny state’s war on food and drink Shape of things to come


ISSUE 22 • SPRING 2018


Contents 50



Causing a stir


Alive to opportunity


The heat is on


Four is the magic number


Bitter pill


Unfair fare


One voice


Balancing the board


Six cornerstones of experiential excellence


Insights into restaurant marketing and innovation

John Porter looks at the significant rise in cocktail sales

Glynn Davis interviews Andreas Akerlund, co-founder of Barworks

John Porter warns of a post-Brexit skills shortage in the pub sector‘s kitchens

Carlo Platia analyses TripAdvisor restaurant data

Phil Mellows looks at the imminent introduction of the sugar tax

David Martin investigates inequality in the out-of-home food and drink category

Kate Nicholls explains why the ALMR’s merger with the BHA is great news for the industry

Ann Elliott on the benefits of increasing female representation in the boardroom

Chris Edger and Richard Oddy explain the increasing importance of the ‘Experience Economy’

A look at the first Restaurant Marketer & Innovator, the most comprehensive marketing event the sector has seen




Top ten restaurant marketing trends


The shape of things to come


Drop the ‘Disneyland’


Technology can help operators brace for Brexit


The nanny state’s war on food and drink

James Hacon shares his top ten takeaways from Restaurant Marketer & Innovator

Cyril Lavenant says delivery, breakfast, lunch, burgers and casual dining will be the catalysts to a growing foodservice industry

Glynn Davis argues any roll-out of the Eataly World concept should focus on the original market theme

Henry Seddon says in an uncertain environment, cost certainty for your technology is headline news

Paul Chase argues our industry is being diminished by an unelected and unaccountable public health elite

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

Director Jo Charity T: 01444 810304 E: Commercial Director Sharon Dickinson T: 01444 810305 E:

Contributors Paul Chase, Glynn Davis, Chris Edger, Ann Elliott, James Hacon, Cyril Lavenant, David Martin, Phil Mellows, Kate Nicholls, Richard Oddy, Carlo Platia, John Porter, Henry Seddon

Managing Director Paul Charity T: 07899 984814 E:

Partnerships Director Jill Harrington T: 01444 810306 E:

Printing and Distribution Bishops Printers, Walton Road Farlington, Portsmouth PO6 1TR

Managing Editor Paul Bishop T: 01444 817690 E:

Events Co-ordinator Anne Steele T: 01444 817691 E:

Deputy Editor Martin Cooper T: 01444 817689 E:

Design & Production Jonathan Taylor T: 01403 892685 E:

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uarterly u ©Propel Hospitality Ltd. 2018 SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY



John Porter looks at the significant rise in cocktail sales and talks to some of the segment’s significant shakers



here is a scene in BBC television drama Peaky Blinders, set in 1920s Birmingham, in which a woman walks into a pub – something that in itself causes consternation among the regulars and bar staff – and orders a gin and tonic with ice. The flustered bartender is able to locate a bottle of gin but has to admit defeat when it comes to either tonic or ice. It’s a scenario that would have been familiar to anyone who was a regular pub-user in times gone by – and much more recently than the 1920s. Something has clearly changed since those days. In January, Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog installed a vending machine at London’s Old Street railway station that dispensed chilled cans of gin and tonic to commuters to promote its in-house Lone Wolf distillery. In the same month, the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) highlighted the continued “ginaissance” in Britain, which has seen the number of distilleries more than double in five years. WSTA chief executive Miles Beale says: “It wasn’t that many years ago when a pub would stock one gin brand. Now a menu offering a range of gin and mixers is commonplace in our pubs and bars.” Beyond gin, the WSTA also highlighted UK distilleries diversifying and “taking advantage of Brits’


love of cocktails with an increasing number of new whiskey, vodka, rum, brandy and liqueur brands”. The cocktail market has grown steadily since the advent of high-street bar brands such as All Bar One and Slug and Lettuce in the 1980s. Although the format was often summed up as “female-friendly”, these bars had an acrossthe-board appeal to a generation of young professionals whose aspirations were poorly served by the traditional pub. In product terms, they created a market for categories such as imported lager and branded wine as well as spirits and even cocktails, albeit often with a fairly limited range. At roughly the same time, the TGI Friday’s brand, initially brought into the UK by Whitbread, played a big part in introducing casual dining and cocktails to a generation of consumers.

Cocktail revolution For the most part, however, pubs kept their distance, although analysis by CGA shows the next phase of the cocktail revolution is now firmly upon us. Jonathan Jones, director of client services at CGA, says: “In terms of distribution, 39,000 on-trade outlets now stock cocktails.” That represents roughly a third of CGA’s total on-trade universe of pubs, hotels and restaurants but it’s also worth noting that in definition terms, a cocktail has to have three liquid ingredients to figure in CGA’s stats – so all those premium gin and tonics are being recorded as a simple spirit and a mixer sale. ▲

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Feature Jones continues: “You’re talking about a third of the market offering cocktails and that distribution trend is not slowing. We’ve seen 13% growth in the past year, and we’ve seen cocktails’ share of spirits grow year-on-year as well. It’s becoming a much more mainstream trend, and the outlets that offer cocktails tend to see significantly higher spirits sales than those that do not.” Reading more deeply into the market dynamics, Jones reports it’s now less about Sex On The Beach and more about the Porn Star Martini. He says: “Drinkers are becoming more discerning. We’re starting to see some of those older mainstream serves lose share and more sophisticated serves coming through. “While the mojito is still the number-one seller, drinks such as Aperol Spritz and Espresso Martini are coming in, while the Porn Star Martini is now the number-two serve.” As at BrewDog, craft beer specialist Draft House has an in-house distillery that creates its own cocktails, which are “pre-batched” and served in jars at the bar. Other operators are aiming to find their own niche. Ed Martin, cofounder of upmarket London pub and casual dining company ETM Group, says: “We create bespoke cocktail lists for each pub, which are very well received. They feature interesting, innovative flavours and we constantly strive to find new spirits and different ways of doing things.” Honest Burger marketing director Adam Layton says: “As you might expect from a burger restaurant, the lion’s share of our alcohol sales is beer. However, cocktails have always been a strong part of our sales mix and gin cocktails, as well as gin and tonic, are the most popular. Gin-based cocktails such as our Botanic Garden account for half our cocktail sales.” At Etch restaurant in Hove, East Sussex, award-winning chef Steven Edwards offers

an innovative cocktail menu that includes the Kipling Gin Sour, created with honey cakeinfused gin, and Hot Buttered Soul, made with spiced rum and currant infused with South Downs butter. Edwards says: “A great restaurant drinks list should offer its customers a mix of traditional and original drinks. I love to be able to offer my guests a drink they won’t get anywhere else.”

Significant opportunity

“The outlets that offer cocktails tend to see significantly higher spirits sales than those that do not”

CGA director of client services Jonathan Jones

For Deltic Group, the UK’s largest operator of late-night bars and clubs, cocktails represent a significant opportunity in terms of driving trade and skewing the sales mix towards more profitable serves. Nicola Romeo, the group’s head of procurement, says: “Cocktails are seen by consumers as a premium drink so are often a firm favourite when our customers are looking to treat themselves. “A successful offer and unique serves have the power to drive consumers away from the competition and into your venue, drive social media and build your brand’s audience. Cocktail pricing is higher than a standard longmixed drink so this shift in the mix can really benefit gross profit. The expectation of cocktails is they are a premium product, so margin is likely to benefit.” Deltic’s cocktail drinkers – student and weekend customers alike – are mainly female and its target consumer is aged between 18 and 21 and at an early stage in their “drinking career”. They predominantly choose flavours and names they’re familiar with to avoid surprises or disappointment. This means Sex On The Beach and Long Island Iced Tea are top sellers in the core club venues, while in the Bar & Beyond and Steinbeck & Shaw brands, which typically trade from earlier in the evening, Porn Star ▲


number of outlets selling cocktails in 2017, a 12.9% rise on the year before



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Feature Martini is “by far” the best-selling cocktail. Romeo says: “Our cocktail sales are dominated by vodka and rum. However, gin is slowly gaining popularity.” Deltic changes its cocktail menu twice a year in its core estate and quarterly in Bar & Beyond and Steinbeck & Shaw. Romeo says: “This type of rotation gives us the opportunity to trial and experiment with new techniques and flavours, move with trends and keep our staff engaged in producing new serves.” There is also innovation, with twists around specific dates or holidays such as “blood bag” Halloween cocktails and Easter egg chocolate drinks. Romeo supports CGA’s view that customer expectations continue to rise and adds: “The quality of cocktails within the on-trade has developed significantly over the past year. This can be an issue if the drink is complex, which is why comprehensive training is really important.” Deltic uses a range of training methods including video, face-to-face workshops, product testing, and speed and taste exercises to maintain standards.

Specialist training Standards are also at the heart of the success of specialist cocktail bar operator Be At One. Founded almost 20 years ago by three former TGI Friday’s bartenders, the group operates 33 venues, mainly in London. Following a £20m refinancing deal with Santander in 2017, the company has funds in place to open six bars a year, with Edinburgh among the locations scheduled for 2018. Be At One undertake an industry-leading nine-week training course, in which staff learn to free-pour a spirit measure accurately. The venues operate a “ten/60/30-second” rule – ten seconds to acknowledge a guest when they walk in, 60 seconds to make their drink, and 30 seconds to take payment and return their change or card. With cocktails accounting for more than two-thirds (70%) of Be At One’s sales, one might expect booming cocktail purchases at

“The quality of cocktails within the on-trade has developed significantly over the past year”

Deltic Group’s head of procurement Nicola Romeo

its rivals to be of some concern. However, chief operations officer Andrew Stones is sanguine. He says: “I think the more the merrier quite frankly. Cocktails are becoming more and more part of the mainstream so while we are the biggest specialist cocktail bar group, the fact cocktails are being drunk in restaurants and pubs around the country simply helps to make them more accessible.” Stones attributes the continued growth of cocktails as part of a wider consumer trend. He says: “There is a lot of talk about experiential nights out. The difference between going out for a cocktail and having a pint pulled for you is there’s more theatre in cocktails and you can tailor your own drink – it’s handcrafted for you rather than churned out.” Across the group, the best-selling cocktail is our old friend the Porn Star Martini, introduced to Be At One four years ago. Stones says: “Prior to that, the best-seller was the mojito – and that still figures well. The old favourites are important but it’s also really ▲

On-trade cocktail sales ● Cocktail value sales continue to grow, and are up 8.9% year-on-year. ● Cocktails now make up 6.6% of spirits sales, excluding simpler spirit-andmixer sales such as gin and tonic. Source: CGA Mixed Drinks Report Q3 2017



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Feature important for us to ensure we’re bringing new products to market and that we challenge our guests a little bit. “The centre spread of our menu, which is the page opened for you by the bartender, is where we try cocktails we genuinely think people will like. It gives them the option to try new things.” A key area for recent innovation has been the drive for healthier and, increasingly, non-alcoholic cocktails. He says: “We introduced a range about five years ago called Virtuous Cocktails. They use products such as coconut palm sugar rather than refined sugar and we’ve aimed to find ingredients with healthier connotations. Be At One recently negotiated an on-trade exclusive for the launch of The Duchess, a non-alcoholic pre-mixed gin and tonic, and has worked with non-alcoholic spirits brand Seedlip to create a mocktail menu. Stones says: “They are selling phenomenally well. The key difference between ours and some other nonalcoholic drinks is ours are very much grown-up drinks. They’re not overly sweetened and it still feels like you’re drinking a quality cocktail.” Stones highlights the growing importance of this part of the market saying: “From five years ago to now, we’ve seen non-alcoholic drinks grow from less than 0.5% to more than 7% of our sales.” In terms of the customer mix, Be At One has its share of regulars with special occasions, parties and celebrations a “big part of the business”. Cocktail recipes are formulated with an 80%




The ‘ginaissance’ ● Gin is the most popular spirit, with 29% of drinkers voting it their favourite. ● In the 12 months to September 2017, gin in the on-trade was worth £729m in annual sales. ● In volume terms, more than 8.8 million bottles of gin were sold in pubs, bars and restaurants in the same period. Source: WSTA/YouGov

Feature “It’s critical we have the best bartenders. We recruit great people and give them great training. We also ensure we stay cutting edge in terms of cocktail development” Be At One’s chief operations officer Andrew Stones

target margin but the early-evening Appy Hour, which offers two-for-one cocktails if you download the brand’s app, take a slice off this margin. Regarding keeping ahead of the competition, Stones says: “It’s critical we have the best bartenders. We recruit great people and give them great training. We also ensure we stay cutting edge in terms of cocktail development – we identify trends in the market and make sure we cover them in our menu development. “We are a specialist cocktail bar business – we don’t do food and we only operate in one daypart. We are able to specialise – and everything we offer is top quality.” However, Jones says the focus on training as a point of differentiation highlights a potential brake on the continued growth of cocktails across a broader range of outlets, such as pubs. He says: “There are pubs that wouldn’t want to have a cocktail menu based on the fact each one is going to take a couple of minutes for their staff to put together, in which time they could have sold four or five pints of lager. However, on the back of these challenges, one of the more innovative trends we’re seeing is draught cocktails. Even a simple menu requires training so the draught or prebatched cocktail takes that element away.” ■

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Alive to

opportunity Andreas Akerlund tells Glynn Davis that despite growing Barworks to 12 pubs and nine diners, he and his fellow co-founders are always on the lookout for market-defining trends and entrepreneurial openings


espite having no grand plan to create a diversified business, Barworks’ founders seem to have done rather well at successfully tapping into market-defining trends en route to building a hospitality empire. A coffee shop, bars, pubs, diners, a brewery, cocktail bars, a distillery and a soon-to-open food market development have all been incorporated into the overarching Barworks business at various points in the 22 years since Swedish-born Andreas Akerlund and Patrik Frenzen, who met at the Swedish school in Barnes, west London, opened a coffee shop in 1992 and shortly afterwards their first bar, in Soho. Akerlund says: “We had no grand plan, we were just very entrepreneurial. We were young and wanted to open places one site at a time. When we opened Two Floors there were lots of pubs in Soho but not many bars – unlike now. We were different – and we did very well.” The big “step up” came in 1997 when they opened Hoxton Bar and Kitchen and moved into what is now an extremely hip area. However, at the time there were few trendy places in Shoreditch apart from the odd

Andreas Akerlund

Harrild And Sons



fashionable venue such as Canteloupe, which attracted “Dazed & Confused” types, according to Akerlund, who stood behind the bar and managed the Hoxton unit for two years. Having been increasingly involved with the business from the early coffee shop days, Marc Francis-Baum became a partner and is now effectively seen as the third co-founder. He was involved with the move into pubs (rather than bars), which came with the Slaughtered Lamb. Although the site was previously a photoprocessing business, Akerlund says it was a “pubby building”. Other venues were added on an unplanned unit-by-unit basis, including Under The Westway, Electricity Showrooms and The Britannia at Victoria Park, taking into account the location, building and terms of the deal. “Each of the three needs to make sense,” he says. What quickly made sense to the Barworks team was a diversion to open a diner in Shoreditch in 2006. Akerlund says: “We were big fans of Lucky 7 in Notting Hill and thought there should be an American diner-style place around east London. We also thought it would be good to do a concept that had the potential for rolling out. After we were two units in we found we had a strong business. We recognised we could open more as it was a good business.” He admits if all the effort of the three founders had been focused on growing the diner chain at the time, the Barworks business would be more valuable and a bigger

entity today. “The fact is we generally like having ideas,” says Akerlund. Solely opening cookie-cutter diners wouldn’t have satisfied their entrepreneurial appetite.


Relying heavily on Charles Wells’ portfolio they stocked Red Stripe, Kirin and Corona brands alongside some more edgy overseas beers from Paulaner and Erdinger. Initially, there was no cask because “I didn’t understand it”, Akerlund admits, but adds the real eye opener to the wider world of beer came from Cuppaidge, who started accompanying him on trips to Germany and also introduced him to hoppy US beers. Akerlund says: “We began using distributors for beers such as Sierra Nevada and whatever else Vertical Drinks had on its van alongside it. US beers were hard to get hold of at the time but we got Lagunitas and Firestone Walker.” The dial on Barworks’ beer selection really turned up in 2010 with the opening of The Exmouth Arms and its 18 taps of rotating beer. He says: “The Euston Tap had opened the year before with a similar wide craft range but ▲ prior to that point there had been very little

percentage of food sales versus wet in Barworks’ pubs

Camden Town Brewery What came next got their juices flowing and involved them in the brewing industry. In 2009, when they had reached ten units, Akerlund’s friend Jasper Cuppaidge was producing cask beer at The Horseshoe pub in Hampstead. Akerlund says: “He kept talking about setting up a brewery and asked if we’d buy beer from him. He found a site in Kentish Town for his Camden Town Brewery and the three of us became partners in the venture. We were just shareholders. It was his show all the way through and we were merely doing the books!” Although the pubs were a great outlet for Camden Town’s beers, the fledgling brewer’s prospects remained uncertain. For the first 18 months, Barworks still had Estrella on at its bars alongside Camden’s flagship Hells Lager. Bedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells was the major beer supplier to Barworks at the time but didn’t mind this new competition as many didn’t think Camden Town would succeed. Over the years, Barworks has built a solid reputation for its craft beer offering but the reality is in the early days things were different.

Barworks in numbers Employees: 550 Turnover: £13.6m (year to 30 June 2017) Turnover increase: 15.6% increase from 2016 Pubs: 12 Additional Ventures Five pubs in Grace Land joint venture Nine diners East London Liquor Company Mare Street Market

“We had no grand plan, we were just very entrepreneurial. We were young and wanted to open places one site at a time. When we opened Two Floors there were lots of pubs in Soho but not many bars – unlike now” SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Feature craft beer to get hold of. There weren’t many brewers in London at that stage either.” By this time Barworks had set up a joint venture, Grace Land, with Anselm Chatwin, who had been with the company as a bartender and then on the operations side for a number of years but wanted to strike out on his own. Akerlund says: “He asked if we wanted to be partners and the first place we opened was The Black Heart in Camden. Since then we’ve had a steady number of openings. We work together all the time and we look for sites together.” The Grace Land units now focus on offering “extreme beers” as well as the core Camden offerings and a regular cider. He adds: “All the bars have to have Camden, the cider and Beavertown Neck Oil on because we still do high volumes. The rest is really window dressing for the beer geeks. We’re definitely not as extreme with our beer range as Anselm.” As the craft beer scene gained momentum, Barworks found itself well placed to benefit and opened a number of beer-focused pubs as well as more diners. Pubs joining the portfolio included Harrild and Sons in Farringdon, The Three Johns in Islington and the Well And Bucket in Bethnal Green. The latter is a particular favourite and highlights the flexibility the group employs with its outlets. Some hidden tiles were discovered behind a stud wall at the grade II-listed pub, which garnered great interest from English Heritage. Akerlund says: “They must have a tile society at English Heritage because as soon as we uncovered them they visited the pub. It meant we had to put the bar in the middle of the room so nothing would touch the tiles.”

Flexible approach Barworks takes the same flexible approach with the food offer at its pubs. He adds: “We have different food offers at each venue determined by the ops team, which bases its decision on the location of the pub and the kitchen capabilities. At The Griffin there is no food, while at The Three Johns there is a pizza menu. At the pubs we rely on for a strong Saturday and Sunday trade you need to have roasts. Food is generally 15% of the sales in each of our pubs.” A more than pleasant surprise came in 2015 with the sale of Camden Town Brewery for a reported £85m to Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), which would have generated a welcome return for the Barworks founders. Akerlund says

“All the (Grace Land) bars have to have Camden, the cider and Beavertown Neck Oil on because we still do high volumes. The rest is really window dressing for the beer geeks”

Well & Bucket



it was simply business as usual following the deal, apart from buying the freehold of The Commercial Tavern – a move that went against Barworks’ leasehold strategy, employed because the idea of tying up money didn’t appeal and would have potentially required fund-raising and a likely reduction in its independence. Any future corporate activity looks more likely to involve a sale of assets, as Akerlund reveals there have been times when he would have liked to sell the diners despite approaches for them a few years ago that “never worked out”. The pub business would also be up for grabs if the “right offer comes along”. Certainly a sale would enable Barworks’ founders to concentrate on the many other entrepreneurial endeavours they are involved in, including the East London Liquor Company that was created in 2015 with Alex Wolpert, a former Barworks operations director. Wolpert has been producing craft vodka and gin from his east London distillery and in October will release his first batch of London Whisky, of which there are high hopes. Akerlund says: “It’s been in the wood for two years so far. In October there will only be a few bottles released in the first batch as you need to keep the rest in the barrels if you want to age it further.” Mare Street Market is another Barworks project, which will comprise 10,000 square feet in Hackney housing restaurants, a food hall, a coffee roastery and various other elements such as a record shop that will be curated with chef and food writer Gizzi Erskine. A lack of a grand plan doesn’t seem to have hampered Barworks at all. If anything, an unplanned serendipitous approach seems to have worked rather well and continues to give Akerlund and his co-founders myriad opportunities to exercise their entrepreneurial desires. ■

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The heat is on T

John Porter talks to some of the pub sector’s movers and shakers on how they are dealing with the spectre of a post-Brexit skills shortage in the kitchen

A survey by KPMG for the British Hospitality Association (BHA) he challenge of recruiting and retaining chefs is, found almost one-quarter (24.6%) of chefs and 21.6% of kitchen sadly, nothing new for the hospitality sector, with and catering assistants in the UK were EU nationals. the factors that contribute to shortages well aired Increased investment in training hard skills for chefs was over the years. Industry bodies will point to a lack of identified as one of the actions required for the industry to investment in vocational training by successive governments, increase the recruitment and retention of UK workers to make up while operators often highlight a mismatch between catering for any potential post-Brexit shortfall. skills taught in colleges and those required by pub and casual dining operators. Fuller’s develops in-house skills Anecdotally, unrealistic salary expectations “Frankly, London over-indexes in terms of its reliance and a misplaced self-belief they are on a career there aren’t many on migrant labour – up to 38% of hospitality trajectory to rival that of Jamie Oliver are also good colleges and, having workers in the capital are EU nationals, mentioned regularly as part of the challenge done quite a bit of work with according to the report. However for Paul of managing young chefs. It has also been schools, they’re ill-equipped Dickinson, director of food at London brewer suggested the media image of working and teaching kitchen skills and retailer Fuller’s, a focus on developing skills long, thankless hours and being sworn at isn’t high on the agenda” – in-house is much more about the long-term repeatedly by a celebrity chef may deter needs of the business than a reaction to Brexit. potential recruits. Fuller’s director of food He says: “The industry is petrified of Brexit While the UK’s vote in June 2016 to leave Paul Dickinson – because where is the workforce going to come the European Union didn’t create the industry’s from? Even before Brexit was apparent, there kitchen skills shortage, it has certainly put it into was nothing coming from the education system for sharp relief. A series of reports has highlighted the prospective chefs. Frankly, there aren’t many good colleges potential problems an industry that has come to rely and, having done quite a bit of work with schools, they’re illheavily on migrant labour would face if that pool was hit equipped and teaching kitchen skills isn’t high on the agenda.” ▲ by restrictions. SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY



Fuller’s in-house training

Fuller’s operates its own chefs guild

Dickinson has established the Fuller’s Chefs Guild, an initiative designed to put the same emphasis on chef skills that the business has always placed on the quality of its beer. He says: “When you look at beer in Fuller’s, it’s established and has a framework of standards in place. So it was about changing our culture in terms of the importance we place on food and then overlaying food on to the same standards.” Dickinson cites a £22m in investment in kitchens across the business, a focus on high-quality ingredients and freshly-cooked dishes on menus, and a higher profile on food when marketing pubs. However, he says this has to be underpinned by skilled, motivated kitchen teams. He says: “We interviewed many chefs in our business and spoke to lots of colleges to understand their challenges. A lot of it was around the perception of a pub kitchen as a place to work, which we’ve done to improve. Our marketing proposition for food is Fuller’s Kitchen, and the Fuller’s Chefs Guild is our framework for skills and development.” The guild’s intake ranges from head chefs, who undergo targeted training sessions eight times a year designed to help them motivate and develop their own staff, to the 42 apprentice chefs currently working in the business. To drive motivation at all levels, the Fuller’s Chef of the Year competition has been divided into over-25s and under-25s, with the under-25 category won in 2017 by Clayton Baker, of The Links Tavern in Liphook, Hampshire. Dickinson says: “Clayton started in this business as a kitchen porter and he has just embarked on his first head chef role so our approach is working, but we need to do it even better. We’ve got 1,200 chefs and this competition is accessible to everyone – if you’re confident and you practise, you can win it.” Dickinson also says operators have to recognise employees’ expectations have changed. He says: “When I started in the industry we were fighting against anyone and everyone to get our position in the kitchen. In Fuller’s kitchens, when you walk in you’ve got the right equipment and you’ve got fresh ingredients daily. It’s light and there’s heating when it’s cold, and all those things go a long way. “In a lot of our pubs, chefs have every other weekend off. Our businesses have always been there for the customer but we can also create a better environment for our people, front and backof-house. If you don’t treat them right or develop them, people will move on. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do but I think we definitely have an edge on our competitors. We’ve now created the framework to develop our head chefs and sous chefs in-house.”

Oakman’s training platforms

An Oakman Inns kitchen brigade averages ten to 12

In the kitchen at Oakman Inns’ Blue Boar


Expansion creates particular challenges in a market where kitchen skills are a finite resource. Oakman Inns and Restaurants operates 20 restaurants and pubs across the Home Counties and the Midlands, with four openings in the pipeline for 2018, which will include its biggest sites so far. Oakman chef director Ross Pike says: “It’s quite daunting just how many people we’ve got to find in the next six to 12 months so we’re putting a lot of effort into training platforms and basically fast-tracking people through the business.” A typical Oakman kitchen brigade averages ten to 12, which is challenging enough to fill. He says: “We have a site coming up at Amersham that will be our biggest to date and the one at Ascot will be double the size of Amersham so the teams of chefs will be 18 to 20 each at those sites.” Oakman typically recruits 50% of its chefs locally, with EU nationals from countries such as Poland, Romania and Italy making up most of the remainder. Pike says: “Currently, they’re keen to come over because they can still earn good money and often we can offer them accommodation.” The training and experience Oakman can offer EU staff is also appealing, but Pike acknowledges the recruitment situation is likely to change. An in-house training platform strongly linked to kitchen skills has been developed, enabling staff at commis chef and chef de ▲


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Feature partie level to work through a series of modules which, says Pike, can bring them up to sous chef standard in about 18 months to two years if they put the work in. He says: “As an incentive, the platform is linked to their salaries so, depending on how quickly they get through, their rates of pay go up. We’re in quite a good place because the business isn’t shy of paying good people good money.” “The main thing we look for is they are eager and passionate about food. If they’ve got that, you can train them. I’d much prefer someone to come in completely green and we train them to the level we need.”

Taking back control at Yummy Pubs

“My promise to the business this year is I don’t want to recruit any head chefs or sous chefs externally, I want to be growing them within” – Oakman Inns and Restaurants chef director Ross Pike Pike’s view is college courses tend to be “quite a broad stroke” in terms of the skills they teach but he also recognises the need for the industry to help bridge that gap. He says: “I’m starting to work more closely with colleges and getting to have conversations with students about what the industry really involves. If a student works for us in their summer or Easter holiday, we can show them what we’re looking for and how we work, and they can decide whether it’s right for them or not. “My promise to the business this year is I don’t want to recruit any head chefs or sous chefs externally, I want to be growing them within.” Oakman is also expanding its team of senior chefs from ▲

Spiralised Gamberoni at Bella Italia An Oakman Inns chef prepares dough


London based operator Yummy Pub Co has taken central London-based control of menus as a direct response to the challenge of ensuring chefs produce dishes to specification and meet gross profit targets. Director Tim Foster says the business took a £250,000 hit in 2016/17 as a result of this issue. He says: “Most chefs don’t know how to accurately cost a menu and, if you trust them to do it, you’re going to lose a lot of money. There’s a real balance between keeping chefs happy and engaged with their role – creative magicians as we call them – and allowing them to play with your menu. We went too far the wrong way last year and, as a result, we lost overall control and a huge amount of money. Our greatest challenge and opportunity in Yummy, by an absolute country mile, is controlling that.” Having initially taken specials off its menus to ensure all dishes complied with allergen legislation that “fundamentally changed” the way Yummy approached its menu development”, Foster and co-director and executive chef Jason Rowlands developed a British tapas-style menu featuring dishes such as pulled hog croquettes, and crab and crayfish cakes. Initially served at Yummys’ flagship London site, The Somers Town Coffee House, the menu launched across the business in October. Each dish is carefully planned and photographed during a training day, making it far more straightforward for chefs to follow the specification. Foster says: “It’s not restrictive if you approach it in the right way. Our customers’ expectations of freshly cooked, interesting food are delivered while the choice of dishes also allows them to customise their meal, which is a massively important trend in the casual dining sector.” As well as restricting the scope for individual dishes to be changed in the kitchen at local level, the modular approach enables Yummy Pub Co to plan for price rises as inflation continues to challenge the eating out sector while maintaining its ethos of artisan food and British provenance. Foster says: “Jason and I have been looking at the prices coming through from suppliers and adjusting the menu accordingly.” The menu format was extended at the start of 2018 to include breakfast tapas dishes and is now delivering a solid 70% gross profit margin across the business, while the new reporting structure in the business is flagging up food wastage, discounting and slower-selling items. An additional benefit of the change is it enables Yummy to recruit chefs from the branded dining sector, where menu specs are typically tighter than pubs. “We’ve appointed two new guys in the past three months, head chefs in two London kitchens, one from Wagamama and one from TGI Friday’s. They come from brilliant backgrounds and want to be part of something smaller – but they want those familiar menu controls.”


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Pizza production at the Blue Boar

one to three, each with responsibility for a group of venues. Pike says: “Part of their job is talent-spotting and fast-tracking people through the training process.” There are signs that industry bodies have recognised the need to do more than simply warn of dire consequences if migration is capped. In January, the soon-to-merge British Hospitality Association and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), along with the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), called on businesses to make the

Perfect Country Pub Company plans for the future

recruitment and development of British workers a priority. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “With unemployment at a record low and with a future immigration policy yet to be determined, it is crucial we begin the work of recruiting now to ensure the continued success of the sector.” BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds added: “We certainly need to raise our game when it comes to recruiting UK citizens to the workforce, which is especially true when it comes to kitchen staff and pub chefs.” Seasoning at Oakman Inns

The Perfect Country Pub Company, which operates three pubs including the Tollemache Arms at Harrington in Northamptonshire, named Charles Wells pub of the year 2018, is tackling the longer-term challenge of recruitment. The company is working with local schools to give 14 to 16-year-old students an idea of what a kitchen career entails. Perfect Country Pub Company co-owner Joe Buckley says: “We’re as affected by the chef shortage as anyone, and we know there’s no short-term fix. We employ quite a few people from the local area and we’ve trained some of our kitchen porters to be chefs. “We’ve gone back to the local schools and said we want to work with children who aren’t academically gifted to potentially get them excited about working in our industry.” Initially, two students have undertaken a programme of work experience shifts, with plans to expand the programme later this year. Buckley says: “We give them some discipline – if they’re five minutes late we tell them – but we’re also making it fun and teaching them skills, one-on-one. The response has been great. The industry has to make itself more accessible, it has to change. In five years’ time we hope some of these kids will be out in the industry and doing us proud.”




Four is the magic number Carlo Platia, chief executive of EPOS-linked guest feedback service Feed It Back, reveals some insights from his first forays into analysing restaurant group data on TripAdvisor


or the inaugural Restaurant Marketer & Innovator Boot Camp, staged by Propel and Think Hospitality, I was lucky enough to be invited to present some insights from my first few months of analysing data in the hospitality industry As a partner of TripAdvisor, we pulled a sample of data looking at 37 restaurant groups’ reviews in 2017. Our sample included more than 148,000 reviews that covered more than 1,400 venues in the UK. Here are some of the things we discovered.

The glass is half full One of the first things to strike me from the data was some of the negativity or cynicism surrounding TripAdvisor reviews is a myth. Before looking at the data, I was thinking about hilarious audio book “Nomad” by the (fictional) Alan Partridge, where Alan’s journey across various B&Bs always ends up with him “rinsing” the owner on TripAdvisor, joking how he enjoys using the venue’s own Wi-Fi to exact some sort of revenge for an argument with the owner.

“In terms of finding a TripAdvisor review target to aim for, it seems four is the number operators need to exceed if they want to be ahead of their peers” Looking at the data revealed 49% of reviews across the sample we took in 2017 had a five out of five rating, and only 7% of the reviews had a rating of one out of five. Obviously there will always be rogue reviews in any free text-review system but it was a pleasant surprise to see balanced reviews and a lot of positivity, resulting in an industry average rating across all companies of four out of five.


Four is the magic number

Family fortunes

This positivity surprised me and led me to start looking for the “pain point”. I asked myself: “Where is the average rating down? Where can I point to and highlight an area for improvement?” What I discovered, however, was all roads led me back to the benchmark of four out of five. Cutting the data by month, reviewer type and trip type led to an average rating across the sample companies of four out of five. The interesting bit was looking at how individual companies would get above or below the four out of five benchmark at certain times of the year or from certain types of reviewer. In terms of finding a TripAdvisor review target to aim for, it seems four is the number operators need to exceed if they want to be ahead of their peers.

When looking at the categories of review “trip types” (families, business travel, couples, friends’ getaways) I thought it was interesting to see that while a third of reviews came from couples, the group with the highest amount of negative (one or two out of five) reviews was families. In a lot of customer experience data you often see more emotional or passionate language used where loved ones are concerned – if your experience affects a child or an elderly relative for example – and this is evident here. Of course, one-third of reviews today are written by the families of tomorrow so it’s going to be important to cater for this group in the future!

Time is money At Feed It Back, we regularly see wait times referred to in negative comments, with “speed of service” consistently the number one topic in our Guest Recovery system. A lot of positive feedback and staff mentions we capture also include words such as “quick” and “efficient”, and reviews that reference how long it took to get seated or for a dish to arrive are very common. This is something we saw a lot in our TripAdvisor study as well, particularly as a driver of poor reviews. In total, 7% of all the reviews we analysed referenced a wait time (“hours” or “minutes”). When we looked at only the terrible reviews (one out of five), this 7% rose sharply to more than 25%. This TripAdvisor analysis backs up what we’ve seen in the Feed It Back system that in our increasingly time-poor, busy lifestyles, no-one wants to be kept waiting – even in leisure. In an increasingly competitive market place, it is going to be so important for venues not to lose customers because of sloppy processes or delays on either side of the pass.


“Six out of ten reviews from our sample didn’t receive a response. It would seem there is a real opportunity for many businesses to engage more directly with customers that are talking about them” Right to reply, a missed opportunity? We see many businesses within and beyond our client base engaging with customers on TripAdvisor by making use of the ability to respond to reviews. Therefore, I was surprised to see six out of ten reviews from our sample didn’t receive a response. It would seem there is a real opportunity for many businesses to engage more directly with customers that are talking about them.

Carlo Platia is chief executive of Feed It Back. For more details on the TripAdvisor study or to learn how to manage social reviews to drive reputation and success, email


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n April, soft drinks manufacturers will start paying sugar tax and pub and restaurant customers will find themselves coughing up extra for at least some of their favourite drinks as the cost is passed on through operators. Yet, as the day approaches, fewer products have been left above the five grams per 100ml threshold that triggers the levy as companies have worked hard, and spent hard, to avoid having to raise prices. Indeed, a large part of the industry’s objection to the tax, designed by the government to tackle obesity, is that it was already on the case. The nation’s sugar intake is also falling, at least partly as a result of soft drinks companies taking the initiative. As well as costing its members time and money by setting the April deadline, the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) is sceptical whether the tax will help speed a solution to the health problems it seeks to address. A BSDA spokesman says: “Obesity is a complex issue with many causes and there is no evidence to prove obesity levels will be significantly decreased by the introduction of the soft drinks levy. The industry remains committed to working with the government to help consumers make informed choices.”

Taking action Indeed, as early as 2015 the BSDA set manufacturers a five-year target of reducing product calorie levels by 20% across the board, and it is well on track to hit that target. According to Kantar Worldpanel statistics, the UK population’s sugar intake from soft drinks has fallen 18.7% since 2013, driven by carbonates (19%), dilutables (23.6%) and still and juice drinks (26%). It seems reasonable to attribute a lot of this positive trend to the actions of soft drinks companies. The UK’s big two suppliers – Britvic and Coca-Cola – have both been dropping sugar content in their portfolios, well before the BSDA set its target. Coca-Cola started reformulating drinks in 2012, a project that has so far cost it £30m. Since 2005, it has introduced no fewer than 29 reduced or zero-sugar

Soft drinks producers have been working and spending hard in preparation for the imminent introduction of the government’s controversial sugar tax. Phil Mellows finds out more

The sugar tax in numbers Announced in the March 2016 Budget, the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, commonly called the sugar tax, applies to packaged soft drinks that have had sugar added during the production process. It does not apply to pure fruit juice or milk drinks. From April this year, companies producing more than a million litres a year must pay a levy of 18p a litre on drinks that contain more than 5g of sugar per 100ml, while drinks with more than 8g per litre attract a levy of 24p a litre.




drinks and, by April, 95% of its products of Coca-Cola products will be exempt will be exempt from from the levy. the levy when it Rob Harris, out-of-home comes into force director at CocaCola European Partners (CCEP), says: “We have continued to focus on the work we began long before the soft drinks tax was announced to help people reduce their sugar intake. In the on-trade, this includes the Schweppes Classic range, Fanta, Diet Coke, CocaCola Zero Sugar, Appletiser, the CapriSun range and Monster Ultra.” CCEP’s latest change in preparation for the sugar tax is the transition of Sprite Regular to Sprite No Sugar in post-mix and 330ml glass bottles. Britvic, meanwhile, reports it has removed more than 20 billion calories a year from its British portfolio since 2013. It adds that by April, 94% of the brands it owns, or 72% of its full portfolio, will be below the sugar tax threshold or exempt from the levy. CCEP’s confirmation it has “no plans to change the recipe of Coca-Cola Classic” reflects the fact there are some products that won’t stand reformulation and will therefore have to command a higher price.

Taste impact

“It’s unfair soft drinks are penalised while there’s no sugar tax on confectionery. It’s unfair on one sector. We should have taxed sugar itself. It would have been very simple to do” Steve Perez, founder and chairman of independent drinks company Global Brands

In the case of some drinks, cutting the sugar doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to taste. Steve Perez, founder and chairman of independent drinks company Global Brands, says: “We realised we can’t take sugar out of our ginger beer and keep it natural because it affects the taste. We’ve done tests with artificial sweeteners and you lose the mouth feel – and we don’t really know what long-term impact on health these sweeteners have. In any case, for us, if it’s not natural, it’s not premium.” Along with its cola, Global Brands’ ginger beer falls into the higher sugar tax bracket. Perez calculates the wholesale cost of a case of 24 x 200ml bottles will be 86p more at the middle tax tier and £1.15 more at the upper tier. He adds: “It doesn’t sound much but retailers have their margins to add.” However, Perez doesn’t believe the higher price will hit sales. He says: “These are premium products that people won’t be drinking lots of in a day. They’re more of a treat.” The company has, however, reformulated 70% of its brands, including its East India Tonic Water that “actually came out better with the taste panel with reduced sugar”, says Perez, who estimates Global has spent between £100,000 and £200,000 on the enforced reformulation project. He adds: “I strongly feel the levy has ▲ SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


been ill thought-out and the government didn’t consult industry properly. It’s unfair that soft drinks are penalised while there’s no sugar tax on confectionery. It’s unfair on one sector. We should have taxed sugar itself. It would have been very simple to do. “There are so many complications with this. There’s no mechanics for sugartaxed soft drinks that are going abroad, for instance. We’re an artisan producer exporting to 36 markets and when we have to change a recipe it’s a difficult situation because we know it works really well in, say, Japan, Mexico or the US. Do we need a special export recipe? It’s crazy. “It’s going to be difficult for retailers too. Will they make light versions as expensive or will there be two price points? Consumers will be more aware of how much sugar is in something and they’ll be looking hard at brands that have been reformulated, looking for a taste difference. “People will get used to it, though, and the extra costs will be absorbed – and it might mean people will turn to more premium products with sugar rather than with additives.”



Jamie Oliver is a strong advocate of the sugar tax

‘Premium treats’ For Martin Hartridge, managing director of family-owned Hartridges Soft Drinks Company, the key is not to ruin the taste of an existing product in an attempt to avoid the tax. He says: “That’s easier said than done – but I think we’ve achieved it. A bit like Coca-Cola Classic, our Celebrated range is based on my great-grandfather’s 1882 recipes so staying close to them means they will fall within the sugar tax. Yes, these products will be more expensive but I believe they’ll become ‘premium treats’

that certain consumers will pay more for.” Hartridge thinks the government could have sought alternatives to the levy and draws attention to the fact natural sugars in fruit juice are exempt. He says: “Natural sugars are treated exactly the same by the body so we shouldn’t think that by switching to them it’s more healthy! Governments like to make statements that grab the headlines while heaping the responsibility for implementation on to private industry. “That said, you have to start somewhere with reducing the carbohydrate intake of consumers and I, for one, don’t see a problem with us doing our bit. I don’t think in the medium term the sugar tax will have an overall impact on sales of soft drinks. We are just going to be the trailblazer for sugar-cutting measures that effect all consumer goods.” Scottish producer AG Barr has arguably garnered the greatest attention regarding the tax by reducing the sugar in its iconic Irn-Bru brand earlier this year. Time will tell but the initial consumer reaction to the change has been “encouraging”, according to the company. In fact, Barr has felt confident enough to exceed its own targets for reducing sugar content across its portfolio and is now forecasting close to 99% of its products will contain fewer than five grams per 100ml by April. ■

“You have to start somewhere with reducing the carbohydrate intake of consumers and I, for one, don’t see a problem with us doing our bit” Martin Hartridge, managing director of Hartridges Soft Drinks Company

Turning tables on the tax As the sugar tax comes in, what is perceived as a threat to soft drinks sales in bars and restaurants could be turned into an opportunity, Britvic insists. Customers can still order more and spend more if operators play it right, believes Russell Goldman, commercial director for the licensed and foodservice channels. With almost three-quarters (74%) of

people searching for healthier options when eating out, soft drinks that fall under the sugar tax threshold could have positive appeal. Goldman adds: “Adults are increasingly looking for a more sophisticated soft drink specifically for them. Operators should make sure they’re catering for this growing trend by stocking adult ranges.” There is scope, too, for pairing soft

Adults are increasingly looking for more sophisticated soft drink options



drinks with food. He says: “Research shows 72% of guests would order soft drinks specials if highlighted on the menus, while 80% like staff to recommend drinks that complement their meal.” Rob Harris, out-of-home director at Coca-Cola European Partners, says Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is the fastestgrowing cola brand, with its value increasing by more than 50% during the past year. He adds: “The introduction of the soft drinks tax comes at a time when health-conscious consumers are demanding more low and zero sugar options. With that in mind, licensees should focus on getting their range right by offering more zero sugar variants of their best-selling soft drink lines. “It’s key operators provide training to make sure staff can help customers understand the choices available to them. For example, when a guest asks for a Coke a member of staff should ask whether they want a regular or zero sugar Coke.”








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Unfair fare

Operators may not approve of inherent inequality in the out-of-home food and drink category but they can’t afford to ignore it when it comes to market and brand strategy, says David Martin


the lowest income band (household incomes of up to £30,000). veryone eats out now – it’s no longer a luxury. We know An affluent 55 to 64-year-old is more likely to eat out at least this, market analysts regularly tell us, but universality weekly than a low-income 25 to 34-year-old. doesn’t mean equality. There is serious polarisation in In terms of spending, this consumer inequality is even more the consumer market for eating out, and it’s wider than pronounced. Again using CGA Brand Track data, it shows 70% the general levels of inequality. To paraphrase Orwell, all adults of adults living in households earning at least £75,000 a year eat out but some adults eat out more than others – and it’s a lot claim to spend at least £100 a month on eating and more. The scale of this inequality, and the consequences drinking out. Only one-in-eight consumers living in for market and brand strategy, are perhaps underhouseholds earning less than £30,000 a year do appreciated and worth exploring. so. And to remind us not to be seduced by the The Office for National Statistics’ annual “Eating out millennial bug, an affluent person aged 65 or analysis of household spending behaviour may no longer above is twice as likely to spend at least £100 paints a stark picture of market inequality a week on out-of-home food and drink than a across the household income deciles – be a luxury but low-income 25 to 34-year-old. more than half the recorded spending on frequent eating These inequalities load the market hugely “restaurant and cafe meals” comes from the out is highly in favour of more affluent postcodes – and top three income deciles, while little more that’s before we take the geography of than 10% of spending comes from the lowest income-linked” consumer behaviour into account. Customer three deciles. The top 30% of the population postcode analysis will show consumers routinely by household income is therefore five times “trade up” the postcodes when going out but they more valuable to the eating out market than the don’t often trade down – although devotees of street lowest 30%. food and craft beer are today’s exceptions to these old Eating out may no longer be a luxury but frequent eating rules. But in general, upscale locations benefit from a doubleout is highly income-linked. The consumer data is clear. CGA’s whammy – they are surrounded by people who spend much Brand Track research shows the incidence of eating out at least more on out-of-home food and drink, plus they are a magnet for weekly is more than 70% among adults living in households with people who travel in from less affluent areas. It follows that poor annual income of at least £75,000. This is double the incidence in SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Opinion areas – as an Observer business leader recently put it “towns that shoppers have long since started driving past” – have “Precisely always been in double-trouble. because everyone That’s the established market context. But current eats out, our market’s evidence on income and spending suggests these inherent inequalities are now being magnified. future growth will need The Asda/CEBR Income Tracker, which reports on increased frequency. household incomes and discretionary spending That will depend potential, recently reported not only the wide gulf in weekly incomes, from more than £1,900 in the top on rising consumer income quintile to only £180 in the lowest quintile, but affluence” suggested gross incomes are rising by almost 3% for the top income quintile but are static for the lowest.

Disposal income divide Unlike conventional measures of disposable income, the tracker blends the effects of changes in tax and benefits regimes with the movement in the cost of essential spending to estimate discretionary income – or what it terms as “spending power”. Here the evidence of inequality is worse. The top quintile has an estimated weekly discretionary income of more than £700; for the lowest quintile, discretionary incomes are negative – their cost of living is greater than their income – and this same data source shows this gap is widening. This is partly attributed to changes in the benefits regime but, as the Resolution Foundation recently noted, the drivers of inflation are “hitting less well-off families particularly hard”, with different knock-on effects across the income spectrum on the affordability of eating out. Last year, research by the Campaign for Real Ale revealed only 15% of British beer drinkers think the price of a pint is “very” or “fairly” affordable, leading headline writers to suggest pub drinking is becoming an “unaffordable luxury”. It should probably not surprise us – the real price of drinking out relative to drinking at home has been rising for decades. And decades have passed since I worked on a major brewer’s pub estate plans, leading it to divest in poor and declining postcodes to reinvest and acquire in affluent, thriving ones. These same geographical challenges still apply, even more so, and it’s an issue that is wider than out-of-home drinking.

Testing times The latest KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank report predicted a testing 2018. It stated: “The UK’s retail growth is expected to flat-line at best, with consumer spending the key area of weakness... as inflated food pricing draws spend away from other discretionary items.” It duly suggested dining at home with a lower-priced takeaway was a growth opportunity for retailers – and for less affluent consumers, where this issue is most relevant. The Retail Price Index of restaurant meals has risen faster than food overall for 15 of the past 20 years, again playing to the advantages of more affluent consumers and locations, along with the concepts that serve them. Hence, brewer and retailer Greene King’s desire “to reduce our value food exposure” and Mitchells & Butlers’ steady efforts to premiumise its position through site reinvestment. This is no postcode lottery. The winning numbers aren’t hard to see – half of spending comes from 30% of the population, with economic dynamics favouring them even more. Precisely because everyone eats out, our market’s future growth will need increased frequency. That will depend on rising consumer affluence. It will follow the money – in a UK consumer landscape that is highly uneven. You may not approve of inequality, but your strategy can’t ignore it. ■

David Martin is managing director of market and consumer insight resource Red Circle



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One voice A merger with the BHA is crucial in the push to secure a Brexit deal that would give the hospitality sector a chance to continue its growth, says ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls


his year will undoubtedly bring with it a swathe of challenges and opportunities for the sector and, on a personal note, enormous change at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). A proposed merger with the British Hospitality Association (BHA) is due to be ratified by their respective member companies, which would represent the combining of two authoritative and influential voices into a single entity with the capacity to speak for the UK’s entire hospitality sector. The work to ensure a fruitful and positive Brexit for the sector continues to be a moveable feast, although, paradoxically, the debate around the UK’s withdrawal from the EU has found itself becoming something of a constant. The ALMR has spent much of its time since June 2016 leading the push for a sector deal that understands the concerns of the sector and promotes hospitality businesses. Most of the ALMR’s focus has been on securing rights of existing EU citizens to remain in the UK – and the message has certainly been heard by government. We now have a commitment to those EU workers already in the country and the next step will be to ensure we have a future immigration policy that is pragmatic and viable for hospitality businesses that need to augment their UK workforces with oversees staff. We have been working closely with the Migration Advisory Committee to make the case for hospitality businesses and the importance of extending the Youth Mobility Scheme to help secure access to low-skilled labour and non-graduate EU workers.

‘If we are serious about securing a deal that works for us and gives the sector a chance to continue its growth, communicating our messages clearly to government is the absolute priority’


The growth of the hospitality sector in a social setting. With the increasing in recent years has been one of the importance of digital culture and the UK’s greatest business success stories. digital economy, maintaining healthy high The sector has grown by 5.8% per year streets and social spaces is going to be on average since 2010, with almost crucial for the future of the sector and three million people employed across the well-being of the UK economy and its the UK. This represents a 16% increase workers. since 2010, with one in eight of all new The aim is to bring together a vast jobs generated. This success and range of businesses under a single growth can perhaps be best banner, reflecting not only the represented by the fact variety and dynamism but there were 26,000 business also the mutuality of the startups across the sector country’s considerable in 2016 alone. If we are hospitality sector. The to have any hope of inspiration for the merger business startups keeping up this kind of has come from the in the hospitality momentum, it is crucial effective partnership work sector in 2016 we achieve a Brexit deal carried out by the ALMR alone that acknowledges not just and BHA in communicating demands on the sector in a coherent message to terms of legislative burdens and government, alongside a desire recruitment challenges but also the to formalise that effective approach. By opportunities afforded by a positive deal. combining our resources and presenting a unified message, we will have a much Clear message better chance of representing the If we are serious about securing a deal that entire hospitality sector and influencing government as well as securing better works for us and gives the sector a chance coverage with the media to support our to continue its growth, communicating businesses. our messages clearly to government is the absolute priority. To do this to the best of Sound logic our ability, we need to speak as one clear and authoritative voice. To achieve this, Of course, by the time this first Propel we outlined our intention to merge with Quarterly of 2018 lands on its readers’ the BHA to create UKHospitality, a single laps, we will probably know whether this entity with the resources and influence to proposed collaboration has been ratified communicate with the highest echelons by the groups’ members or not. Clearly, in Westminster and make the case for the we hope the sound logic for this coming entire hospitality sector. together has resonated sufficiently with all Take a look at the current challenges members. The opportunity is there to be the myriad of businesses loosely defined taken and has come at a crucial time. The as “hospitality” faces and you can quickly challenges and opportunities presented by see how important this combination is. Brexit, as well as continuing legislative flux, Businesses as seemingly disparate as must be met head on by a powerful and restaurants, major sporting arenas, pubs, authoritative body. cinemas, visitor attractions and nightclubs Our work is just beginning to make face the same problems daily. They are this ambition a reality and it will continue high-street businesses looking to attract apace for the foreseeable future, but we customers as they battle tightening have put ourselves in the best possible margins and many of the same rising costs, position to succeed. typically business rates and labour. What Kate Nicholls is chief executive of also links these businesses is they remain experiential, looking to tempt customers the ALMR, the leading voice for out of their homes to enjoy themselves the eating and drinking out sector



BRANDED HOSPITALITY APPS ON THE UP Over the last 12 months, there has been a steep rise of 400% in the number of high street hospitality brands seeking to develop their own app, according to data from Zonal. The news coincides with the latest GO Technology report from Zonal and CGA, which indicates that 82% of the 5,000 GB DGXOWV VXUYH\HG DUH PRUH OLNHO\ WR XVH D UHVWDXUDQW¡V RZQ DSS as opposed to a third-party provider.


Trust is a big consideration for consumers who are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to sharing their data. Almost a quarter of 18 to 34 year olds cite lack of trust as their biggest barrier to engaging with a brand. But where trust is gained, 72% are ready to engage with and share their data in return for instant offers.


This can only be achieved if operators have total control over WKHLU DSS DQG GRQ¡W RXWVRXUFH WR D WKLUG SDUW\ ZKR FDQ XVH valuable customer data to meet their own business ambitions. 2OLYLD )LW]*HUDOG PDQDJLQJ GLUHFWRU RI =RQDO¡V 0DUNHWLQJ Technologies, said: “Feedback from GO Technology shows that mobile ordering and payment are now mainstream and will FRQWLQXH WR JURZ ,W¡V QR FRLQFLGHQFH WKDW RSHUDWRUV ZDQW D VOLFH of the action, with trust and control being key drivers whereby they can surprise, delight and engage consumers directly with their brand.

“They are looking for smartly branded apps that deliver tangible benefits for their customers, from making a reservation to ordering and paying for food and drink ÂśYLUWXDOO\¡ WR SHUVRQDOLVHG RIIHUV DQG UHZDUGV WKDW LQ WXUQ GULYH revenue in a more convenient, fun and appealing way.â€? When it comes to technology, speed is still the key driver for diners who like to use their mobile device to pre-order and pay for food and drink, with 36% respondents citing this as their main reason for using an app. Convenience is another major factor, with 22% opting for pre-order and online payment during busy trading times or for convenience when part of a large group [21.63%].



But adopting technology is no replacement for human interaction, with almost 40% of respondents citing ordering with a staff member as their preferred method of ordering and paying for food. “Technology is no replacement for the human touch and should be there to enhance the overall customer experience,� added Olivia. Zonal is the leading provider of integrated hospitality management solutions to over 15,000 leisure and hospitality businesses across the UK. For over 38 years, the company has been working closely with clients to enhance the customer experience through market leading technology, experienced people and a partnership approach to business.

To get a full copy of the GO Technology report visit:

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Slips & trips: top tips for dealing with compensation claims What happens when a customer at one of your outlets slips or sustains an injury and then launches a claim for compensation? Sometimes the cause of a fall or accident may not be clear cut – and if it occurred through no fault of yours, you clearly do not want to be faced with large settlements and court costs.

Best practice tips to avoid costly claims


Follow up with a more thorough investigation report giving details such as when the area was last inspected prior to the incident, the known cause of the incident, or accounts from any witnesses. Photographs are often useful. Staff should not make any admissions or comments to an injured party regarding the cause of the accident.



Have thorough risk assessments in place (for both staff and customers) and review these at least annually.



Ensure staff read risk assessments, ideally signing to confirm they have.



If the business has changed ownership do not rely on previous risk assessments.


Set out clear procedures and instructions for staff (for example, for dealing with spillages) and ensure they understand and follow them; don’t rely purely on common sense.


Use ‘sign-off sheets’ for staff to record checks undertaken for hazards, any issues identified and remedial action taken.


Keep a maintenance/repair record for equipment and furniture.


Complete accident book entries for all accidents – even apparently minor ones.

If you do face a claim, make sure your insurers are aware so that they can carry out investigations in a timely manner. Failure to adhere to your insurers’ reporting requirements may lead to refusal to indemnify you in respect of the claim.

Should the worst happen



Train staff to complete the accident book correctly and accurately; the entry is likely to be a key piece of evidence if a claim arises. Give details: eg – “customer reported slipping on wet floor near till one. Floor inspected and no liquid seen”. PROPEL QUARTERLY SPRING 2018

Freeths is one of the few law firms in the UK that specialises solely in advising hospitality and leisure operators. Extensive knowledge of how the law impacts on the industry ensures our team always provides relevant, practical advice.

Specialist Legal Support For The Drinks, Hospitality & Leisure Industry Call: 01908 668555 For more useful legal insights visit:


Balancing the board Ann Elliott outlines four reasons why businesses should increase female representation in their boardrooms


here are women in our sector who are driving innovation and redefining the rules of our industry. I am not antimen by any means but I am incredibly pro-women and always jump at an opportunity to highlight the fantastic achievements of talented women in our sector. With this in mind, I was lucky enough to be asked to curate the agenda for the second day of the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator Conference in January, and was able to organise an amazing line-up of women speakers. I think it was the first industry conference to have a female-only agenda, which was just great. They were inspirational. Why are women are so under-represented in executive roles at board level in the hospitality sector? I had the privilege of being invited to an event organised by PWC at which the company unveiled its report on gender representation. The Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure (HTL) 2020 Review is a fantastic report, objectively reviewing gender diversity within more than 100 businesses across the sector. The report highlights women currently represent little more than one-quarter of all senior positions in all the HTL sectors combined. of female consumers are This may not sound overly the main decision-makers concerning but that percentage when choosing where reduces to below 21% when they eat out as a HR board roles are removed – couple or family there are far fewer women than men in senior commercial, financial


and strategic roles. It is a tremendous shame and a huge missed opportunity for these segments, pertinently hospitality. Further conversations with influencers in the sector and after conducting some wider research, I unearthed some clear reasons why upping the representation of women in senior positions would be to everybody’s benefit.


There is a definitive business case

If I said to my clients: “I can boost your return on sales by 42%” or “I can increase your return on equity by 53%”, most would leap at the chance. The reality is, they can – businesses with more women on their boards statistically outperform those with fewer. It makes strong commercial sense to have women on boards, not only in HR roles or as non-executive directors but in fully-fledged executive roles including finance, marketing and operations. For instance, Wagamama is one of the few companies in the sector that can say it has more female representation than male at executive level. The effect shows in their annual results released in October 2017 – a 16% upturn in sales and continuing excellent performance. Diversity can only be a good thing. It induces fresh thinking and different perspectives. This isn’t about women dominating ▲

“This isn’t about women dominating boards but rather achieving the right level of balance that enables brands to flourish” SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Insight boards but rather achieving the right level of balance that enables brands to flourish. The aforementioned PWC report highlighted other brands that achieve great balance, with Whitbread and Greggs major organisations in which more than 40% of their board consists of women. Overall, Fortune 500 companies in the top quartile for female representation outperform those in the lowest quartile by at least 53% return on equity. Away from our sector, there are other case studies of businesses that are thriving under female leadership. GlaxoSmithKline has gone from strength to strength under the stewardship of Emma Walmsley, while PepsiCo chief executive Indra Nooyi achieved a 16% sales jump in 2016 and outshone other competition in FMCG.

bridges the gap between decision2 . Itmakers at customer level and board level We conducted research in preparation for the conference and were surprised to discover only 3% of multi-site operator chief executives are women. This represents a major disconnect. Elliott’s How Diners Make Decisions study, which surveyed 1,000 consumers in 2017, highlighted this. During our survey, 82% of female consumers told us they were the main decision-makers when choosing where they ate out, either as a couple or family, versus only 30% of men. They are dominant in the decision-making process. That’s a core difference between decisions being made in operator boardrooms and decisions being made in consumer households. I couldn’t claim to understand what men consider when choosing where they want to eat or indeed what their needs are when they eat out, so I would anticipate the reverse is true. Female representation at senior level would ensure brands were able to best anticipate the needs and levers among decision-makers in UK homes on where to eat out.

“While the sector is good at attracting women graduates, it doesn’t do enough to support their growth into more senior positions. The progression isn’t there”

3. The experience is there There appears to be a major talent pool of women in our sector who simply go missing. While the sector is good at attracting women graduates, it doesn’t do enough to support their growth into more senior positions. The progression isn’t there. The usual objection to enforced female quotas on boards (as in Norway) is that recruitment has to focus on finding the best person for the role. That is always going to be a challenge if women are not being positively coached for these roles. This isn’t an exclusive problem to hospitality, of course. Research by Xpert HR and the Chartered Management Institute recently found women represent roughly 73% of entry-level and junior positions at UK businesses, and 55% of professional positions. There’s then attrition as we move up the pyramid, with 42% representation at senior manager level (not too bad) but only 32% at director level. Women are gathering experience in junior “on the ground” positions but aren’t getting the opportunity to apply that live experience in positions where they can actively induce innovation and change. According to PWC, this role has to start with recruitment. Largely, it is men on boards who agree job specifications for senior-level roles, interviewing potential candidates, deciding who will work best with their, predominantly male, board colleagues and offering jobs. Unconscious bias (in any one of these parts of the process) is difficult to recognise, never mind do something about. Making interview panels for new board roles as diverse as possible can be a simple but effective agent for change.



Because there are so many inspirational restaurateurs

One of my highlights of the conference was an opportunity to host a round table with female entrepreneurs who had built amazing brands. They proved women can create and identify inspirational dining brands that resonate with consumers. They are connected to the consumer decision-makers! Celia Farrer has nailed and identified the trend for poké with the foundation of Eat Poké, a clean, simple concept that is going to flourish. Tania Rahman has built her Chit Chaat Chai brand from the ground up; slowly working at markets, then food festivals to verify she was on to something, before moving on to major London pop-ups and finally bricks and mortar. She underwent the full experience of how to develop and fine-tune a brand to commercial success. Laura Sheffield’s incredible job at securing funding behind her Corazon concept is equally laudable. She called on her experience of travelling through Mexico and discovering its cuisine to build a taqueria concept that taps into the comfort food trend. Again, this is based on operational expertise and her decade of experience managing pubs and restaurants. Eve Bugler has taken what she learned from working with Nando’s to develop focused kebab concept BabaBoom, securing the backing of former Nando’s chief executive David Niven, Wahaca’s Mark Selby, Las Iguanas’ Eren Ali and Oakman Inns’ Peter Borg-Neal. She is clearly on to something! Overall, it is clear women have a role in instigating change. PWC’s research flagged up a recurring theme during interviews with graduates – a distinct lack of confidence. Men were far more confident and proactive when applying for new roles – even if they didn’t necessarily meet criteria in the job description – whereas women tended to be self-critical and doubtful of their own abilities. In general, men could talk themselves into a job while women could talk themselves out of one. However, the future is bright. More and more women are inspiring change in this sector – I wish I had the column inches to list them all! The aim of the Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure 2020 Review is to achieve 33% female representation at executive level by 2020. That is going to be a great starting point.

Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliotts, the leading integrated marketing agency in the hospitality and leisure sector – Follow her on Twitter: @elliottsagency ▲






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Six cornerstones of experiential excellence Chris Edger and Richard Oddy explain the increasing importance of the ‘Experience Economy’ and how the ability to define what constitutes a ‘great experience’ will help operators prosper in this new business paradigm

“The best operators segment their market, target their core audience and then build their experiential proposition accordingly”


uring the past few years, leisure and retail operators have stressed their ambition to increase their experiential proposition to entice and animate customers. Recently, many companies cited in Propel have reported favourable results from concentrating on “experiential excellence” – but what do they mean, why is it important and how do the best do it? What does experience mean? The definition of experience is “an event or occurrence that leaves an impression on someone”. To this extent, leisure and retail operators who say they want to “ramp up their experiential proposition” are referring to the fact they wish to create and evolve products and services that make a lasting “impression” on their customers so they tell their friends, family and the social network – returning for more again and again. But why is creating experiences important? In 1998, the scholar James Gilmore wrote a seminal article in which he foresaw the rise of the “Experience Economy” – a sequential transition from agrarian, industrial and servicebased economies in the developed world. He argued that in the new business paradigm, outstanding organisations would orchestrate memorable events for their customers because these experiences – in themselves – would become the product and service. For many years fellow academics trashed or ignored his thesis but his clear-sightedness seems prescient today. The digital revolution that has commoditised retail transactions, the retirement of baby boomers overloaded with possessions but with time, health and money to seek thrills and spills, and a millennial generation that craves excitement and escapism are all forces that have conspired to accelerate the rise of the “Experience” Economy. Its time has come. But how do you create leisure products

and services that generate a great consumer experience? We have written in the past about the inherent issues associated with leisure products, namely their intangibility, perishability, reliance on service-provider performance, on-site production and proper evaluation. The question is – what do the best do? In October, we will launch a BA course in event, venues and experience management, which will be accompanied by an eponymously named book on the subject. In the book we highlight – based on our research – the six cornerstones of experiential excellence. TARGETED: The best operators segment their market, target their core audience and then build their experiential proposition accordingly. This is important. Best-in-class festival organisers, late-night venue operators and casual dining operators design experiences with their core customers’ needs, desires, aspirations and cravings front of mind. Who does this well? Six years ago, Mitchells & Butlers offloaded its drinks-led division – containing a number of late-night venues – it believed were ex-growth. In a counterintuitive move, those assets were bought and dramatically revived by their new owner –Stonegate Pub Company – which has masterfully targeted millennials through eventled experiences. In January, Propel reported: “Stonegate Pub Company’s late-night division has seen 20% sales growth for a second year in a row, with a range of pop-up activities helping to quench millennials’ thirst for experiences. The company said experiences had become the number one driver in late-night activity and it had dialled into millennial trends by ‘bringing the festival atmosphere to the masses’, with each event designed to increase footfall and dwell time.” Stonegate has been a client of our postgraduate Multi-Unit leadership programmes ▲ SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Feature for the past three years; we have seen up close how well the company understands and targets core customer groupings with sporting, party and social experiences using laser-focused accuracy and execution. DISTINCTIVE: Not only do they target the right customers with the right experiences, what the best do is design products and services that are distinctive and special. They are perceived as being fresh, exciting and different. They resonate personality, giving consumers economic, functional, psychological and sociological benefits they can’t get elsewhere. Take Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest tenpin bowling operator. For years, bowling was perceived as a Cinderella leisure proposition – low-to-no growth and used infrequently by families on rainy days. Hollywood Bowl, which sold for a derisory amount eight years ago, is now valued as a £250m business. How? What the company has done is add excitement to the proposition by dialling up theatre and atmosphere, giving customers a sensory leisure experience distinctive from other leisure pursuits. UPLIFTING: The one thing all great experiences have in common, however, is they make people feel good. They trigger brain chemicals – endorphins and dopamine – that give customers a pleasurable high. Inevitably – depending on context and product – the intensity of feeling will vary (from euphoria among festival-goers to a warm glow among casual diners). But the simple rule of thumb is this – people feel a lot better during the experience than they did before. IMMERSIVE: Brain chemical highs are assisted when people are detached from everyday humdrum reality through immersive activity. To this extent, experiential excellence is achieved through providing a haven and escape through complete immersion. Great experiences create a time and place where customers can lose themselves – through utter distraction – in a pleasurable pursuit. In its festive results, brewpub operator Brewhouse & Kitchen reported during the Christmas trading period its like-for-like sales grew 5.25% assisted by its experience business going from strength to strength. It reported Beer Masterclasses grew 27% (an educational two-hour beer tasting), while Brewery Experience

Popworld Southampton days (a day learning how to brew beer) grew 35% for the period. Clearly, these immersive, interactive activities provide an experience that allow people to lose themselves learning about a noble, ancient and enthralling process.

“What (Hollywood Bowl) has done is add excitement to the proposition by dialling up theatre and atmosphere, giving customers a sensory leisure experience distinctive from other leisure pursuits”

Immersive aspects are enhanced by a feeling of shared social experience



SHARED: This immersive aspect is enhanced by a feeling of shared social experience. Humans are social animals. We are gratified and stimulated by being with like-minded people, which enables us to reinforce and celebrate our identity, self-worth and relative social standing. In a recent survey on what customers rated “most important” at outdoor events, “having a good time with my friends and people like me” was rated – along with “the weather” – as one of the top three experiential enhancers. Digital access was also cited as a top ten factor which, when investigated further, uncovered the fact festival-goers gained vicarious pleasure from sharing their experiences with their friends and networks in real time. HIGHLY MEMORABLE: We said at the beginning of this article the definition of experience was an “indelible impression of an event or occurrence”. Humans have the neurological capacity to store memories in part of the brain called the hippocampus. The factors leading to them being recalled, remaining stored, lying dormant or becoming erased is a matter of debate among neuroscientists. One fact is clear. The relative intensity – and the degree of pleasure or pain involved – will determine whether humans can consciously or unconsciously exercise memory recall. Great experiences will become seared on the memories of participants, enabling them to bask warmly in a time and place that made them feel good, triggering an intense desire for repetition. As an increasing number of leisure organisations tap into the “Experience Economy”, they will ask themselves: “What constitutes a great experience?” In the past they would have defined it in functional terms, citing service, quality, standards, speed, politeness, warmth etc. They must now go further. The six key cornerstones of experiential excellence are laser-sharp targeting, distinctiveness, uplifted feelings, immersive activity, shared sociability, and strong memorability. If you capture these, you will stand a better chance of prospering in this new business paradigm. ■

Professor Chris Edger is a leadership author, speaker and coach and author of Inspirational Leadership with Tony Hughes

YOUR GUIDE TO: Consumers are led by trends when it comes to their eating out preferences. We know that is is important to understand exactly what your customers want and are getting excited about, so we’ve put together a guide to the top 10 food trends for 2018, so that you can stay one step ahead of the curve when planning your menus. To discover all 10 trends you can download the full guide from our website;




The taco trend isn’t new for 2018 but it’s one that’s growing rapidly. Last year the famed Latin American street food took hold of the nation, but these new tacos have advanced from their predecessors. Think breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert tacos. We will also see traditional corn shell tacos replaced with a variety of innovative wrappers, such as seaweed or even the Mexican root vegetable, jicama. Products with a higher fat content work well with tacos, so we recommend using pork belly, Boston Butts or beef brisket. To try these products, call 0161 766 1144.

2 3



It seems that as a nation, we’ve embraced and loved Japanese staples such as miso and noodle soup over the past couple of years. But our appetites have now grown for something a little more hearty. Japanese ‘dude food’ is the amalgamation of the rich, surprising flavours of late night Tokyo eateries, and the indulgent, gutsy cuisine from the southern US states. Keep a look out for a boom in hearty sharing dishes native to the country’s Izakaya bars, with smoky skewered meats cooked on Robata grills.


Supermarket News

After the pumpkin spice craze took hold of the nation, it’s no surprise that something equally sweet and seasonal would step into the limelight. Maple isn’t a new flavour, but we’re now starting to see popularity for products such as maple water and maple-flavoured nut butters. Maple water is the byproduct of the process of making maple syrup, which can be up to 97% of the yield of the maple harvest. And with the boom of breakfast foods over the past year, this trend couldn’t have come at a better time!



Conference Overview

Insights into estaurant marketing The two-day conference at the core of the first Restaurant Marketer & Innovator event, the most comprehensive marketing series the sector has seen, brought together hundreds of hospitality professionals to hear industry stars share their insights


RMI co-founder and curator of the first day Looking at the highs and lows of 2017, Hacon said declining numbers of people eating out of home had driven a “huge array of discounting before Christmas”. He pointed out “good work can be undone by mistakes”. He said: “Your brand is no more than that which a customer experiences on any given day. Your reputation is important and there’s a need for marketers to have an oversight of operations.” Crowdfunding was a feature of 2017, as was non-hospitality brands encroaching on the sector and US restaurant brands coming to the UK and “taking a market very quickly”. Hacon told delegates: “Most British companies won’t be growing brands through new sites here, though, so I expect them to be looking overseas and to other ways of making money, for instance through takeaways and home delivery.” As the year ended, Greggs courted controversy after substituting baby Jesus in the manger for a sausage roll. Hacon said: “Ultimately, it apologised but got exposure for the brand.” Michel Roux was also in trouble for his ban on Instagram photography, while McDonald’s was back in favour after turning its “unhealthy” reputation around. The year also saw the launch of Wagamama’s noodle lab, the opening of the third vegetarian Pret A Manger, plastic straw bans and JD Wetherspoon’s decision to delete its customer database.


CGA business unit director Looking ahead, Campbell suggested a “move back to drinking”. He said: “Wetled operators are now more optimistic than food-led operators, with 39% voicing optimism against 29%. There are 46% more managed restaurants than in 2012, which is a challenge for the branded market, and 30% of operators expect frequency of visits to decrease over the next year while 20%, weighted towards independents, are hoping to increase visits.” Millennials are leading the way in experimentation, with 39%


of 18 to 34-year-olds that average 6.5 brands in their repertoire expressing a hunger to find out about new places to eat and drink. “So operators must tap into the most relevant trends,” said Campbell. “Some 14 million people say they are driven to a brand by healthy options and nine million are driven by vegetarian and vegan options. Sugar content is the number one concern, even when drinking, while sustainability and sourcing are increasingly important.” Loyalty to a brand would be hard earned by the 56% of operators who cite building loyalty as their priority for 2018. Campbell said: “Only 53% of people are ‘behaviourally’ loyal,


and innovation



chief executive of WE ARE Spectacular

meaning they will actually visit the restaurants they say they like, and price increases lead to a danger of decreased frequency of visit – 35% would eat and drink out less, another 12% would downtrade. “There is market polarisation between value and quality. Choice is driven by value for money for 60% and location for 51%. The basic quality of food should be your focus – that’s what drives loyalty. Use of technology can also enhance the experience, for instance seamless food and drink pre-ordering and interactive menus.”

“Thumb-stopping content” is the key to making your voice heard in social media, McCulloch told delegates. He added: “We spend 220 minutes a day looking at our phones – and that’s a great opportunity for operators to deliver messages to their target audience. You need many creatives for many audiences so you can help make customers famous on the internet. “You also need thumb-stopping content. Try it yourself. Scroll through your social media. Where does your thumb stop? Why? Then engineer it back and do that for your own restaurant. Remember, you’re a media business that happens to be a pub.” Facebook still leads social media channels with two billion monthly users but YouTube comes next with 1.5 billion, ahead of WhatsApp on 1.2 billion. Instagram also represents a great opportunity for restaurants and McCulloch is working with operators that want to improve their “Gramability”, encouraging chefs to present dishes for someone who wants to “share the moment” via a snap. Comfort food restaurant Dirty Bones is already offering guests an Instagram kit with their meals to help them share the experience with followers and friends. McCulloch said: “Micro-targeting becomes possible by figuring out who is photographing your food and working out how to engage with them. They are your influencers, so get in touch.” With half of centennials refusing to purchase anything without seeing an online review, it is also important for operators to make sure they appear on searches, although McCulloch said the housekeeping was “often not there”. He predicted the use of more ambassadors to give brands a “face” and Instagram stories where “you can create a narrative of what your day looks like”. He added: “But think it through – make sure you convey your product values and hire people who can tell a story that can make someone laugh, cry or want something. You’ll find the creative department will come into it more.” Targeting customers through Facebook messages and using WhatsApp for VIPs – inviting them to product tastings and giving them a chance to preorder – are other powerful marketing tools. “But have a strategy,” McCulloch added. “It’s not just about posting, it’s how it works within your marketing mix.” SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Conference Overview BEN CARTER

Just Eat UK marketing director More restaurants are poised to join Britain’s £9bn takeaway industry, Carter told delegates, with chicken, kebabs and desserts growing in popularity. More than £6bn of that total is now accounted for by deliveries, although 50% of consumers have yet to order food online. Carter said: “This means there is a lot of head room. Many don’t see a reason so we’ve started to recruit local restaurants, signing up big names to have a presence on the high street. It you give people more choice, we believe they’ll order more. “We want to be marketing at scale. We want our app to be one of the nine on their phone they’re using regularly. The takeaway experience is magical. You’ve waited all week for it and it needs to be fantastic.”


chairman of Claus Meyer Holding Claus Meyer is most famous for Noma, the restaurant that “changed the way people in Denmark thought about food”. The group’s next step has probably had even more of an impact. Ingemann said: “We took two of our chefs to Bolivia to found Gustu in La Paz. We wanted to not only explore the local gastronomic culture and food heritage but use it to train underprivileged indigenous people. We thought it was a good way to engage with the local population and support artisanal production and supply chains from the countryside to La Paz.” The company now runs 12 catering schools across Bolivia and Columbia. Ingemann said: “We have 3,000 students learning skills, learning about local ingredients and healthy eating. It’s almost emotional. They see it as a way out of the problems they’ve been born into.” The latest venture is a cooking school and subsidised restaurant in Brownsville, New York’s poorest neighbourhood. He said: “It sucks resources from our restaurants but we’re there to do good, and we still do well for ourselves. It produces a compelling narrative for everybody – staff, customers and media – and it provides us with purpose and values across multiple units, making sure the organisation stands for more than selling food.”


head of brand partnerships at Gleam Futures


Gail's Bakery marketing director Closer to home, bringing “social good” into the marketing mix is now mainstream for Gail’s Bakery, which has 39 sites across the south of England. Under the banner “making good food go further”, the company has linked up with 50 charities to deliver leftovers to homeless people, which Miller described as “sustainability as risk management, as corporate philanthropy and to generate value for us”. She added: “We have a high input into ingredients and labour and we don’t want to waste that. Everything we waste is a loss but delivery is not easy with fresh food – it’s hard to give away – so we approached a charity local to every site to help us do it. There is unreliability with the skeleton staffs they have but every night they find volunteers to do the deliveries.” Arrangements with shelters for homeless people and organisations such as Breadwinners, which delivers day-old bread to those who need it, are making a difference to communities. Miller said: “There are also benefits for our 650 employees. It makes people proud to work for Gail’s and without a committed team we wouldn’t be able to do it. We also know our customers make a point of going to Gail’s because of it – 80% say it’s important to be charitable and they’re advocating us on social media so it delivers on the bottom line. Sales are driven by the perception of our brand.”



YouTube is not only the secondbusiest social media channel, it is also the second-busiest search engine and, for Davis, it means restaurants should be looking to tap into the new “digital first” celebrities. He said: “We are working with about 50 talents who have had 10 billion lifetime visitors between them on YouTube, a figure that increased 75% in the past 18 months. We help them get into traditional media and we’ve had 15 consecutive number-one books, while Tanya Burr’s range is now the biggest make-up brand in the UK.” Davis’ work included about 900 brand partnerships last year, including one with Bill’s. He said: “I hate the word ‘influencer’ but it describes exactly what these guys do, they have a direct relationship with their audience. They are seen as authentic, relatable advocates who have a credibility that builds loyalty through having a direct conversation with their audience, almost like a friend. It’s word-of-mouth marketing on steroids and restaurants haven’t scratched the surface of what’s possible.” The audience for these online stars is typically youthful, with 75% aged 18 to 34. Davis said: “Consider relationships rather than the numbers. You know it’s the audience you want to talk to and 92% believe the recommendations of people they trust over all forms of advertising.” Restaurant brands that want to work with these talents need to identify their audience and the platform they want to use before choosing the right influencer. Davis said: “Who is talking about your brand before you’ve contacted them? Their audience know these guys inside out and our roster will only work with brands they love or they’ll alienate their followers, who are their currency. The key is to collaborate – it’s a relationship. They are often seen as simply vehicles for a message but these guys are immensely creative and know how to talk to their audience.”

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Conference Overview EWAN TURNEY

England Rugby head of content An insight into how a different sector generates thumb-stopping content came from Turney, who has the challenge of grabbing a particularly fickle audience’s attention. He said: “When England are winning, people will watch a player tying up their shoelace. When we lose, they’ll tell you you’re wasting your time on social media.” To meet objectives, Turney said England Rugby couldn’t simply share clips of crunching tackles but had to “tell rugby’s story and inspire people to come to games and play themselves”. Making full use of exclusive access to the team, Turney has created 30-minute shows for Facebook Live that include questions from a live audience. He said: “Being able to take part in a Q&A with their heroes breaks down fans’ barriers – they lap it up. Attention rates on social media are down to six seconds so you’ve got two or three seconds to grab their attention. You’ve got to front-load the action and we work hard on the first three seconds to stop thumbs scrolling through and, because 85% of people have the volume turned down, we use subtitles.” During a game, the experience is enhanced with statistics while England Rugby also assumes an educational role, explaining rules and communicating the values of teamwork and sportsmanship. The latest project – The Game Of Our Lives – features grass-roots players encouraging others to take part in the sport.


Ei Group retail concept director Keeping people coming back to the pubs is his challenge, de Polo told delegates. He said: “We have to put a lot of faith in the people running the pub, whether they’re tenant, leaseholder or manager. We know if we improve the quality of what they do we’ll drive sales by up to £32,000 per pub, per year. Failing to clean beer lines, for instance, can cost £2,500 a year per pub so our job is to help them deliver quality, consistency and differentiation.” Most recently, the focus has been on spirits and Ei Group has collaborated with Diageo GB to gain an understanding of the market. De Polo said: “It’s a major growth area but we know we’re not brilliant at spirits. Our spirits mix is an average 12% in our managed estate, while across the British on-trade it’s 25%. We also know we’re not going to thrive in the cocktails market because we’re pubs, not bars. So for us it’s about quality and consistency, not niche points of difference. We need to get a simplified, clear message to multi-skilled teams behind small bars, where there’s plenty of other creativity going on.” The solution is promoting “simple builds with fantastic brands” with the help of suppliers Diageo and Hi-Spirits to merchandise bars and support a perfectserve programme, which can be measured and rewarded. As a result, the spirits mix has risen from 12% to 16%. De Polo said: “We want to reward behaviour as well as results, with team members sharing successes through a WhatsApp group to keep up the momentum.”

Coming up with ideas for the restaurant of the future


head of brand and marketing for Cabana, Hush and Hache restaurants The notion of eating burgers with a knife and fork tempted the Sweet Potato Group into buying the Hache chain in 2016. However, the five-strong chain required rejuvenation. Barber told delegates: “The perception of burgers as junk food – messy, male-focused and linked to hipsters and craft beer – meant we saw an opportunity for a different burger brand that served good food in a good environment. “Hache’s line – ‘we eat our burgers with a knife and fork’ – unlocked possibilities but had no national brand recognition when we took over. The menu was stale and old-fashioned, it needed to be more current. The slogan ‘burger connoisseurs’ wasn’t great either. Its strengths were the French theme and female identity.” Customer research among regulars and lookalike audiences revealed they liked new things and got pleasure from the social side of eating out. Barber said: “We came up with a brand archetype – the lover who is intimate and passionate. Hache became a place to socialise. Avoiding French stereotypes, the aim was to make

Hache the kind of place you’d stumble across in France that French people visit. Our target market would be ‘French-feeling’ people and we created a character called Audrey to convey that. She has a French aesthetic without being French.” Restaurants were rebranded Hache Burger Social and repositioned as all-day cafes that people wanted to hang out in. Barber said: “We also wanted to reclaim burgers for grown-ups. No dirty burgers, no warehouse interiors but a buzzing all-day setting, a social hub. All branches were refurbished and the menu relaunched to include small plates and other options so you didn’t have to have a burger.” Marketing revolves around social, all-day themes that highlight brunch and a more relaxed experience. A Monday night date menu was introduced, a range of house wine developed with Bibendum, while a new cocktail menu was launched alongside chef collaborations to create burger specials. Barber said: “It’s about France, femininity and romance, with a Franglais tone of voice.” The moves have resulted in significant growth across all Hache sites accompanied by press coverage and award nominations. The biggest Hache site to date is set to open in Holborn, with more to come. SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Conference Overview JAY RAYNER Food critic

Rayner headed RMI’s panel of experts, who were asked what the restaurant of the future might look like? Among them were experiential psychologist Professor Charles Spence, experimental chef Jozef Youssef, professional futurist Russell Danks, Zonal Systems chief operating officer Peter Edwards, Japanese restaurant entrepreneur Maurice Abboudi, Coca-Cola head of digital Paul Hiskens, and Just Eat UK marketing director Ben Carter. After being locked away in a room for the morning, they emerged with a raft of ideas presented in graphic form by illustrator Matt Kemp, including: ● Diners will carry around a “food passport” detailing their allergies, preferences and payment information ● Dishes will be priced differently at different times, according to demand ● Food will be integrated into other experiences, at the cinema and theatre for instance

● Restaurants will have a flexible, modular design that will enable them to change ambience and serving style from morning to evening ● Happy hours will be personalised ● “Waiting anxiety” will be overcome by click-and-collect systems ● Supermarkets will not only sell ready meals but cook them ● Friction-free payments will mean the bill won’t have to be a customer’s last experience ● Waiting staff will have information to change their behaviour in-session to deliver a more personal service Rayner concluded with a plea for renewed focus on the quality of food and service. He said: “Without that, your business is not built on strong foundations. Genuine hospitality should be the core of all you do.”




head of marketing at New World Trading Company Engaging customers is just like that of another kind of engagement, Lloyd told delegates. “You need to build a relationship – you can’t propose to someone straight away. It’s about everyone at the company coming together to understand your marketing.” Part of that understanding is appreciating your engagement changes for each customer type as well as what influences them. Lloyd said: “We focus on professionals, local loyalists, millennials and young families and our engagement with each of them will be different – with families you’ve got to impress the children for instance. “We have also researched moments such as catching up, date night, weekend nights out and family events, and helped our teams to understand what consumers are thinking about their experience so they can pay attention to the detail one on one.” Making sure online experience of the venue translates into the visit itself is also important. “Blend the physical with the digital and make sure it delivers, give a 360-degree view of the brand,” Lloyd said. “Be at the forefront of their mind and give them a reason to come back. Memorable experiences, sustainability and local produce mean a lot, especially to millennials. “People come to us for ambience and atmosphere. They want to feel part of something. We give them things they can share with their online audience. Paying the bill is the last thing they’ll do, so use it to engage and personalise the thank you.”

Butler, who fooled foodies all over the world with a fake London restaurant that rose to number one in the TripAdvisor rankings, was a special guest on RMI’s first day. He told delegates he got the idea from his first job as a journalist in which he was paid by restaurant owners to write fake reviews. He said: “I saw the fortunes of restaurants revived just because of me. It was a false reality so I thought I’d have some fun with it.” Butler created an online profile for The Shed @ Dulwich, featuring pictures of dishes that were really urinal cakes or Butler’s foot topped with a fried egg. Thanks to reviews posted by friends on TripAdvisor, The Shed took off and he was soon turning down up to 15 bookings a day. People were even applying for jobs at the restaurant. Eventually, Butler opened The Shed’s doors for one night only, serving ready meals from the freezer himself. Chillingly, a couple of guests asked if they could rebook.


Las Iguanas head of guest experience The power of customer feedback has been raised a level at Las Iguanas restaurants thanks to a switch from paper to digital. Campbell said: “We wanted to capture feedback in real time so we could act on it there and then. We couldn’t capture comments on the paper system and we had no concept of how we were acting on them. We were always six weeks behind because of the time it took to convert feedback into data.” The group turned to the Feed It Back system integrated with Zonal’s Aztec EPOS. Staff members take tablets to customers who are invited to answer questions such as “have you enjoyed yourself?” and “which staff member impressed you most?”. The system is producing 30,000 feedbacks a month, slightly down on the paper method but “much better quality”. Campbell added: “Sign-up rate for the mailing list is down too but we’ve gained a lot more in that suddenly we have a panel of people to capture information from, and that has brought us a cost saving on mystery


dining. It’s surprising how much they write, it’s been most beneficial. “We had to engage the teams first, get their buy-in. The system provides live data they can review at the end of a shift, which makes it a great tool to use at team meetings to improve service. There’s also a live feed for negative comments – one manager has it on their Apple Watch! It gives them a chance to turn a bad experience around before the customer has left.” Questions can be tailored to ask larger groups, for instance, about speed of service and specific dishes they’ve ordered. Campbell said: “In one problem we were able to see an ingredient had changed, so we altered the spec. In another, we discovered losing a popular dish after a change of menu was detrimental to business so it was reinstated ten days later.” Service scores are also rising, helping Las Iguanas focus on back-to-basics hospitality – training staff in what guests require as part of an experience. Campbell said: “We’ve even used it for recruitment because that experience depends on our people. Key qualities we recruit on now include ‘generosity’, the time they give guests. It all helps bring loyalty to a brand.”


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Conference Overview ANN ELLIOTT

Elliotts chief executive


Day two of the conference featured an all-female line-up of speakers curated by Ann Elliott, who made a passionate case for marketing as well as women in the industry. She said: “Marketing isn’t the fluff – it’s the hub around which everything moves. Without it, I can’t see why businesses would survive. We are leaders, we are project managers – we are not fluff. My passion is to get marketers at director level. To do that, we have to deliver and we have to take ownership. “My other passion is the advancement of women. Balanced boards perform better but we’ve got a lot of work to do to get them. Only 3% of companies in the sector are owned by women, yet 82% of women make the decision about where to eat out. In fact we went backwards last year, with fewer executive women on boards. I’d like to see quotas. In Norway, 40% of the board has to be women. “This is not a feminist rant, this is business. We have to understand the difference it can make. The impact of unconscious bias – the idea, for instance, that women need extra childcare arrangements – has to stop. It’s not acceptable. “Women who have made it to the top also have to throw the ladder down by coaching and helping women at a lower level, and women have to be a part of the discussion and not be afraid. Everyone here has to be an agent of change for their generation.”


Pizza Hut chief people and marketing officer Pizza Hut has rediscovered its true self during the past five years, Austin told delegates. The group that pioneered casual dining in the 1970s faced a challenge as newcomers entered the market in the 1990s. She said: “We felt we had to change – we forgot who we were.” However, Pizza Hut rediscovered itself in 2012 and began to celebrate what it really was, bringing its restaurants up to date, broadening the menu and introducing team focus groups that put the emphasis on frontline staff. The approach seems to be working. Austin said: “We were down to be the next Woolworths but now we’ve 25 million guests a year and our Ebitda is up 17%. We’ve seen 52% growth since the refurbishment programme in our Manchester Kingsway branch, with a new menu and bar. “It’s about being proud of what you do and it’s become a people challenge. The most difficult bit is explaining it to the 8,000 people who work for us and bringing it to life for them.” The Passport For Growth development scheme is creating a strong team in preparation for the “moment of refurb”. She said: “The consumer and employee proposition are the same, it’s who we are, and by investing in our people we are driving performance through our teams. We are empowering a convivial mindset and encouraging teams to think like marketers.”


Mitchells & Butlers group HR director It’s the last three feet between customers and your people that can set pubs apart, Martindale told delegates. She added: “It’s fundamental. Your staff are showcasing your brand experience – they can make it fail or succeed. That means it’s important we constantly engage with the 40,000 people who work for us. HR and marketing must work closely together to overcome the challenges. “The industry has changed massively. It’s such a complex market place and service will make your brand stand apart. Your marketing strategy can be undermined by one visit. The product is important, but service is a key product. It’s tough to get great team members who are ready to deliver consistent service day in, day out so you need a strong people plan. That means recruiting the right people to underpin your brand and be the marketing channel for your values while learning and development will ensure they understand what you’re trying to achieve. “Talent management is another important element – everyone wants to develop and that’s an opportunity for you – while reward and recognition schemes can make people feel valued. Give people a voice in your brand too. Your people have the ideas so listen to them and take action.” Team engagement is key to overcoming the challenge of high staff turnover in the industry. Marriott added: “It brings happy guests and profit. We measure it twice a year. Staff are the money-makers of your brand and drive the emotional engagement of your guests. They are the marketing channel of the moment so develop them, give them a voice and treat them well.”



Conference Overview MEL MARRIOTT

Darwin & Wallace managing director Since she gained shareholder backing to develop her 21st century version of the pub five years ago, Marriott’s vision has taken shape. There are now five Darwin & Wallace outlets in London, each an individually designed backdrop for everything from a morning coffee to a nightcap. She said: “Pubs felt formulaic to me. There was a ubiquity of operator-led pub chains that hadn’t given it the effort and thought required.” The concept starts with a design that is “more home than high street”, with each pub taking its address as its name. Marriott added: “They are all individual but there’s a sense you’ve been somewhere similar. The same food and drinks menu runs through the business, changing four times a year. We feel we are competing with the bestin-class at whatever we’re doing and have to focus on each element. We’re looking for style and longevity and we invest in quality, working with furniture-makers that are small and pioneers in design. We’ve got to support them.” Darwin & Wallace has already picked up the Best UK Pub & Restaurant Design award three times, and won the pitch for the only pub in the Battersea Power Station redevelopment. It’s also earned three stars from the Sustainable Restaurant Association for recycling cooking oil and coffee grounds. Quality photography, shared on Instagram, showcases the food and drink in stylish ways, while each unit has its own graphic identity and colour palette. Customers are also encouraged to take their own pictures, with the floral installations in conjunction with House of Peroni attracting plenty of attention. She said: “We avoid printed media and work with influencers from the get-go. Our monthly mailer for each address goes out to 20,000 people telling them what’s happening in the neighbourhood. We also commissioned DJ Phoebe D’Abo to create a bespoke playlist for us on Soundcloud and 1,000 people a month listen to it, which I think is pretty good!”


Wagamama customer director Marketers must not only relish the data, look for patterns, question them and be more curious, they must understand the “why” by spending time with customers, working shifts and answering calls on the customer service helpline, Woods told delegates. She said: “As you get more into more senior roles there is a temptation to delegate, but the best chief executives I’ve known spend time on this. One would read every single complaint. If you don’t enjoy spending time with customers, you’re in the wrong job. You have to have a sense of respect for customers.” A recent consumer insight among 23 and 24-year-olds, however, unnerved her. She said: “They create their identity as they go, on the phone. It’s a huge pressure on them and it’s becoming addictive. Social capital is a drug with its own highs and lows. Being busy is a badge of honour. Experiencing more is an epidemic – they are constantly asking themselves ‘did I do something worth talking about?’ “They also really associate with causes, which has brought the rise of new social movements. However, there’s a massive gap between intention and action, which is not surprising considering the pressure they’re under.” The alternative message for hospitality, though, is young people also need recovery time away from their screens. Wagamama is offering colouring in for adults in an attempt to address that in a small way. Woods asked: “What’s our responsibility in this? Should we fuel social capital or fight its effects? We need to be aware of the pressures people are under and provide opportunities for platforms where they’re collaborating, not competing. Are we creating a space where they can switch off?” SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Conference Overview PAMELA MCNAMARA


Bluestone commercial and operations director Bluestone is a 400-lodge, family holiday resort in Pembrokeshire that also focuses on the importance of its own people. McNamara told delegates: “Our culture is everything. Our mission is to create a beautiful environment where our 700 frontline staff leave guests with real memories, a sense of place and person. “We recruit on attitude to get the right people in the business. Our most important people are the assistants – managers are simply there to enable them to do their job. “We’ve freed people to think for themselves and it’s changed the way we operate. We don’t tell people what to do, we enable them. They tell us what’s stopping them doing their job and managers fix it. “We have constant informed feedback, we don’t wait for appraisals, and 96% of the 92% who responded to our engagement survey said they enjoyed coming to work. As a result, our net promoter score has gone up 7% to 74.7.”

head of marketing and PR at Pho

The age of social media means your customers can do a lot of the marketing for you, Andrews told delegates, and she has been busy putting this philosophy into practice. She said: “You can create a marketing strategy that encourages customers to get involved and be your brand ambassadors by creating and sharing content with their friends, family and followers.” Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho operates 25 sites, which serve 60,000 people a week, and has 100,000 followers across all channels. Andrews said: “For every campaign we create there is something physical, what we call shareable merchandise, which people will wear or hold and take a picture of to share.” Merchandise has included branded umbrellas for those queuing in the rain at restaurant openings, limited-edition wristbands that enable students to claim 25% discount, and “hangover on board” badges. Pho Fridays, which offer free lunch for ten people at ten restaurants per week, has also generated positive publicity as winners share their success, while table-talkers designed as a photo frame are also eminently shareable. She said: “We’re in the middle of a campaign where someone can win free Pho for life by creating content to show they’re the best fan in the country. They share it and we share it, and it hooks into a cult following. “Within a strategic marketing campaign we are able to recruit thousands of brand ambassadors with a little reward. You don’t always know whether it will work but you have to take a leap of faith sometimes.”


Real Eating Company managing director

Pamela McNamara motivates her audience into action


The Breakfast Club head of marketing They don’t do marketing at The Breakfast Club – they tell stories. The chain of fun, cult “cafs” that launched in 2005 now has 11 sites and 22,500 Facebook followers. Merchandise drives customer engagement and changes every season. All profits go to charity and it gives the company Instagram opportunities as customers snap themselves holding mugs that read “Your Mum Likes A Sausage”. A new website launched last year is “arcade-like”. Simpson told delegates: “We began with nostalgia of the 1980s and have now moved on to the 1990s. It’s an escape from city life.” Visitors to one venue can escape into the Dirty Little Secrets speakeasy by walking through a fridge door. She said: “People share the secret and a lovely bond is created with our customers.”


The seven cafes run by Real Eating Company have boosted businesses by working with small suppliers that can give them something different and a strong story for local media Hudson told delegates: “We don’t have a big budget so we’ve got to be focused and punch above our weight to get cutthrough. We need to know our marketing will deliver extra business but we have a real advantage as a smaller independent business. Being independent is a huge draw for customers who are anti-big business and their opaque tax arrangements. The more news about that the more customers we get, and they talk about it. There’s a gap there for us to leverage – and working with small suppliers that are doing something different and interesting is something our customers buy into. It has not always been plain-sailing, there are logistical issues, but all have stayed the course.” Real Eating promotes these close relationships on its website, on in-store posters, on social media and by tying into the millennial values of its young team members. Then there’s Twitter, Instagram and local media keen to tell stories about businesses in their area. She said: “It’s about localness, building a deeper conversation with customers, leveraging our work with small producers. Bigger businesses can also do that. It really matters to people and adds an extra layer of customer loyalty – but the best value we’ve had from marketing came from changing our shopfront in Salisbury! It cost £1,700 and we had 12 new customers every day. It paid for itself in two weeks. I think it’s about people seeing you care about their high street. They want to see you making an investment. It humanises the business and deepens the relationship with customers.”



The sky is it m i l e h t t o n

Conference Overview


Revolution Bars Group sales and marketing director Bookings have become the backbone of the Revolution Bars Group success story. A decade ago they brought in £700,000 a year, now they’re on £20m, 13% of business at its 72 bars. Eastwood said: “It all comes down to people, the 110 sales staff in the bars. It’s taken time to build and be clear about what you expect from people. “I track proof of revenue and time slots. Bookings are worth more to us if they’re on a Tuesday when we have fewer walk-ins and I look at conversion of enquiries into bookings – but we don’t target staff on that or they might not log enquiries. You have to set achievable targets. “All bookers are emailed for feedback, which has become a rich vein of information, and helps us tell if we’ve got the rightsized team. Make it simple, both for the sales team so it has the time to build relationships and for customers. You also need to get operations buy-in, then listen and adapt to their needs.”


head of marketing at Costa Coffee Innovation Innovation marketing can be a tough job in large organisations. Lawson headed a 30-strong food innovation team at Whitbread’s Costa Coffee chain before becoming the brand’s head of marketing. She told delegates: “We were set up overnight to act like a challenger brand. Innovation is about pace rather than precision, which goes against the marketing grain. You can analyse every piece of customer data but there’s nothing better than a live trial. “We have 40 stores in London and we could do as many trials as we needed there, for example putting more focus on baristas or the food offer. But an innovation marketer has to have very broad shoulders. To do anything quickly is difficult. The distribution and supply chain can be really entrenched and you have to find shortcuts. You have to be an agitator – and you don’t expect to make many friends. You might have six great ideas ripped to shreds, so it’s not for the faint-hearted.” Knowing Costa was losing market share to newcomers, Lawson’s team looked at independent artisan shops for ideas. She said: “We knew coffee had to remain the core of the business but we needed to have a credible food offer too. Food was our opportunity to win back younger customers so we came up with a clear strategy to win at breakfast, for instance introducing a bacon roll for £1, and got customers talking about it on social media. This year we want to contend at lunch, and the work we have done in test sites will land in-store.”




Giggling Squid marketing director Thai restaurant chain Giggling Squid is expanding at the rate of eight to ten sites a year and marketing is playing an important role in the roll-out, Katte told delegates. She said: “You have to have a USP. Thai restaurants are traditionally dark and formal – or they’re quirky. At Giggling Squid we keep the Thainess to the kitchen. Guests come to us for a ‘Giggling Squid’, not a Thai, and we work hard to retain that USP. Looking at the brand with fresh eyes, and not industry eyes, is a challenge. What’s right for the brand? We listen to customers, they will tell you where to take it.” Katte revealed the company applies the “Range Rover test” when selecting new sites – if more than one Range Rover drives past, the demographic is probably right. However, getting to know the local area remains vital. She said: “We want to know who is doing the talking? Where are the conversations happening? We want to engage with business and community groups and work with local charities rather than national ones.” Launch parties are tailor-made for each new site. Tuk-tuks transported VIP guests from the train station to the new Wimbledon site, while an illustrator was hired to sketch customers at Bath and exclusive preview suppers introduced customers to the Beaconsfield restaurant. She said: “We create an opening guest list for each. At Wimbledon that meant we already had 1,200 people on our database. We also listen to customer feedback. It can be overwhelming but it’s vital – and we react to all critical feedback. Negative comments can be good. It’s an opportunity to start a conversation with them and we’ve found they can become your ambassador. “The brand is evolving as it grows. The introduction of lunch tapas has helped put us on the map and given more people a chance to experience the brand. Now we’re looking at creating informal zones within the restaurants for people to have a drink while they’re waiting for a takeaway and for pre-drinks ahead of a meal. We want to continue to enhance the experience to let the brand evolve, keep the ideas coming and not just roll out a formula. We’re not striving for perfection, customers like it when it is ‘real’, and we want to have fun – because it shows.”

Conference Overview


YO! Sushi marketing director Drawing on her experience at British Airways, Fernandez gave insights into how restaurateurs can personalise their marketing. She said: “Ask yourself how much attention we actually give to our customers. Personalisation, individual attention, integrity, trustworthiness, making it easy for people, understanding their circumstances, saying ‘sorry’, all go towards a great customer experience. “Personalisation time and again is the biggest driver of a great experience. It’s the small things we do each day. How do you show sincerity? Things will go wrong, it’s how you resolve them that counts.”


managing director of Albion & East “Don’t forget staff are your frontline marketers,” Weir told delegates. Albion & East has opened two cocktail bar and dining venues targeting London’s millennials. Weir has taken inspiration from marketing consultant Simon Sinek. She said: “I changed the way I looked at the business. Sinek’s mantra that people ‘don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’ became our guide, our conscience. We put everything through this filter and it produced our values. “Opening a site is certainly a marketer’s job and then you have your frontline marketers, the team that make the experience. They are hugely important because customers are weighing up in real time what they’re getting in return for their time and money. So you should walk in the shoes of your frontline marketers. Do the potwash, see what your customers like and don’t like. In the kitchen you can see the complexity of the menu, which dishes are holding up service. “Run the food. Customers will ask questions and you will need to know the answers. You’ll see when heads drop because staff don’t have time to deal with it all. Work the evening shift and you’ll see how easy or hard you’ve made your team’s life and read the customer feedback from the day. It can be uplifting and humbling. These are human experiences, so say sorry when you need to and speak to your customers.” Weir urged marketers to consider the impact their initiatives might have on the frontline team and how it is communicated to them. She said: “Importantly, do your people know why they’re doing it and why you’re asking them to do it?”

To round off the day, Ann Elliott hosted a panel of startup entrepreneurs that comprised Tania Rahman, of Chit Chaat Chai; Laura Sheffield, of Corazon; Celia Farrer, of Eat Poke; and Eve Bugler, of BabaBoom. They talked about what had caused them to strike out on their own, gaps in the market they sought to exploit, and the anxieties and joys of being your own boss and seeing your vision come to fruition. HEADLINE PARTNER:




Conference Overview

Top ten restaurant marketing trends Co-founder James Hacon shares his top ten takeaways from the inaugural Restaurant Marketer & Innovator three-day event

1 FAR FROM FLUFF In a traditionally operator-focused sector, the worth of marketing to hospitality businesses was undoubtedly an undertone to the event. When questioned as part of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers’ survey at the Boot Camp section of the event, 61% of young professionals cited a lack of operations team buy-in as a key challenge of their job, while 44% said they lacked buy-in from their leaders. The only greater challenge was budget. Throughout the three-day event, the worth of marketing in our sector was put through its paces, with many leaders highlighting clear return on investment for their spend. It quickly became apparent the role of a marketing leader in eating and drinking out brands is far broader than in other industries, being seen as the centre-pin to a successful organisation and taking responsibility for brand, product development, internal communications, sales, innovation, pricing strategy, and often business direction. Senior marketers are seen as an important voice around a boardroom table. Broader business leaders need to recognise the value marketing brings to businesses, while marketers need to concentrate on building a better rapport with operators by getting out on the front line more often. In the words of one speaker: “Collaborative working is key to successful marketing, it isn’t just the responsibility of the marketing team but everyone at every level should buy in, engagement starts within.” It’s time to ditch the desks at head office for our marketers and put them out into the business!


Mark McCulloch, chief executive of WE ARE Spectacular, speaking at Boot Camp


“The role of a marketing leader in eating and drinking out brands is far broader than in other industries, being seen as the centre-pin to a successful organisation”


This was a guiding principle shared by Wagamama customer director Emma Woods. It references the need to get into the thick of your data to truly understand your customers and find the gaps to maximise the effect of your marketing spend. As you would imagine, it was also a broader trend during all three days of the event, with companies of all sizes sharing how they are concentrating on linking technology to create one-customer viewpoints, which supports operational planning and development of new products and services, as well as driving guest recognition programmes. The key to success in this area is ensuring the data updates daily, not monthly. Also be clear what you are tracking and why to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed and have the ability to act when required. Jo Fontaine, of Fishbowl, recommended we should be more demanding of our data and be prepared to challenge it too.

3 SOCIAL SUCKS YOUR TIME Use of social media clearly continues to track strongly as one of the big three tactics in our sector. That said, the message from our speakers was to be more strategic, as not doing so wastes a lot of time. As part of our marketing budgets survey, social media advertising and organic social media was the largest area of increased spend, with more than half (58%) of respondents saying they would invest more of their budgets in advertising and 55% in organic

Conference Overview

Ewan Turney, of England Rugby

Emma Woods, customer director of Wagamama

this coming year. The third-biggest increase is in video, with YouTube seen as the key channel. Many marketers of smaller brands speaking at the conference highlighted that while they felt it was something they had to be doing, it didn’t replace on-the-ground-type activation and building local networks, which they see as being key to their success. Bigger brands talked about professionalising this area, bringing in stronger tracking against online conversions. Ewan Turney, of England Rugby, left an impression with his “seven E’s of winning content” – excite, exclusive, entertain, engage, enhance, educate and encourage.

4 SIMPLICITY SELLS On many levels the idea of simplicity is key to achieving business success, from developing your initial proposition and scaling back terms and conditions on your offers to being clear what you do in your promotions. WE ARE Spectacular chief executive Mark McCulloch warned people not to be arrogant, citing Pret A Manger as a great example of a brand that still garnishes its front doors with signage about what its sells despite being a leading highstreet brand for more than 30 years.

5 IT’S GOOD TO TALK Perhaps adversely to the tagline made famous by British Telecom, the advice of many speakers was to put down the phone and go face-to-face in an effort to better understand your customers and teams. Spending time at the coalface of the business with the people who spend the most time with your customers

Kate Eastwood, sales and marketing director at Revolution Bars Group

will help you highlight what’s not working and why, as well as capturing those moments that really engage your customers and which you should be doing more of. On a formal basis, focus groups continue to be a great way of getting under the skin of individual areas you’d like to investigate more. However, they rarely help uncover an issue from the outset, we were told.


“When building content strategy, ensure it’s based on what your customers want to hear, not what your brand wants to tell”

Without trying to sound like a cliché-riddled Jedi Master, storytelling has been around longer than civilisation. We actively try to find the story in everything and, if we’re not told one, we’ll make one up – that’s human nature. When building content strategy, ensure it’s based on what your customers want to hear, not what your brand wants to tell.

7 DON’T DEMOTIVATE Building robust processes around monitoring the performance of sales team members is vital to success, ensuring you are not only actively generating and converting the leads but also capturing the data that will drive future marketing and outreach. Putting the right processes in place was a key strategy behind the success of Revolution Bars Group’s prebooked growth, which is a key centre-pin to its business. Kate Eastwood, the group’s sales and marketing director, explained it is important to ensure sales targets are attainable to ensure your team remains motivated. ▲ SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Conference Overview 8 DOING GOOD BUSINESS As a sector we are naturally social and are often at the heart of our communities. We also have easily identifiable opportunities to help, whether through donating food waste, giving community groups use of our venues at down periods or getting our team involved in volunteering. Michael Ingemann, chairman of Claus Meyer Holding, introduced the company’s charitable activity through the Melting Pot Foundation and questioned the thinking on “doing too much”, the affordability of social initiatives, and the oft-cited issue of management distraction. He turned these around to say it all helps provide a compelling narrative for stakeholders – media, staff, partners and customers. Romy Miller, marketing director of Gail’s Bakery, went one step further, saying her customers expect the company to help the community, saying it builds brand love and loyalty, and drives group sales.

Michael Ingemann, chairman of Claus Meyer Holding


9 DESIGN DRIVES MARKETING Good food and great service are often hailed as the champions of success in the restaurant and foodservice sector, but design plays an integral part in setting a brand apart. Hayley Simpson, head of marketing at The Breakfast Club, is a strong advocate for the need to tell a story – not just through marketing but also through design. This was a sentiment further developed by Mark Stretton, of Fleet Street Communications, who said we had the ability to stand out through our cutlery and glassware, furniture and decor, signage, uniform, externals, menu design, and food and drinks presentation.


of young professionals cited a lack of operations team buy-in as a key challenge of their job

Mark Stretton, co-founder of Fleet Street Communications

The Restaurant Of The Future panel highlighted a number of areas our experts believed would be most prominent in five years’ time, many of them extensions or enhancements of some of the technology we see today. These included friction-free payment, real-time follow-up, preference-based adaptive experiences, automated delivery, flexible modular design, food-state-need marketing, surge pricing, and the likely development of a gastro-passport as a simple and secure way to communicate needs. The sector was praised for its innovation by renowned food critic Jay Rayner for having a sophisticated mid-market, albeit with a hope that independents are not forced out through the continued growth. In the parting comments of this eventful session Russell Danks, founder of Future Factory London, highlighted the need for businesses to continue challenging themselves and innovating. In his words: “You either define the future or you follow others.” Marketing tactics and activity aside, marketers need a clear commercial understanding. Personally, this is the gap I believe most needs to be worked on during 2018. It is vital to understand your P&L, sales flows, margins and costs to ensure you are making decisions that will move the needle, not just drive awareness. To be taken seriously as a marketer you must be able to hold your own with financiers and operators. Do this by not only voicing your own opinion but the brand and customer viewpoint. Remember, winning brands aren’t made by financiers, they are created by people with a vision, an understanding of customers, and a good handle on the market place. That should be you.

James Hacon is a development, growth and brand strategist for restaurant and hospitality companies, working as brand strategy director at Thai Leisure Group and a select group of other clients




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The shape of things to come Delivery, breakfast, lunch, burgers and casual dining will be the catalysts to a growing foodservice industry in 2018 and 2019, says Cyril Lavenant, director foodservice UK at NPD Group 2017 at a glance The British foodservice industry should grow by 83 million visits in 2018 (up 0.7% on 2017), despite stagnant wage growth and high inflation. In 2019, visits in the eat-out or out-of-home (OOH) market could grow by a further 93 million (up 0.8% on 2018). Delivery services will continue to expand rapidly and are projected to grow an additional 101 million visits by 2019 (16% on 2017). In addition, the thriving dayparts of breakfast and lunch, alongside the popularity of burgers and the continuing casual dining boom, will help drive the increases. This news of future growth will be welcomed by foodservice operators, which are likely to have seen 2017 as a difficult year for the industry, with visits only growing 0.4% to 11.4 billion, according to NPD Group data. The happier news is total spend grew by 3% to £55.1bn through an increase of the average ticket to £4.85, a rise of 2.5%. The two channels that saw the biggest

growth in visits were quick-service burgers and full-service chicken, increasing visits by 6%. Coming in with visit growth of 4%, 3% and 2% respectively were full-service pizza/Italian, quick-service ethnic and quick-service coffee.

Figure 1: Visit growth: top five foodservice channels in Britain YE November 2017 QS Burger


FS Chicken


FS Pizza/Italian


QS Ethnic


QS Coffee


In terms of dayparts, breakfast remained the fastest-growing occasion in 2017, with visits up 5%. More than seven-tenths (72%) of people aged 16 or above had a breakfast outside their home, which

is 2.5 percentage points more than in 2016. These people eat breakfast out on average 36 times a year. Lunch drew an extra 1% visits. Nearly nine out of ten people (86%) aged 16 or above have lunch outside their home each year. They do so on average 82 times a year, which represents an increase of two occasions per person compared with 2016. Dinner, the occasion with the highest average ticket, lost traction in 2017 with a 1% decline in visits.

Older consumers a key demographic in 2017 There are some interesting demographic insights for 2017. Family visits were stable, registering a small increase of 0.3% visits, a trend foodservice operators will welcome as family occasions typically generate high spend. Older consumers were a clear growth-driver in 2017, with an 8% increase in visits year ending November 2017. The importance of this demographic will increase in coming years as longevity increases. ▲ SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Insight decline in dinner visits during 2018 and 2019. By the end of 2019, there could be 5% fewer dinner visits versus 2016, a decline of more than 134 million. However, the rapid rise of delivery will provide some relief. Without delivery’s success, dinner visits would register a much sharper decline.

Figure 2: The NPD Group: British foodservice visits growth YE November 2017 vs 2016 7.6%



NPD Group’s predicted additional spend by consumers on delivery occasions by 2019, a 17% increase

Total Out of Home

Age: 65+

What’s drawing the punters to eat away from home? Offering great value for money is still key, with the availability of a good price or a voucher accounting for 30% of the visits to a particular outlet in 2017. Convenience is also a much bigger motivation than a year ago, driving 26% of visits in year ending November 2016 but rising ten percentage points to 36% for year ending November 2017.

Breakfast and lunch will grow while dinner will slide

“What’s drawing the punters to eat away from home? Offering great value for money is still key” Delivery still expanding rapidly However, the big trend in 2017 was delivery. Measured in terms of “visits”, delivery was up 6% for year ending November 2017 but delivery via thirdparty aggregators increased by an astonishing 59%. Those aggregator brands, of course, include Deliveroo, Just Eat, Hungryhouse and UberEats. Delivery has risen quickly to become a significant catalyst in the British foodservice industry. We see more foodservice operators adopting delivery as a route to market, and NPD is predicting an additional spend of £656m (+17%) by consumers on delivery occasions by 2019.

Much of the growth in visits will come from specific dayparts. In 2017, breakfast represented more than one in eight of the 11.4 billion OOH visits. NPD is forecasting breakfast visits will grow by 5.7% in 2018 and 4.8% in 2019. Meanwhile, lunch will remain the largest daypart and is forecast to grow steadily, by 2.2% and 1.9% respectively in the same two years.



Grey = hard Brexit





0.7% 0.4%







In terms of the average bill, dinner is the most expensive daypart so pressure on consumer spending will drive a continuing




The NPD Group’s forecasts assume a “soft Brexit” scenario. However, a “hard Brexit” would see a lower growth in visits at 0.5% for both 2018 and 2019. The difference between soft Brexit growth (1.5% over both years) and hard Brexit growth (1.0% over both years) is the equivalent of 60 million visits or £497m.

Figure 4: The NPD Group: British foodservice visits growth (year-on-year) 2015 to 2019

Figure 3: The NPD Group: British foodservice visits growth YE November 2017 vs 2016

Total delivery

Soft or hard Brexit?

Delivery via Third Party Aggregators





Regardless of a soft or hard Brexit, any foodservice operator that invests for the future and gives consumers the value, product quality and service quality they want, can look forward to growing their business in 2018 and 2019.

Boost from burgers and casual dining brands The popularity of burgers and the continuing appeal of Britain’s casual dining brands will also spur growth in Britain’s foodservice industry. Burgers are likely to retain their popularity and enjoy a boost from the delivery boom. The NPD Group expects burgers to lead growth in both visits and consumer spend. Outlets serving quick-service burgers will see visits grow by 5.1% in 2018 and 4.5% in 2019. Casual dining chains are forecast to increase visits by 2.8% in 2018 and 2.7% ▲

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Trends in 2018 that could help drive industry growth Get ahead with click and collect:

in 2019. Full-service restaurants serving chicken will benefit from its ongoing popularity and from brand loyalty among millennials and other consumers. Such restaurants could grow visits by 4.2% in 2018 and 4.0% in 2019. But we see snacking visits declining, as more consumers forego this discretionary eating-out occasion. Cutting back on snacks is an established consumer tactic for spending less on eating out, and in 2018 snacking visits could decline 1.2%, followed by a further decline of 1.1% in 2019.

Figure 5: The NPD Group: British foodservice visits and spend outlook for 2019 2019 forecast soft Brexit

2019 forecast hard Brexit



SPEND 58.18 £ billion


VISITS billion

Cyril Lavenant is director of foodservice for the UK at NPD Group


Click and collect through smartphones is set to have a big impact on the way foodservice operators and consumers interact. It could reduce order and wait times for consumers and help operators serve more people per hour. The roll-out of click and collect across the foodservice market will trigger wide-scale consumer adoption, particularly for tech-savvy millennials and Generation Z consumers. Operators can expect higher sales and profits and better customer data that could spawn more personalised offers. Foodservice operators should look seriously at creating an irresistible click and collect offer. Click and collect customers will want to benefit from an “express lane” experience so restaurant layouts may need reconfiguring and staff might need special training. Operators can use click and collect to drive traffic outside peak hours.

Profit from the best staff: Consumers love to have an emotional connection with foodservice brands – and staff can play a vital role. Loyal consumers are also more likely to make recommendations and visit again so it makes sense for foodservice operators to invest in the best staff – and provide the best training. The payback? Higher customer satisfaction, loyalty and company profits. Operators that invest in their staff will gain a commercial advantage. The winners will be the companies that nurture, train and retain staff. And what better way is there to balance the march of technology across foodservice?

Embrace the VIP status boom: Consumers are tired of the same old loyalty schemes. Savvy customers expect more than simple discounts and freebies. The next chapter in this segment will be about tiered and personalised foodservice loyalty. Loyalty schemes will aim to target their most valuable customers with “premium”, “VIP only”, “exclusive” or “private” offers to heighten brand appeal and drive visits, share, frequency and spend. Operators


that offer a simple, yet fresh loyalty scheme that rewards the most valuable customer on a regular basis will do well.

Avoid broken brand promises: Never allow your brand to overpromise and under-deliver. Foodservice operators must ensure product quality, service, support and marketing is in line with what they promise consumers. Don’t allow your customer’s restaurant experience to be marred by long wait times, poor staff training or a poor supply chain. The foodservice industry is intensely competitive and it’s all too easy to lose repeat business. There’s also the danger that consumers take to social media to complain about their experience. Savvy operators will deliver an excellent product and service before the visit, during the visit and after the visit.

“Good staff training and the smart use of customer data will help operators present personalised recommendations, making customers feel valued and wanting to return”

Share recommendations: In this age of social media and smartphones, consumers love recommendations for places to eat or drink and what to order when they choose an outlet. People turn to a variety of sources for recommendations – friends and family, online, marketing campaigns and even foodservice staff. Staff members who offer authentic recommendations will build meaningful rapport with customers. Technology and customer data will help tailor menu suggestions that are relevant to a customer’s mood, diet, hunger or reason for visiting. Good staff training and the smart use of customer data will help operators present personalised recommendations, making customers feel valued and wanting to return.

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What’s Trending in Mustard Foods’ Kitchen

Keeping up with the trends, from products to produce, the healthy to the decadent, Mustard Foods gives the lowdown on the hottest UK trends. Catering to 30 growing restaurant groups across 500+ sites in the UK and Europe, we dish out for today’s tastes, rather than what might be or has trended.

1 The rise of goat

3 Meat alternatives and the trend away

Goat meat is much healthier and leaner than other meats with a mild taste that pairs well with both spicy and sour flavours. It is a staple in many parts of the world and could be considered ethical. We buy our goat meat from James Whetlor founder of Cabrito. Dan Pearson, Mustard Foods’ head of food development, explained: “All Cabrito kids are a by-product of the dairy industry and would have in the past been euthanized shortly after birth. In a world of dwindling resources and rising food prices Cabrito believe this cannot be justified. They now have a network of farms producing high quality meat from a previously wasted resource.” As passionate foodies, we at Mustard Foods would never recommend something which wasn’t worthwhile and tasty and although people often expect to hate it, they try it and love it. Its versatility through different cultures makes it widely appealing and it is just at home in the tandoori oven, Argentinean barbeque, Caribbean Jerk Goat, or as a roast leg for traditional Sunday lunch.

Mustard Food has embraced meat free Mondays. Livestock production is a major contributor to carbon emissions as meat production accounts for an estimated 18% of global greenhouse emissions and 70% of the world’s water. Oscar winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio recently announced he has invested in ‘Beyond Meat’, a Los Angeles-based producer of plant-based meat. Ethical. Healthier. Sustainable.

2 Dairy alternatives / Dairy free / Free from Free-from foods are a fast-growing market with caterers needing to serve gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan; but - overall - healthy food as standard. Millennials are driving the trend with a growing demand for healthier and cleaner food, for reasons ranging from the rising tide of food-implicated medical conditions to general wellbeing and ethical as well as environmental considerations. From Red Tractor-assured meat, sustainable fish and freshly cooked food with no trans fats or controversial additives, many are interested in the calorific and macronutrient breakdown of the menus or dishes. Pearson stated: “We can develop recipes and tweak them until they reach a target and make sure there are no ‘reds’ while also keeping calorific values down to an acceptable level.”


4 Request for all things Vegan Vegan is a growing trend around the world and has seen a 90% increase in Google searches. Veguanary – launched in 2014 – encourages people to go meat free for January with 100,000 expected to participate in 2018 - up from 23,000 in 2016. In today’s markets customers prefer to have vegan rather than just vegetarian offerings. One of many ways Mustard Foods accommodated and reacted to the changing need was to have vegan Thai pastes made in Thailand - specifically for us - that allow our customers the flexibility to offer vegan curries as well as those with the traditional meat.

5 Food waste At Mustard Foods we work with a company called Refood, who handle all our food waste, reusing it to make green energy thanks to a unique end-to-end solution. All of our ingredients are pre-prepped which means we use everything that is delivered and our Good Business Journey, which is measurable, makes us accountable to our targets - our food waste target is 3% of total food produced. This is currently about 5 tonnes per day of which at least 1% is from staff food. Our employees are fed onsite in our canteen and we serve four meals over a 24-hour period with fruit available at all times.


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Mustard Foods Heritage The Mustard Group was founded in 1974. In the nineties Mustard Catering, led by Glynn Woodin, revolutionised London’s high-end catering sector and took Mustard to the top, catering at venues across London, including The Royal Academy, The Wallace Collection and the V&A. In the mid-2000s, the casual dining sector began to change. Growing restaurant groups needed strategic food partners with development, advisory and production facilities to support their growth and by 2009, with the establishment of Mustard Foods, Mustard had started supplying a select group of London restaurants. The essence of what made Mustard great in the eighties and nineties remains core to Mustard Foods today: quality, consistency, and integrity. James Robins, Managing Director, and Glynn Woodin, Chairman, have been with Mustard for a combined 60-plus years.

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Drop the ‘Disneyland’

images: MikeDotta /

Eataly World in Bologna covers 25 acres

Any roll-out of the Eataly World concept should focus on the original market theme rather than become a glorified funfair to food, argues Glynn Davis


ach year I take a business trip to New York City that always seems to include a visit to the Eataly outlet near the Flatiron building, where I can marvel at this massively successful hybrid model that mixes food hall with various dining-in options. It has slightly lost some of its appeal to me over the years because, although these mixed-model establishments initially pitch themselves as having a sizeable traditional retail element, it invariably becomes a smaller proportion of total revenues as increasing amounts of sales tend to be generated by the foodservice component. At Eataly, this especially rings true. Yes, there are the cheese counters, bakery and wine store but the real action is at the consume-on-premise element, which runs the full Italian gastronomic gamut from coffee bars to gelaterias, and from pizza and pasta restaurants to the rooftop bar offering Italian craft beer and wine. Even though hybrid concepts are often based around the idea of traditional bustling food markets and retail emporiums, the problem is that rather than being genuine markets they all too often slip into being more of a smart food court. Although Eataly handles this extremely well because its retail displays adopt a very high standard of merchandising, the result can be a rather sanitised affair. Regardless of what I think, there is no doubting the success of the Eataly concept. It plans to list on the Milan stock exchange, with investors being sold an operation that recorded sales of

€470m in 2017 from its 35 stores around the world. The plan is to open more outlets during the next ten years. Management believes the concept has only just scratched the surface of demand and every capital city in the world could have an Eataly store. That includes London, where a 40,000 square foot store is supposedly slated to open at the Broadgate complex in Bishopsgate in the City of London later this year. The store would replace Royal Bank of Scotland in the building, showing there is potentially more money in today’s food markets than financial markets. Are we seeing a shift from mammon to jamon I wonder? And yes, I do know this is Spanish and not Italian for ham. This would follow the recent opening in Bologna of Eataly World, which is billed as the “Disneyland of food”. It covers 25 acres and is a theme park dedicated to Italian provenance. The aim is to have as many as six million visitors each year, according to Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti. This all sounds rather worrying to me as the Disneyfication of anything is a concern but, when the Italians start doing it with their food heritage, I’m left wondering where it will end up – Eataly Worlds around the world perhaps?

Bologna’s attractions I hope it doesn’t result in the new Eataly outlets adopting some of the “attractions” from Bologna, otherwise we might witness people dressed up as mozzarella dancing around in Bishopsgate. I’m all for education when it comes to food but if things are moved too far from the heritage and things become too sanitised – rather like the way so many things these days have to include some form of gamification to engage people – it can become more of a negative than a positive. As with all the best concepts, there is inevitably a watering down of the proposition to appeal to the broad mainstream audience as roll-outs gather pace. Any rough edges or idiosyncratic features tend to be removed and, in doing so, a little bit of the original concept’s heart is lost. Eataly is now a multinational conglomerate – soon with shareholders to please and an aggressive roll-out to deliver on – so it was always unlikely its more recent outlets would be identikit versions of the New York outlet I first visited in 2010. If and when it does open in London – there have been delays in the past as it was reportedly due to open in Selfridges in 2016 – fingers crossed it adheres to the original ethos and doesn’t go too far down the road of being a fully-fledged theme park to food. ■

Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY



Technology can help operators brace for Brexit In an uncertain economic and political environment, cost certainty for your technology is headline news, says Access Hospitality’s new managing director Henry Seddon


rexit has dominated the political news agenda since February 2016, when prime minister David Cameron promised the country a first past the post, in or out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Since the result four months later in favour of leaving the EU, Brexit has cast a long, dark shadow over the economy while negotiating teams try to hammer out a mutually beneficial deal for the UK and the EU’s 27 member states. Whatever Brexit deal is finally negotiated, the hospitality sector faces stiff challenges as operators are confronted by a two-fold conundrum. First, it is highly likely there are going to be staff and skills shortages. EU nationals will no longer be able, or wish, to seek work in the UK’s hospitality industry. This is already an issue in our industry as businesses compete for skilled and experienced staff from an ever-decreasing pool of talent. This will only get worse if new restrictions further reduce the number of people interested in working in our sector. The problems that lie ahead are obvious. A smaller talent pool will not only push up wages but make recruitment and retention a major priority (and challenge) for growing hospitality businesses. Second, the battering the pound has taken has already dramatically reduced our buying power. Anyone importing food and drink has to pay a lot more than they did previously. These costs will inevitably end up having to be passed down the line. Although the impact of rising food and drink costs can be combated by cutting wastage and implementing watertight stock management and recipe controls, operators are still likely to have to increase prices, especially if they are paying their staff more.

Staffing challenges To help combat staffing challenges, we’ve just published a White Paper “How to create a happy, more efficient workplace with labour optimisation solutions”. This free guide explains why the most advanced and intuitive tools can effectively allow operators to combat understaffing issues, increase revenues and target cost-effectiveness while boosting productivity, growth strategy, customer satisfaction and staff engagement. The White Paper is a recommended read for any operator concerned about the impact of Brexit. After all, unpredictability of the hospitality sector over the coming years is ample reason for some to consolidate what they already have to try to ride out Brexit’s perfect storm. Others, however, can still see plenty of opportunities on the horizon. Operators of all shapes and sizes can still grow successful and sustainable brands because the frequency of consumers going out to eat and drink remains consistent. Many people, especially the young, are willing to spend more of their income on going out rather than stopping in. One guaranteed certainty about the future is technology has an increasingly important role to play in shaping how tomorrow’s hospitality sector looks, feels and succeeds. This is not only in terms of negating the impact of Brexit and rising costs but also in establishing lasting relationships with customers built on truly great guest experiences. Free Wi-Fi, contactless and mobile payments, and online ordering and bookings should be standard offerings rather than a discretionary spend for an operator. To ignore them is to risk alienating and losing customers for good.


However, many operators are still vacillating when it comes to investing in technology. According to the CGA survey of leaders, one-third of operators believe they are behind the market for technology innovation but, despite this, only half currently plan to increase their spend. Primary reasons for not boosting their spend are the costs and risks associated with building a single technology system sourced from multiple specialist software providers. Implementing entire systems across a multi-site operation requires a substantial capital investment and a skills and time commitment from operators. In many situations, operators will also need to invest in additional expensive and time-consuming development and programming to ensure their new technology solutions seamlessly share and transfer data with an existing system’s infrastructure.

Software solutions This additional development investment might not even be a single one-off spend. For example, an upgrade to one particular module within a system could possibly have an impact on the functionality of other software solutions, although hiccups might not be immediately apparent. Operators often only find out several months later when reports produced by the solution stop making sense, throwing up unexplainable variances and discrepancies. By then the damage could be done with precious cash and resources flushed away and margins badly compromised. At Access Hospitality we’ve anticipated these issues and have developed a business model to alleviate the pressures of Brexit and a lot of the other challenges the industry faces. Our model allows operators to access a wide range of solutions from a single trusted source. The available functionality embraces EPOS, stock, reservations, ticketing, online bookings and ordering, finance, property maintenance and people management and recruitment. Cleverly, SaaS solutions allow data to seamlessly flow across operators’ key business applications enabling critical decisionmaking information to be readily and easily available whenever and wherever it is needed. As a software development business, we are continually evolving our unique proposition. Currently this is based around five integrated, cloud-based market-leading technology solutions. More are likely to be added over the coming months and years. The beauty of our model enables operators to purchase a complete end-to-end solution or take a modular approach to integrate specific solutions into existing systems knowing exactly how much investment is needed. In an uncertain economic and political environment, cost certainty for your technology is really good headline news. ■ To download the White Paper for free, visit:

Newly appointed Access Hospitality managing director Henry Seddon is passionate about the power of software to drive successful hospitality businesses. Henry joined Access from online security specialists Duo Security, where he was vice-president EMEA




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The nanny state’s war on food and drink

Our industry is being diminished by an unelected and unaccountable public health elite that sees ‘health in all policies’ as a means of governing whole populations, says Paul Chase


know the “thin end of the wedge” argument can be overdone but when it comes to the nannying puritans who believe lifestyle regulation will “save lives”, it is an understatement to say what they propose today opens the door to more of the same tomorrow. We’ve moved from Action On Smoking to the Alcohol Health Alliance and Alcohol Concern. Now we have Action On Sugar (and salt), and the recently formed Obesity Health Alliance – a coalition of 40 organisations that have joined together to address the influences that lead to excess body weight and associated illness. Much of this activity is supported and informed by Public Health England (PHE), a quango set up in 2013 that presides over an annual taxpayer-funded budget of £4.5bn, with more than £3bn going to local authorities that took over responsibility for public health from the NHS. Yes, that’s right, the government believes local councils are better able to tackle public health problems than the NHS. We were hardly into 2018 when PHE started the fingerwagging. With the supposed Christmas excess out the way, PHE instructed parents not to buy their children snacks containing more than 100 calories. No more chocolate bars, ice cream or crisps if you’re under 18! The new snacking guidelines were

announced just after PHE decided breakfast should contain no more than 400 calories, while lunch and dinner should be capped at 600 calories apiece. That’s a diet of only 1,600 calories a day. However, PHE daily guidelines are 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 a day for men. Apparently snacks and drinks between meals will make up the difference. A little bit of sinconsumption then but rather more for men (900 calories) than for women (400 calories) – not exactly equal opportunities.

Sugar reduction This isn’t simply routine eating guidelines everyone knows will be ignored, rather it is part of a strategy designed to reduce calorie intake and thereby obesity by pressurising or legislating the mass reformulation of food and drink products to conform to the new orthodoxy of “what is good for us”. First, we saw the food industry instructed to remove 20% of sugar from its products by 2020. This is happening even though per capita consumption of sugar is 20% lower than it was in the 1970s and consumption of sugary drinks has fallen 45% since 2003. Progress is never enough for these nanny state puritans – so the soft drinks levy will kick-in in April. When it became clear sugar consumption was the point of sugary treats, the only way to achieve a reduction was to ▲ SPRING 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY



What and how much you eat and drink should be for well-informed consumers to decide as a matter of free choice, not a matter to be mandated by the authoritarian mandarins of so-called “public health”

encourage companies to introduce artificial sweeteners or make the products smaller and more expensive. This is sometimes referred to as “shrinkflation”. Smaller chocolate bars, artificially sweetened Lucozade and Irn Bru are recent examples, as is McVitie’s digestive biscuits. Apparently the pack size is to be reduced by 20% and the price raised 8% – all part of the war on obesity conducted on our behalf.

State control of food supply The next stage is for PHE to move on to salt, fat and calories during the next 12 months. It will start in March with naming and shaming businesses that don’t play ball – so watch out Jamie Oliver, despite all your public agonising about school meals and support for the soft drinks levy, they’re after your Eton Mess! As we’ve seen with the ever-reducing low-risk alcohol guidelines, the purpose of all this is to create arbitrary limits so public blame-games and finger-pointing can be engaged in if the finger-wagging doesn’t work. Restaurants and food producers will be told “voluntary” food reformulation is the only alternative to legislation. What we are witnessing is an unprecedented experiment in state control of the food supply, the like of which we haven’t seen since rationing during the Second World War. All the ragbag pressure groups will get in on the act. Only recently we saw Action On Sugar call for “share bags” of sweets to be banned because they contain more than an adult’s daily “sugar allowance”. Now Scotland has been given the green light by the Supreme Court to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, Wales will soon follow suit and the pressure is on England to do likewise. This is all designed to get our consumption of alcohol down to below 14 units a week – a low-risk guideline arrived at because PHE allowed the number of the formation of a so-called organisations that Independent Guidelines Review make up the recently Group consisting of the great formed Obesity and good from the temperance movement. Health Alliance I support the idea people should be informed and well educated about



healthy food, drink and diet options, but whether measures that go beyond education and information are justified involves, for me, two tests – the liberty test and effectiveness test. Is the measure proposed designed to coerce or persuade? Does it expand choice or mandate a reduction in its range? Does the measure deliver a public health benefit or is it about virtuesignalling and sending a message? It’s clear PHE’s highly educated denizens believe “education doesn’t work”, as one public health activist told me. PHE wants scaremongering labels on food and drink products – such as cigarette-style cancer warnings on bottles of beer and wine. It wants them there as a matter of legal requirement and its proposals for food content and portion size will start with naming and shaming, going on to legislative controls on sugar, salt and calorie content. Our food is being diminished before our eyes by an unelected and unaccountable public health elite that sees “health in all policies” as a means of governing whole populations. This ambition is combined with a crude, sixthform anti-capitalism that sees global ill-health being driven by big corporations – Big Food, Big Sugar, Big Alcohol – which, according to the health lobby, have addiction as a central part of their sales strategy. The truth is there are few unhealthy food or drink products – only unhealthy patterns of consumption. What and how much you eat and drink should be for well-informed consumers to decide as a matter of free choice, not a matter to be mandated by the authoritarian mandarins of so-called “public health”. These people believe that left to our own devices we’ll give into temptation and make unhealthy choices. We can’t be trusted to make our own decisions so we must submit to the infantilisation of public health coercion. As Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm put it: “No-one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves but sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

Paul Chase is a director of CPL Training and a leading commentator on alcohol and health policy


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Hospitality Insights Re-thinking the customer engagement journey through smart technology Technology is increasingly influencing and shaping every aspect of the hospitality industry. This is not just in terms of an operator controlling costs and analysing data, but also by helping to make the customer journey and experience seamless. The CGA Business Leaders Survey 1, published at the start of each year, highlights the growing importance of operators engaging effectively with customers throughout their interaction with them. The report reveals four out of five (80%) of hospitality business leaders have stated a high-quality customer experience is ‘very important’ to the success of their businesses over the next 12 months.

1. GCA Business Leaders’ Survey 2017

Technology is crucial to better customer engagement and experience

Therefore ensuring that technology still sits alongside human intervention and staff engagement to ensure a quality customer experience. Evidence from the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) suggests, increasingly, businesses are focusing on easing customer effort as a differentiator which builds trusted, ongoing relationships. This is especially true in the ultra-competitive and

CGA’s research identified that a massive 80% of consumers expect to see Wi-Fi in outlets where they eat and drink out of home – both now and in the near future. Additionally, two-thirds of consumers expect to be able to make contactless payments. Similarly, mobile payments, online ordering and reservations are fast becoming essential, rather than ‘nice’ added value options consumers might want to have. These key findings carry the obvious proviso that operators have to be acutely aware that any new

saturated hospitality sector, where small differences can have a huge impact on brand building and driving footfall. Hospitality industry expert and Deloitte 3 casual dining lead partner Sarah Humphreys, recently said:

“We believe the “restaurant of the future” will use technology throughout the customer journey, whether it be to provide delivery and pre-ordering services, or to connect to consumers in-restaurant to over customisable menus and dynamic pricing.”

technology rollouts should actually enhance the customer experience – not hinder it. Interestingly, according to CGA, nearly half of consumers worry technology reduces human interaction. Peter Martin, Vice President of CGA, wrote in the Peach 2020 Report published last year: “Consumers want more technology - as long as it doesn’t impact the face-to-face experience.” The Institute of Customer Service’s “Customer Service Trends and predictions 2018” report 2 emphasises that when deploying automation to make customer experiences quicker and more efficient operators must still “consider when a functional or transactional experience might

Achieving the right balance between technology and human intervention is clearly critical to successful engagement with customers. Operators need to be aware of when to use technology and when to step in and intervene with the human touch.

evolve into one that requires empathy and advice”.

2. The Institute of Customer Service’s “Customer Service Trends and predictions 2018” report 3. “Changing Tastes: The UK Casual dining market”, Deloitte, 2017

Customer Experience Re-imagined With a wealth of functionality now available to our multisite operators, let us take you on what could be a typical journey for an online group booking for a party of 10. This is how our technology can work to deliver guest experience at every step of the way.

Jo makes an online reservation for 10 people for her birthday on Saturday at ABC Restaurant. She makes an online deposit payment to secure the booking.

Jo receives automated reservation emails with all the booking information as well as a digitised menu she can send to her group to complete, including allergen filtering.

Operators can take online, PCI compliant, payments and card authentications at point of booking.

Online pre-ordering system with allergen flags and an enquiry centre to track and convert larger bookings.




Printed run sheets ensure staff know where to place balloons for the group. Place cards with menu selections printed in one click from the reservation system save time, and ensure staff can deliver better quality of service.

Jo and her guests get their food delivered promptly, and are impressed with lovely surroundings at venue – same as the London venue they recently visited. A comprehensive Kitchen Video Management system ensures that food pathways are running efficiently and the groups meals are delivered together. By buying all furniture from one supplier an operator can ensure brand consistency throughout sites.

4 5

Helen their server is on-hand to take their drinks order straight away. She is friendly and makes sure that Jo and guests have everything they need quickly & efficiently. Labour optimisation ensures rotas are updated with correct number of staff according to bookings, historical data and weather forecasting. This means site is not understaffed and team members are able to focus on delivering guest experience and have time to upsell additional drinks.

6 By notifying contractors immediately this morning that the cooker would not fire up, it was fixed within 3 hours of a call out being logged. This meant Jo and her guests suffered no delays with getting their food for her birthday meal.


When group arrive at ABC restaurant, the EPOS system has all the prepayments, table allocation and notes available. Printed function sheets meant the balloons and cake were ready to go on arrival.


Helen brings the bill over with deposit payment automatically removed and is able to split bill easily between the party without the use of a phone calculators. Multi bill functionality makes shared billing easier and quicker. Tronc payments for staff are automatically calculated and sent directly to payroll.

Jo is a very happy customer. She has received excellent customer service from point of booking onwards and will be joining the loyalty scheme and recommending ABC Restaurant to her friends and work colleagues.

About Access Hospitality Access Hospitality’s business management tools enable you to effortlessly run multi-site operations, giving you the freedom to focus on delivering first-class guest experiences. Our numerous cloud-based solutions easily manage properties, reservations, finance, ticketing, EPOS, stock, and your biggest asset, your people. Real-time reporting and data analysis improves decision making and drives efficiencies. Access Hospitality is a dedicated division with over 25 years’ experience and brings together four best-of-breed hospitality solutions. Over 1,200 operators currently use our hospitality software and support services to control costs, engage with their customers and grow their enterprises.

Find out more? Visit for the latest Insight Guides, Top Tips and news articles. Email: Tel: 0845 340 4542