Propel Quarterly Spring 2019

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uarterly Rebrewed from head to hop. Introducing the New Carlsberg Danish Pilsner

Stock New Carlsberg Danish Pilsner from 1st March.

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ISSUE 26 • SPRING 2019

Rebrewed from head to hop. Introducing the New Carlsberg Danish Pilsner. NEW Brew NEW Taste NEW Glass Still iconically Danish.

Stock New Carlsberg Danish Pilsner from 1st March. 08456 040294

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

The world’s their oyster How Wright H W i ht Brothers B th reinvigorated i i t d the humble mollusc to build a thriving business

Inside: Tips on how to train and retain staff Notes Coffee chairman spills the beans Foodservice trends for the year ahead Beating the January blues The changing face of marketing A year of transformation for operators Propel conference overview


ISSUE 26 • SPRING 2019






48 Published by Propel Hospitality Unit 26, Graylands Estate, Langhurstwood Road, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 4QD Managing Director Paul Charity T: 07899 984814 E: Managing Editor Paul Bishop T: 01444 817690 E:



The right stuff


Take Note


Bedding in


Keeping focus


Are you experienced?


Foodservice trends for 2019


Swipe right


How leaders build...


Beating the January blues


In our nature


People & Training Conference


The changing face of marketing


A year of transformation

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

Deputy Editor Martin Cooper T: 01444 817689 E:

Design & Production Jonathan Taylor T: 01403 256614 E:

Insights Editor Mark Wingett E:

Paul Lawrence E:


How major operators are training and retaining staff

Notes Coffee Roasters & Bars’ plans to establish itself as a leading brand on the mid-market cafe scene

Wright Brothers co-founder Robin Hancock on building a thriving business on the humble oyster

The smartphone’s effect on family dining versus social media and its positive influence on the industry

Highlights from the Experiential Leisure Conference

Six themes that will shape Britain’s £56bn out-of-home foodservice industry this year

How to make your brand an attractive online prospect

Business leaders who nurture trust will be commercially rewarded, beware those who abuse it

What brands did this year to get through the infamously difficult post-festive period

The reasons why people drink alcohol and why others want to stop them

A checklist of areas you should consider when building your sales and marketing team and strategies

Some of the key trends for 2019 and why operators must remain responsive to evolving consumer needs Contributors Dominic Allport, Paul Chase, Glynn Davis, Ian Dunstall, Chris Edger, Ann Elliott, James Hacon Kate Oppenheim, Carlo Platia, John Porter Printing and Distribution Bishops Printers, Walton Road Farlington, Portsmouth PO6 1TR

Propel P

uarterly u

©Propel Hospitality Ltd. 2019


The right stuff Yummy Pubs’ Tim Foster, Be At One’s Chris Lincoln and Seafood Pub Company’s Jason Crowder-Barton tell John Porter how they are coping with the major challenge of training and retaining staff


ummy Pubs director Tim Foster sums up one of the biggest challenges the hospitality sector faces when he says: “I was atrocious at school. I hated it. Most of my team hated it too and so they hate it if I train them like they’re at school.” In a market where skills and standards have never been more important, operators need to find a way to reinforce the instinctive customer service many believe is a “you’ve got it or you haven’t” proposition as well as develop technical skills in a wide range of product areas. The requirement seems more daunting than ever. A typical outlet needs staff skilled in taking food orders and who know their way around a wine list. They need to be able to serve barista-standard coffee, converse engagingly and knowledgeably about the range of craft beers on offer, and turn out cocktails to a high standard. A skills shortfall in any one of these areas can see customers vote with their feet. The hospitality industry recognises the hurdles it faces in maintaining a trained and engaged workforce. The Hospitality Works campaign took place for a second year, in February. Held under the auspices of the Department for Work and Pensions, the initiative sees the Springboard Charity, UKHospitality and the British Beer and Pub Association unite to highlight career opportunities available across the sector. The benefits of being able to rely more on home-grown talent are clear in a sector highly


“Our members are finding it increasingly difficult to fill vacancies. Businesses are concerned they will be unable to find the employees they need to continue to grow” Kate Nicholls chief executive UKHospitality


Bartender at Be At One

reliant on migrant workers. Commenting on record UK employment figures in January, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Our members are finding it increasingly difficult to fill vacancies. Businesses are concerned they will be unable to find the employees they need to continue to grow. This is only going to be exacerbated if the government continues down the path of seriously restricting migration post-Brexit.” Other industry voices have been more sanguine about the prospects, of course, but it seems clear the shape of whatever accord is finally reached with the EU is likely to include restrictions on the flow of migrant workers. Veteran hospitality analyst Peter Backman believes the challenges the sector faces will favour generalists over specialists in the short to medium term as customers less confident about their spending power cut back. He says: “My thinking is ‘sell the beer’ basically. It’s what people want. They don’t want food, or at least they’re not as energetic for it as they used to be.”

Generalists and specialists The distinction between generalists and specialists might broadly break down into pubs and food-led casual dining brands, although the two have become linked during most of the decade, not least by branded operators who play in both sectors. However, Backman argues: “They are best seen as parallel universes rather than the same thing. I think the future for pubs and food is quite ▲

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Feature good. People are showing more preference for having food delivered at home and pubs benefit because they’ve got much more control over pricing, they’ve got two income streams in alcohol and food, and they’re not at the vagaries of the commercial property market.” While Foster may take issue with Backman on some aspects of the advantages of operating pubs as a tied tenant, he fully acknowledges the benefits of a flexible business model. Foster says: “We saw a massive spike in our drinking trade versus our food trade in the run-up to Christmas. The casual dining boys have helped us out. They made everybody up their game initially but, in many cases, they couldn’t sustain it. I think the casual dining players are now the equivalent of where fast food used to be – their wow and halo factor with consumers has slipped as they’ve tried to save money and cut costs.”

Back to basics Foster thinks the appeal of the purely eating out market is diminishing at a “fast rate” as consumers seek operators with a broader offering. He adds: “We’re getting the consumer coming back. All I hear is how many people are having poor experiences in the casual dining sector.” With six sites, Yummy has been through an internal review of its approach in a bid to meet heightened customer expectations. Foster says: “We made the mistake of trying to cut back on quality to chase the numbers. We swapped some of our supply chain, made some decisions on our food ingredients, and it was all wrong. We’ve gone completely flipside – down the quality route – and it’s beginning to pay dividends. You can’t cut corners – the consumer soon finds you out. “We have spent the past six months looking at what we actually do. For example, when we came to market in 2007, most pubs didn’t really do coffee. We’ve spent time looking at the dayparts of our trading sites, how they differ and what’s actually important. “We sometimes get wrapped up in the new, fun stuff we call ‘magpie projects’ and forget

Yummy Academy

“I put front-of-house teams in the kitchen and kitchen teams front of house. By learning dual jobs in the Yummy Academy, we try to train every one of our team to cover everything” Yummy Pubs head of awesome Tim Foster

Seafood Pub Company



we’re there to serve a guest really good food and drink with a great smile.” The new approach at Yummy has seen three senior managers designated as the “success team”, each with primary responsibility for one unit and an overview of a second. This is supplemented by external specialists, notably former Snug Bars director Ashley Moore, who now operates a consultancy and has worked with Yummy on its cocktail offer. Foster says: “Ash has taken away all the fear, all the snobbery, which is great because cocktails make me great margin and brilliant gross profit. I’m a tied house. I don’t want to sell beer, I don’t make any money from it.”

Duel learning The emphasis has shifted from online training courses to what Foster describes as “peerto-peer” learning. He says: “I went through our previous courses and it felt like being at school. We’ve tried to simplify everything – how we pour a pint, how we make coffee. “I put front-of-house teams in the kitchen and kitchen teams front of house. By learning dual jobs in the Yummy Academy, we try to train every one of our team to cover everything. It’s incredibly complicated, massively labour-intensive to manage, and we still make a lot of mistakes – but we also get loads right.” Backman’s advice to operators looking for a winning format in the current climate is to be “flexible” or “go all out to capture a market”. Be At One, the cocktail bar brand that became part of the Stonegate Pub Company business in July 2018, has found the latter approach worked. The business has won numerous awards and its drive to stay ahead of the game as more operators add cocktails to their offer has led Be At One to become an accredited training company, with its own academy issuing bartending qualifications. ▲

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Bartenders at Be At One

Creating a legacy Chris Lincoln, head of learning and development at Be At One, says: “Many of our bartenders have gone on to great things so we’ve got a real legacy. This is giving them something back, an accredited certification they have on their CV to boost their employability.” The course has been accredited through Highfield Qualifications, one of the UK's leading awarding organisations for vocational qualifications. Lincoln says: “It is common for businesses to run internal training and in our industry there are plenty of bar schools that offer certificated training but, in the end, it’s actually internally certificated. “We’ve gone to an awarding body and laid out what we want. We want to be accredited so our standards are held to a certain level that will never drop. We’ve set the bar high. If you see GCSE maths on someone’s CV you know what that is. It will be the same with our qualification. It’s to a certain standard that cannot slip.” Be At One has increased its focus on guest interaction as well as cocktail creation. Lincoln says: “We have added a little bit of flair and extra interaction in terms of recognising people’s body language to make sure they are really enjoying themselves. With cocktails, people don’t always know what they want or want to try new things, and we’ve got to be able to steer them towards something they’re going to really enjoy.”


“Many of our bartenders have gone on to great things so we’ve got a real legacy. This is giving them something back, an accredited certification they have on their CV to boost their employability” Be At One head of learning and development Chris Lincoln


The business expects to take on 500 new bartenders during 2019. Lincoln says: “Anyone coming into Be At One will do this certificate off the bat. It’s our business standard now so it’s essential to pass this accreditation, and you then go on to further training.”

Service standards Leading by example is certainly the approach at Seafood Pub Company, which continues to win industry and consumer accolades across its 11 sites. Operations manager Jason CrowderBarton, has worked with founder Joycelyn Neve since the business opened its first pub, the Oyster & Otter, in Blackburn in 2010. Crowder-Barton says: “As much as possible we aim to have the general managers front of house as the face of the pub. That’s borne out of when we started at the Oyster and Joycelyn was general manager and I was duty manager.” With Seafood Pub Company’s venues located in destination sites and attracting a relatively loyal customer base, high service standards are the key to persuading regulars to come out more often. Crowder-Barton says: “Because our pubs are out in the sticks, the relationship is the most important. We need to earn every customer that comes through the door. We’re not in city centres. People have got other options and if they’re going to drive to us, we need to make it worth the drive. “The greeting and farewell are probably

Feature Yummy Academy

The Yummy way Every business has its own approach but the views of Tim Foster, of Yummy Pubs, may ring bells with operators looking to get the basics right:

COCKTAILS: “There might be thousands of cocktails called weird and wonderful things but there are only five ways to make them. Specialise in one serve you can nail, ideally one you sell loads of such as an espresso martini or mojito. When you’re asked for something else, pick up the spec book. Keep the customer engaged and informed while you make it. Smile and have a laugh.”

WINE: “Any mug can sell wine. With a decent wine list the customer can make decisions for themselves. Consumers stay away from brands that looked complicated – it’s as scary for them as it is for my staff.”


the two most important things highlighted in our training manual because it has to be genuine. It has to be more than a city centre restaurant, where you’re just a part of the process. It’s all about front-facing people who have a genuine warm manner, as if you’re walking into a local bistro and the owner knows your name and where you like to sit. Then hopefully the rest of the front-of-house team follows rather than wondering why they’re the ones doing all the work.”

Knowledge is key When it comes to product knowledge, each venue has a few specialists in each area. Each Seafood Pub Company site has about four cask ales on hand-pull, with staff who know how to keep and serve the beer correctly. The core staff manual also includes pictures of each coffee served as well as basics on the wine range. Crowder-Barton says: “The drinks standard needs to meet the food standard. Our food is fresh and cooked to order and the drink needs to be presented equally well.” Additional wine training is delivered through supplier Enotria & Coe using its highly regarded Serving Wine With Confidence programme. The same supplier also funds places on Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses for selected Seafood Pub Company “wine champions”. “It is a tool we use to get people to work with us or stay with us,” says Crowder-Barton. When it comes to Seafood Pub Company’s

“The McDonald’s coffee advert nailed it. There are specialist artisan coffee shops out there but we’ve got to have the whole offer. If I’ve got guys behind the bar who are engaged and smile but don’t know how to make a macchiato, I’ll take that. I hate the word “champion” but just make sure one of your team is trained to do it.”

“The greeting and farewell are probably the two most important things highlighted in our training manual because it has to be genuine” Be At One head of learning and development Chris Lincoln

core food offer, one of the important service learnings has been ensuring customers understand the food is cooked freshly. Initially customers used to faster speeds when eating out would query waiting ten to 15 minutes between a starter and main course. CrowderBarton says: “I came from working at finedining places and I didn’t see it as an issue, but for some customers it was. We don’t start cooking their fish when they order, we wait until they’ve finished their starter. We need to look after it – it needs to be right. That’s one of our critical service points, there’s no room for error. When their main dish comes, they understand why, which is probably why we get so much repeat custom.” Crowder-Barton believes maintaining standards across the business is essential as the market tightens. He says: “I have seen others do cheaper versions of themselves, such as CAU from Gaucho. I worked for Gaucho and I love it. I won’t have a word said against it but when CAU came along it didn’t work. We can’t be a cheaper version of ourselves because people will get right on it. It has to be great and it has to be value for money.” SPRING 2019 PROPEL QUARTERLY



Take n te N

otes Coffee Roasters & Bars raised £1.2m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube last summer, doubling its initial £600,000 target and amply demonstrating coffee’s ascension is showing no signs of slowing. Notes, which operates a chameleon daytime cafe and night-time bar offer will use the funds to forge ahead with plans to establish itself as a leading brand on the mid-market cafe scene currently dominated by high-street giants Starbucks, Caffe Nero, Pret A Manger and Costa Coffee, now owned by Coca-Cola. The £1.2m has been allocated across all areas of the business, including improvements at its nine London sites – two in Canary Wharf and one each in Bank, Bond Street station, King’s Cross, Moorgate, the Gherkin, St Martin’s Lane and Victoria. It will also invest in more venues, product innovation, and driving its wholesale and retail offer. One figure behind Notes’ high-profile emergence is chairman James Horler, hospitality supremo, chief executive of 3Sixty Restaurants and the man behind successful concepts such as La Tasca and healthy fast food brand Leon. Horler worked closely with Notes co-founders Robert Robinson and Fabio Ferreira for about 18 months in the key pre-crowdfunding period, officially taking on the chairman’s role last summer.


Chairman James Horler tells Kate Oppenheim how Notes Coffee Roasters & Bars is forging ahead with plans to establish itself as a leading brand on the midmarket cafe scene

James Horler


Horler says: “Notes is a really interesting business with many different streams. There’s the core retailing element of the nine stores, a coffee roastery in Canning Town that produces 100 tonnes of coffee a year, and we are about to produce our own Nespressocompatible coffee capsules for wholesale and retail. “There is a great team of people at Notes who have been running the business for quite a while but with all the different elements it was becoming hard for them to see the wood for the trees. My strength is I can help provide more focus, deal with the shareholders and assist with moving the business forward.” In addition to Robinson and Ferreira the Notes team includes head of strategy, property and finance Edward Halfon, a former Rothschild mergers and acquisitions financier who worked on the acquisitions of Carluccio’s, Strada and Wagamama, while Marion Goulden is financial controller. Horler says: “The past six months has seen Notes produce a very strong performance and I believe it’s possible to become a leader in the massive mid-market coffee sector. The growth in this highly successful sector has been phenomenal and the next transition will be to become more premium, as we have seen happen in the wine sector.” Notes’ unique selling point is its premium offer – single-origin coffee that is usually ▲

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amount Notes raised on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube last year

the domain of speciality coffee shops – that can win over the growing band of coffee aficionados who are seeking something more than the blended varieties offered by chains. Notes roasts its own beans to create a range of single-origin coffees from a variety of countries including Ethiopia, Colombia, Kenya, Brazil, El Salvador and Guatemala. Horler says: “Fabio visits and buys direct from the farms, meaning we can offer consumers full traceability, which is important. Fabio’s coffee knowledge is second to none. Add to this our quality day-to-night retail offer and the investment we’re making to expand and promote the brand and we see great opportunities ahead. “Consumers are definitely looking for better-quality coffee and, once experienced, it’s hard to go back. There is a lot of competition out there from smaller independents but the vertical nature of our business, from roaster to retailer and wholesaler, means we can benefit from the growth in premium coffee at every level. “Hotels, restaurants and pubs interested in offering more premium coffee can buy from us, which in turn helps to promote the Notes brand more widely. We believe this gives us a USP against the big-brand names selling mainly blended coffee. We believe we can take market share off these operators because we have a better product.


“There is a lot of competition out there from smaller independents but the vertical nature of our business, from roaster to retailer and wholesaler, means we can benefit from the growth in premium coffee at every level”


“Notes’ coffee quality is so much better than that available in the mid-market. It’s the equivalent of a good-quality Bordeaux versus a blended wine. It’s a part of the market set to grow and grow as consumers become more discerning. “Notes is in a great place to benefit from the growth in premium coffee. It’s not dissimilar to what has happened with craft beer. It may still be a small piece of the overall beer market but its growth has been phenomenal.” An Allegra World Coffee Portal report outlined the demand for premium products. It stated: “Coffee is becoming more like wine with terroir, growing altitude and bean variety all becoming part of the established market vocabulary. Consumers are broadening their palates as never before and demanding more clarity on coffee supply chains, more bean variety and an increasing array of brewing methods.” Allegra sees this new crop of artisan concepts, which includes Caravan and Grind as well as Notes, as not only serving worldclass coffee and food but attracting hefty investments through crowdfunding and growing their businesses. Allegra Strategies managing director Jeffrey Young predicts this will “filter the premium experience down through the whole economy”. As Notes readies itself to take advantage of this “filtering down”, it is set to launch an ▲

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

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


easy-to-use premium coffee solution ideal for restaurants, hotels and bars that are seeking to improve their coffee offer without having to invest in expensive machines and barista training. Its new Nespresso-compatible, aluminium coffee capsule is set to launch in the first quarter of this year and, alongside wholesale, will also sell on the home market. In 2018, Allegra estimated 12.6 million UK households owned a pod machine as consumers continued to seek more premium coffee. Notes is also investing in growing brand awareness and recently appointed marketing agency Elliotts to promote its wholesale offer. Notes is also in discussions with SSP Group as it looks to follow in Grind’s footsteps into transport hubs – a move that will take it into direct competition with the mainstream players. The company will launch initiatives to improve service speeds, a key factor in being successful at transport hubs. Horler refuses to reveal expansion targets but stresses Notes isn’t about to rush into anything, preferring to wait to benefit from “softening on rents”. He adds: “We are being very disciplined when it comes to rent. It pays to be patient and unless a site is a gangbuster, in which case we’ll be all over it, we won’t race into anything. The next six months are set to be precarious for the whole sector and if the bubble bursts we don’t


“Notes is trading at 9% like-for-likes at the moment and has done so for the last quarter of 2018 – we’d like to see that growth continuing”


want to be over-rented on a long lease. “Notes is trading at 9% like-for-likes at the moment and has done so for the last quarter of 2018 – we’d like to see that growth continuing.” Notes is also seeking new sites – a mix of coffee-only smaller locations of between 600 and 700 square feet as well as larger, multifunction venues of 3,000 square feet. Horler, hinting an announcement on the next site is likely within the next quarter, says: “We’re going to do a mix. We have the flexibility to retail as just a coffee outlet or offer the whole shouting match like we do in King’s Cross and St Martin’s, where we’re open to 10pm. “We have a dynamic team of people with a premium product. We are growing sales and see enormous opportunities from the massive growth that’s to come from the coffee market – the UK is miles behind Europe.” The Allegra World Coffee Portal Project Café UK 2019 forecasts the UK branded coffee shop market will exceed 10,000 outlets by 2023 on the back of 8.7% outlet growth in 2018. With the UK failing to get a mention in the International Coffee Organisation’s top 20 countries with the greatest per capita coffee consumption – Finland topped the chart in 2016 – coffee is a cherry ripe for picking.

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Bedding in

Robin Hancock (left) and Ben Wright

Co-founder Robin Hancock tells Glynn Davis how chance meetings helped Wright Brothers boost the humble oyster’s popularity and build a thriving business


eafood was the food of the masses in 1851, when 500 million native oysters were consumed in the UK. However, by 2000 the native variety had almost disappeared and consumption had fallen to a mere 20 million. Meanwhile, the original accompaniment of stout had been replaced by the more elitist Champagne. Against this backdrop, brothers-in-law Robin Hancock and Ben Wright rode to the rescue in 2002 by drawing up a plan to specialise in selling oysters to London restaurants. It wasn’t a plan as such, Wright Brothers was born following a visit by corporate lawyer Wright to south west France, when a friend required a lawyer with good French language skills during a deal to buy some oyster beds. Hancock says: “He returned to the UK blown away by the sheer magnitude of the place – they were doing 45,000 tonnes of number of London oysters per year.” restaurants Launching the business wasn’t a Wright Brothers particularly tough supplies with decision as Hancock seafood had recently finished a job as a recording engineer working on records for Depeche Mode, Seal and Madonna as well as producing an album for Billy Idol and working with renowned producer Trevor Horn. Hancock had gone from twiddling knobs to twiddling his thumbs.




Initially, it was a tough task to drive around London asking people to try their French oysters, which were all of the Pacific variety rather than the much more sensitive and rarer natives. Thankfully there was little competition at the time –Bentley’s and other fish merchants simply used oysters as an add-on, while Wright Brothers was a specialist. The company also had a “secret weapon”. Luckily 2002 was a bumper year for French oysters, which meant the Spéciales de Claire variety they imported from south west France was particularly good. The variety is selected for its rounder, deeper shape and is kept longer in natural oyster ponds to produce “plumper flesh”. Hancock says: “At the time there wasn’t a wide range available and we thought there would be interest in a wider variety of oysters that tasted differently. We thought we’d educate people but weren’t really sure we had a business. However, one day we dropped off loads of Spéciales at Racine restaurant in Knightsbridge for chef owner Henry Harris. He started tasting and then got Simon Thomas, who ran Bibendum Oyster Bar in Chelsea and was at Racine for lunch, to try them. They loved them. This chance introduction set Wright Brothers on its way. Hancock says: “This was our entry into the Conran Restaurant Group – and it changed things. We knew then we had a business.” The wholesale operation was building and the pair found themselves busy, ▲


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with three deliveries from France a week alongside accounting and myriad other tasks. Things got even busier when the company diversified into other seafood such as mussels and varieties of British oysters from places such as West Mersea. Hancock says: “We were running out of space in our home office and front rooms and whenever my wife returned from the supermarket she would find the fridge full of oysters. It was 2005 and we needed to take the business more seriously.” A lease became available in Borough Market and Wright Brothers took the space, soon realising the location leant itself towards a restaurant. Hancock says: “We were friendly with Mark Hix, who had just closed a restaurant in Harrow Road and offered us his fruits de mer tray. I had a poke around his kitchen and ended up making an offer of £5,000 for the lot. We bought his cooker, fridges and other equipment.” After purchasing the equipment, Hancock and Wright briefly considered going all-in on the restaurant side of things but dropped the idea when they heard the lease for the Duchy of Cornwall Oyster Farm near Falmouth, Cornwall, was up for grabs. Wright used his lawyer’s skills to put together


a strong business plan for a ten-year lease of 560 hectares of water on the river Helford. It was decided Wright would go to Cornwall to run the farm and wholesale side of the business, while Hancock stayed in London to focus on the restaurant.

“We were running out of space in our home office and front rooms and whenever my wife returned from the supermarket she would find the fridge full of oysters” The Borough Market restaurant opened in November 2005 with a junior chef helping to develop a fish pie and beef and Guinness option as the menu broadened. Hancock says: “We were flying by the seat of our pants, doing everything ourselves. The pricing was like: ‘How much would I pay for a glass of muscadet?’ There were no gross profits. It was quaint in a way. We quickly realised you can’t do it all yourself and it was a big lesson to learn that other people are better equipped to do some jobs.”


One of these people was David Burke, a partner at Le Pont De La Tour who had a great pedigree in restaurants, so much so Wright Brothers couldn’t afford him. Thankfully, Burke was looking to “return to the coalface”. Hancock says: “He told us our food was a mess but asked if he could work for us? He was willing to take a hit on his earnings and taught us everything.” However, the front of house also caused problems with a string of general managers “drinking our profits or running us ragged” until they found Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim, who now operates three of his own sites with David Gingell – Primeur in Stoke Newington, Westerns Laundry in Lower Holloway, and Jolene in Newington Green. Despite a great team, the reality for Wright Brothers was cash was pouring into the farm and wholesale business rather than the restaurant. However, Lady Luck struck again with a lack of resources putting the company ahead of the curve on a number of fronts. Firstly, a lack of space forced them to put the kitchen in the restaurant, with the open plan arrangement something of a new concept at the time. Secondly,

Feature “We want to let people know seafood is healthy. We believe it will be an increasingly important part of people’s diets”

Soho was Wright Brothers’ second restaurant”

Spitalfields opened in 2013 a low-key fit-out featuring barrels sat comfortably with a focus on beer rather than Champagne and other wine and meant their stout and porter menu came ahead of the craft beer revolution. Another unit wasn’t in the plans until landlord Shaftesbury offered a Soho site in 2010 that proved too tempting. Hancock says: “It was a good site in Kingly Court. We weren’t sure about the West End but when I looked in the unit it was a very interesting building with a New York-style basement. I wondered how difficult it could be but it was really hard work. We found West End customers – a lot of walkins and tourists who aren’t foodies – didn’t want the same things as Borough Market customers so a lot of work went into creating a relevant menu.” Learning that lesson gave them confidence to take on a larger unit in Spitalfields Market in 2013 and another in South Kensington in 2015, at which point Wright returned to London when the lease on the oyster farm expired. Wright and Hancock’s next move proved they had perfected their restaurant model as they took on a large waterside space at the Battersea Power Station development with

Wholesale statistics • Revenues = 50% (restaurants = 50%) • Growth: 35% year-on-year • Vans: 12 • Restaurants supplied: 280 • Tonnes of oysters delivered into London: five to six per week • Revenues from London: 100% • Number of oyster varieties sold: 14 (mainly British and French)

126 covers inside and 40 outside. Hancock says: “People love seafood by the water. Although there is no business community around there yet, we expect things to take off before the end of 2020. A recent seafood festival weekend attracted 24,000 people.” While the restaurant operation has expanded the wholesale side has kept pace, helped by the purchase of a coastal depot in Brixham, Devon, where boats land their catch before it is sold in the town’s fish market. Wright Brothers buy produce at this market to guarantee provenance, which remains hugely important as they

continue to educate people about oysters and other seafood, which still has its doubters in the UK and far too many myths surrounding it. To this end, Wright Brothers runs a £1 oyster promotion between 3pm and 6pm that no doubt leads some diners to upgrade to the brand’s best-selling plate – six oysters for £18. One thing working in the company’s favour is the rise of veganism and healthy eating. Hancock says: “We want to let people know seafood is healthy. We believe it will be an increasingly important part of people’s diets. Our vision is more people will eat seafood through retail, delivery, restaurants and wholesale – but it takes time. Oysters are full of minerals and vitamins, which is why the Victorians ate loads of them. They recognised the health benefits.” Although it’s unlikely Wright Brothers will get the UK consuming oysters anywhere near the 1851 level, the company is taking things in the right direction through its multi-pronged strategy to promote this once humble mollusc.

Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends SPRING 2019 PROPEL QUARTERLY



Keeping focus

‘Many establishments are actively promoting photo-taking as they see the upside of their restaurant appearing on image-driven Instagram’

Glynn Davis looks at the ubiquitous smartphone’s effect on family dining in restaurants counteracted by the positive effects of social media snaps on the industry


any times I’ve happily spotted young children sat beside their parents in a restaurant only to be left disappointed by seeing no discernible interaction because they have been gazing zombie-like into mobile phones or tablets. While I appreciate this has kept them quiet rather than annoying me with unruly and noisy behaviour, I’ve also thought it something of a parental cop-out. My own children have pointed out on numerous occasions how unfair it is that other youngsters get to play on mobile devices in restaurants whereas my two are banned from doing so. I‘ve always argued the case that restaurants are for three things – talking and laughing, eating, and drinking – and the alternative is to stay at home with a baby-sitter. The thought of missing out on a late night out has always killed their argument. The hypocritical part of my children’s phone ban is I often whip out my phone to take a discreet photo and justify it on the grounds it’s for Twitter and workrelated. They have never believed this excuse so I’ve kept my in-restaurant photo-taking to a minimum. However, it seems some parents have been doing a lot more than simply photo-taking with their mobiles in restaurants and this brought about some affirmative action from Liverpool-based Graffiti Spirits, which bans phones on certain nights. Likewise at family-friendly restaurant chain Frankie & Benny’s, which in the first half of December ran a no-phone campaign that encouraged parents to leave their phones in lockable


boxes prior to sitting down to their meal. Parents who went along with the initiative were rewarded with their children eating for free. Frankie & Benny’s action was prompted by some research it undertook that found almost three-quarters (72%) of children wished their parents would spend less time on their phones and more time talking to them. It also rather sadly found 10% of children believed their parents preferred staring at their phones rather than interacting with them. Specifically during meal times, almost half (46%) of children said they would like phones to be taken away from their parents compared with family movies and television time (29%), and holidays (24%). It just shows the addictive power of the mobile device across all age groups because 67% of


of children said they would like phones taken away from their parents during meal times


parents admitted their phone had come between them and their family. Despite this research, families continue to argue over mobile phones and there is the same amount of tension within the restaurant sector. The three Michelinstarred Waterside Inn in Bray initiated a ban on phones because of the level of people taking photos of the perfectly adorned plates delivered from its kitchen. This was deemed to be having an impact on the restaurant’s atmosphere, while the images failed to reflect the taste of the food. In contrast, many establishments are actively promoting photo-taking as they see the upside of their restaurant appearing on image-driven Instagram and other social media platforms. This phenomenon was highlighted to me on a visit to Chinese restaurant Kym’s in Bloomberg Arcade just before its launch. There was a lot of focus on adjusting the lighting over tables to enable customers to take the best-quality photos possible of their dishes. With social media playing an increasingly important marketing role, it clearly makes sense for restaurateurs to create Instagram-friendly environments. However, encouragement of device use during meal times will undoubtedly cause family issues – within mine for sure. It has to be accepted that such technologies – despite their incredible capabilities – are still in their infancy. Regardless of age, we all have lots to learn about how we interact with technology.

Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

it will cost your company nothing and your staff will love you for it.

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Conference Overview

Are you experienced? Insights editor Mark Wingett reveals highlights from the inaugural Experiential Leisure Conference launched by Think Hospitality and Propel Think Hospitality founder James Hacon


hink Hospitality founder James Hacon set the scene by telling delegates experiential retail is nothing new. He said: “We’ve wanted to carry out experiences and activities since the dawn of time, it’s part of human culture. The busyness of mind is an important component, we’re not happy doing just one thing, we need multiple stimulants. Barclaycard research found more than half of consumers would rather spend money on entertainment and events than material things. Hacon said: “I don’t think this is simply a millennial thing, it’s about experiences becoming the everyday and not just something you do on holiday. More than half (52%) of consumers would rather tell a friend about an experience than a purchase they’ve made. This is a massive shift for society in the past 20-odd years. When I think back to when I started my career, it was all about the car you drove and clothes you wore – stuff that generally doesn’t come up in conversation any more.” Two years ago, then IKEA chief sustainability officer Steve Howard made waves when he said consumers in the West had reached “peak stuff”. In his eyes, the rampant materialism of the 20th century had given way to a “rejection of accumulation”. Hacon said: “Broadly, you saw tremendous expansion in consumption and people’s livelihoods through the 20th century but these days it is plateauing. IKEA is seeing a decline in

footfall across the globe and is trying to overcome that by using experiences and food, particularly to drive people back though their doors. In the next two years, you’ll see a step-change in its strategy.” A study of where people will spend the proportion of their money in the next 12 months revealed a top three of holidays, days out, and food and drink – all experiences. Hacon said: “Why are people doing this? The first reason is the influence of social media, particularly Snapchat and Instagram, which promote the attitude, ‘I want to share stuff and I’m also seeing what my friends are doing.’ This, in turn, creates a ‘peacock’ factor, people wanting to match that or put it down. In an age where the art of conversation is dying, views are more influential than speech. “The second reason involves the influence of mass media. Search results for baking rise more than 6,000% every time the Great British Bake Off is on – people sharing baked goods across social media goes up by an inordinate figure. That influence is as important as social media.” Hacon said we shouldn’t underestimate the fact more retail space is becoming available, adding: “The size and type of experiential activities we’re talking about requires these large spaces that are now becoming available. These can be footfall-driving activities for bigger schemes.” Hacon also said people were travelling more and gaining insights on a global scale. He said: “There is

‘‘I don’t think this is simply a millennial thing, it’s about experiences becoming the everyday and not just something you do on holiday’’ also a year-on-year rise in teetotalism among young people. It’s not just about how much they’re drinking but what they’re drinking. They have more money to spend on experiences rather than alcohol. Tie that into increasing travel, globalisation and the rising trend of teetotalism among post-millennial Generation Z and it means all customers want experiences.”

A study of where people will spend the proportion of their money in the next 12 months revealed a top three of holidays, days out, and food and drink – all experiences.



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Conference Overview

“Deliver on your promise, the hard work starts when customers are in your venue, and always ask yourself, would I go?”

Telson’s top tips for creating a great experience include something interactive that can be experienced as a group; something memorable that will impress friends; something a bit different that provides escapism; something Instagrammable; and something that creates memories and talking points. He said operators shouldn’t cut corners and should focus instead on the customer journey, which is linked to service, service, service. He said: “You have to get the whole journey right, don’t just dump something experiential in your business. The service needs to be exceptional as well. While the millennial audience is still happy to spend, it is also very critical and not shy of leaving a bad review. What the customer wants is the F-word – fun. For me, that’s what experiential is about, having fun. “What can you do? There are a lot of easy ways to put experiences into your venues such as Instagrammable spaces; interactive “things to do” for customers; keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s cool; offering interesting cocktails and building an element of secret or surprise into your offer. “My key takeaways are an experience can be simple but think ‘quirky’, ‘bit different’, ‘show off to friends’. Create events and activities within your venue while keeping up to date with trends. Deliver on your promise, the hard work starts when customers are in your venue, and always ask yourself, would I go?”

50% from within the M25, 35% from the rest of the UK and 15% from overseas. A lot of overseas customers see us as a good day out when in London. People see the classes as being a social exercise – for learning, team-building, networking, and to improve general wellness and impress their friends.” The most powerful marketing method for the business is, unsurprisingly, social media. Edwards said: “We have 56,600 followers on Instagram, 24,000 on Facebook and 3,200 on Twitter. Our content is driven by our expertise and their experience. For content and tone, we look at offering competitions, user-generated content, guest chefs, testimonials, and food, glorious food. Nothing can beat a shout out from Jamie himself, with his 6.6 million Instagram followers.” In terms of challenges, Edwards said: “We were shocked how long it took us

to build trade. We were well into our first year before we were comfortable about the sales we were generating. The biggest challenge I face is recruiting, training and retaining staff. When you’re delivering an experience, it’s the people who bring it to life. There are also challenges around managing expectations. People often expect something like a film set, while balancing skill sets and finding a lesson and tone that fits everyone is hard. We also need to balance education with entertainment. Representing such a strong brand brings its own challenges. “Why do we love it? Food gross profit margin is 91% to 92%, which is fantastic, low wastage, good economies of scale, you know who is coming, making a difference that can help people cook better and it’s fun – no two days are the same.”

DesignMyNight founder and chief executive Nick Telson


ick Telson, founder and chief executive of DesignMyNight, the nightlife discovery website that allows customers to tailor their evenings out, said the website’s top three searchedfor words during 2017 were “quirky”, “something different” and “secret”. Features with the word “quirky” in the title received more than 15 million views in 2017. He described escape rooms as the fastest-growing cultural phenomenon since cinema, with a 1,400% increase in the UK between 2012 and 2017. In London, going to an escape room ranked number 18 on TripAdvisor, higher than going to Regent’s Park or a trip on the London Eye. The top three venue pages for traffic on DesignMyNight for the year to date were mini-golf concept Puttshack, darts experience Flight Club and adult ball-pit operator Ballie Ballerson. The top three events pages for traffic were prison experience Alcatraz, shuffleboard concept Shuffle Club and The Big London Bake. The top three traffic features were cool and quirky events, cool and quirky bars, and bottomless brunch, while the highest-rated venues based on volume of five-star ratings were Flight Club, Smithfield market-based cocktail bar Oriole and The Breakfast Club’s “secret bar” The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town.

Jamie Oliver Cookery School head Frankie Edwards


rankie Edwards, head of the Jamie Oliver Cookery School, shared how the company maximised sales from a large site by adding a hands-on cooking experience representing one of the UK’s most successful celebrity chefs. The concept launched in a Jamie’s Italian site in Westfield London in May 2016, with the idea of providing an experience that could increase footfall. The school took over the restaurant’s private dining space and features two cookery classrooms that can host up to 60 people at a time. Edwards said: “It is fundamentally a cook-and-dine concept featuring food from all corners of the globe. Naturally with Jamie’s input we have lots of Italian classes, while some of our other most popular ones have been Mexican and Vietnamese. Classes range from one hour to a five-hour day and are open to individuals, pairs, families and groups. Classes are available seven days a week. “Our customers are highly segmented but are predominantly female (65%), 21 to 40 years old, with

“The biggest challenge I face is recruiting, training and retaining staff. When you’re delivering an experience, it’s the people who bring it to life” ▲



Conference Overview production sound and “visual stimulation”. Harris said: “It will be a social, shared experience incorporating comedy, music and visual effects. Food and drinks will be available before, during and after games. We are actively seeking the first London location to open this year, with UK roll-out to hopefully follow. We’ll consider international locations once the model is established.”

Social Entertainment Venues chief executive Toby Harris


ocial Entertainment Venues (SEV) operates three core brands across two countries, with a further concept in development. Chief executive Toby Harris described SEV founder Adam Breeden as one of the “founding fathers of the social entertainment/experiential leisure space”. Breeden co-founded tenpin bowling concept All Star Lanes, ping-pong brand Bounce, darts experience Flight Club, mini-golf concept Puttshack and bingo brand Hijingo. Harris said: “Our three core brands are Bounce, Puttshack and Flight Club, where we have the licence for Canada and the US. Adam admits as soon as he has given birth to one concept he wants to move on to the next. I have been hired to roll out the existing brands. We have three Bounce sites, including one inChicago, and one Puttshack site in White City, London. We will open two more Puttshacks at Lakeside and No1 Poultry in the City later this year, and the first Hijingo this summer.”

Games gurus Bounce is a based around a ping-pong bar with a focus on group bookings – corporate and social. Venues feature “games gurus” to enhance group experience. Harris said: “We do decent food but it needs to get better, and it will do. We’re not trying to come up with new games but “sex up” an existing one. A part of that with Bounce is Wonderball, which features projection-mapping technology we launched a year ago. Technology is central to our business model and Flight Club has nailed how you incorporate technology into the game.” Harris described Flight Club as a 21st century social darts concept featuring interactive game play, dart-tracking technology and instant scoring. He said: “To describe it as just darts is unfair – it’s an immersive experience. It also features a premium food and beverage offer. A

Overcoming challenges

“These venues have a five to six-year refurbishment cycle model. At the tenyear mark, you are looking at a complete fit-out or even a change of brand” site opened last year in Chicago, with opportunities in New York, Washington DC and Dallas being explored. We’d like to do hubs there and the next one after Chicago will probably be on the East Coast. The question was whether Americans would take to darts, but we are trading very successfully.” Puttshack is a tech-enabled, minigolf concept featuring track-a-ball technology, premium design, and a food and drinks offer housed in an immersive entertainment environment. Harris said: “We opened the first last year in Westfield White City, with two more to follow – Lakeside in the second quarter and No1 Poultry in the third quarter. We also have a couple of regional sites in the pipeline we would like to open late this year or early 2020. We are also looking in Chicago for a site for the first US Puttshack plus other tier-one US cities.” Hijingo will be a “revolutionary reinvention of bingo” with high-

Harris also discussed his business plan for the next couple of years, which will include developing a regional Puttshack concept with a lower-cost, lower-revenue regional model, less food and drinks revenue, and a high return on investment. He said: “The challenges in our business have been trying to run a multibrand, multi-territory business and have an investable strategy that is operationally achievable. People have been a massive challenge, which is the theme for everyone. With quite a big pipeline of sites and all the brands needing different demands, I had to get the right people focused on just one brand so we’ve had a change of structure, including separate marketing teams for each brand. We want the brands to grow, evolve and compete with each other. Last but not least, funding the roll-out is a key focus. We have historically been funded by high-networth individuals and quasi, institutional/ family offices. On a look-forward basis, we have started a relationship with consumerfocused, UK-based private equity house Active, which has come on board.” Harris explained the trading trajectory of the debut Bounce site in Farringdon had helped the company know what to expect in terms of the lifecycle of its brands. He said: “Three years of growth, two years of plateauing and two years of coming off a bit showed us we needed to refurbish and evolve that space. These venues have a five to six-year refurbishment cycle model. At the tenyear mark, you are looking at a complete fit-out or even a change of brand.”

Puttshack and Flight Club



Josh Ford, co-founder of Time Run and creative director of The Game Is Now


osh Ford, co-founder of Time Run and creative director of Sherlock: The Game Is Now, revealed insights into the escape room phenomenon. Time Run is part of a new style of experience that is swapping parlours, boards and computers for actors, technology and theatre sets or, as Ford puts it: “You get to play the lead role in your own adventure.” There has been a 40% increase in the number of escape room operators in the UK in the past year alone. Ford said: “At the moment there’s a relatively low entry barrier to the market – people can make them in their garden shed. It might not be very good but it shows the traction the sector is gaining. Because of the problems the retail sector faces there are also more opportunities to secure the right kind of site, especially in regional towns. People go on overseas trips and play three or four escape room games during a weekend, it is also big in the corporate market. The good thing about escape rooms is you can keep changing to keep them fresh. There is also a clean win or lose mechanism people like as well as a team element.” Ford said immersive games were only going to become more popular – not only as a remedy to the digital world but because they offer escapism. He said: “The key is indulgence. These games let you experience moments you’re never likely to encounter in everyday life – and give you the chance to be the best version of yourself. People want interesting social activities with their friends. “From online platforms to reality

Sherlock: The Game Is Now

“These games let you experience moments you’re never likely to encounter in everyday life – and give you the chance to be the best version of yourself”

Televison shows, people are used to having agency in all forms of entertainment – and participatory live experiences are a culmination of such a user-oriented world. For example, escape rooms regularly top TripAdvisor ratings in the UK.” Ford began plotting Time Run with co-creator Nicholas Moran three years ago, when immersive theatre was as much of an inspiration as escape rooms. The company recently launched Sherlock: The Game Is Now, a 100-minute

Kitchen Theory founder and chef Jozef Youssef


“You need to stimulate more senses than just consumers’ palates to create truly engaging gastronomic experiences”

ozef Youssef, founder and chef at Kitchen Theory, told delegates about designing gastronomy experiences based on joint research with the University of Oxford. Youssef described Kitchen Theory as a “multi-sensory, gastronomy design studio”, which works with academics to research how people perceive flavour and taste and the sensory relationship humans have with food. He said: “We take this research, combine it with our culinary skills and present what we hope is a memorable dining experience. We define the experience economy as something memorable and remarkable that people want to share and talk about. You also have to engage people’s time and time is the new luxury, a commodity short in supply, so the experience has to be worth it.

immersive escape game for teams of up to six participants. Ford predicts a rapid increase in the number of officially licensed rooms of well-known entertainment brands opening worldwide. Sherlock: The Game Is Now takes players through detailed recreations of events in the BBC television series. Players solve puzzles, challenges and mysteries across a 17,000 square foot production space, with participants encountering specially recorded video and audio sequences featuring original cast members. The event includes a Sherlock-themed bar. Ford said: “The expectations with this game are huge, which is a big challenge. We now have more investors and stakeholders but we all have the same goal – to create the best live immersive experience.” “Mindfulness is also important in the approach to what you are going to eat, while there is personalisation – we all have our own relationship with food so how can we make the whole experience more personalised?” Youssef said it was important that everything Kitchen Theory did involved three key themes – fun, multi-sensory and educational. He said: “We are also interested in creating environments that encourage more sustainable and nutritious eating models. We live in separate taste worlds. No two humans perceive flavour in the same way. We live in our own taste worlds but there are certain sensory things that connect us all as human beings. “You need to stimulate more senses than just consumers’ palates to create truly engaging gastronomic experiences. Constantly go back to school. Our events aren’t merely entertainment, they also act as research experiments and educational workshops.” ▲ SPRING 2019 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Conference Overview Swingers co-founder Matt Grech-Smith


Grech-Smith said: “We finished at the agency after a couple of years and wanted to get back to being entrepreneurial. We could see people were looking for more from their leisure time. The more we thought about the idea of crazy golf with food and drink, the more we thought it had legs, so Swingers was born. We tested the idea with a pop-up in a leaky, 7,000 square foot site in Shoreditch and spent almost £500,000 fitting it out. It had two bars, two street food vendors and a nine-hole course. “We also adopted the theme of a traditionally English golf club – it gave us lots of golfing heritage and a language in which to theme the venue. We used a company called The Nudge to market the pop-up and news went out to its 40,000-strong database, who sent it to another 150,000 people. It crashed our website but we sold out the whole run and knew there was potential for a permanent venue. “We wanted more bars, street food vendors and courses. We were looking for circa 20,000 square feet which, at the time, was difficult in central London. We eventually got a site by the Gherkin and built a clubhouse in the middle, with nine-hole golf courses on both levels, a food court and private hire spaces. For the clubhouse we wanted something “unexpectedly premium”, where people could grab nice drinks without playing golf. “We had fantastic advanced bookings and a great launch so we knew there was scope to do another site. We always wanted to do one in the West End and


‘‘We want to a deliver a best-in-class experience and the quality of the food has to be part of that’’ It may have been controversial to give that food revenue away when we started but it has really worked for us. We look for people experienced with multiple sites because we are a high-volume business and need the right people to deliver the right food at the right speed.

the sad demise of BHS near Oxford Street gave us an opportunity to take 25% of that site. We opened in March 2018 with a bigger footprint and changed the theme to a 1920s, British seaside destination. We wanted to give people a reason to visit both sites. “We have street food kiosks in the venues and work with restaurateurs such as Le Bab, Patty & Bun and Pizza Pilgrims.


Food fix


Swinging into action

Swingers founders Matt Grech-Smith (right) and Jeremy Simmonds


att Grech-Smith and fellow Swingers founder Jeremy Simmonds started in the sector in 2003 promoting club nights – a “great first entrepreneurial step to take”. The first major concept they worked on was Tiger Tiger for what was then Novus. At the time, the brand was for over-25s only, featured multiple rooms, and was a concept people “found exciting, almost early experiential”. Grech-Smith said: “We ended up running 25 student events a week for a number of businesses in the sector, with about a million young people coming. It gave us great insight into that scene and the customer journey, from the first moment giving them a flyer to them coming to your venue and the contact you have with them afterwards. We learnt how to make that into quite a holistic process.” The business slowly morphed into a student marketing agency, subsequently bought by a larger agency. The pair continued to work on student marketing but also on experiential activity.

“We also give them a better-quality kitchen to work with than normally found in the street food sector. Each vendor has their own unit fitted. We have a financial model where they pay us commission on their sales and a monthly service charge that goes towards cleaning and running the venue. “We find it works really well because we get to leverage their brands, all their social media followings and don’t have to worry about food development or delivery. The customers love it because they get to experience all these brands under one roof. It also works for vendors because we give them a captive audience, they don’t have to do too much marketing and only need two chefs so it’s relatively easy money compared with some of the sites they run. “We added a dessert vendor to the West End site. Burgers, pizza and tacos work well. We switch brands from time to time just to keep things fresh. We want to a deliver a best-in-class experience and the quality of the food has to be part of that. We are seeing the need for special diets increasing and we’re working with our vendors to provide more choice, but healthy eating is not something we see the need for from consumers at Swingers. Also working with these young food entrepreneurs, we get to work off their energy and vice-versa. “We have a site in Manhattan that will open in the second half of 2019 but we’re also keen to launch more sites around the UK. We also have a second concept, which we will bring to market in the not too distant future.”

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Foodservice trends for 2019 Dominic Allport, insight director foodservice UK at NPD Group, highlights six themes that will shape Britain’s £56bn out-of-home foodservice industry this year


acebook co-founder and leader Mark Zuckerberg is attributed as saying: “Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.” As we work our way through 2019, those words might help us understand the British foodservice industry. Foodservice operators operate in a sea of change these days and the conditions are often choppy, disruptive and even unkind. Following the financial crisis of 20072008, the key issue appeared to be about recovery and how to get business back to pre-crisis levels. A decade later, however, and foodservice is worrying about much more than getting the business basics right. There are so many other trends in play. Who would have predicted a few years ago the massive increase in demand for delivery? Who would have suggested foodservice operators have to think harder


than ever about the environmental impact of food sourcing, nutrition and allergies? Many of us have long had vegetarian friends or relatives but how many of us were acquainted with veganism? And who would have dreamed up a deliveryonly restaurant trading from an industrial estate? There’s plenty of change around and it takes a brave person to stand in front of new trends and try to stop them happening. Change is levelling the playing field and creating new opportunities for smaller players. Rupert Murdoch said: “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.” We have identified six themes we believe will shape Britain’s £56bn out-ofhome (OOH) foodservice industry in 2019. As consumers eat more meals at home, they’ll have more complex requirements and this will strengthen the role of delivery


aggregators. Consumers are also more aware than ever of key sustainability issues and are asking where products come from and how a foodservice outlet is helping the wider environment. Veganism and vegetarianism are not just fads and are working their way on to menus. We’ll see the growth of delivery-only virtual restaurants and operators will need to sweat their existing assets. Finally, a slimmed-down menu will also bring rewards.

Delivery aggregators will thrive as consumers cocoon themselves indoors Driven by technology, the rise in in-home entertainment subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and a desire to save money, consumers are likely to “cocoon” and eat more meals at home. Consumer spend on restaurant food ▲

Insight “Delivery is likely to increasingly compete with eat-in visits, increasing the risk of cannibalisation and adding pressure on physical outlets to create theatre and experience to drive traffic” delivery could grow 12% in 2019 to reach more than £5bn. Delivery already plays to consumer needs for convenience and enjoying a “treat”. In the future, consumers wanting to order and eat at home will have more complex requirements, ordering from OOH operators to satisfy an increasingly varied array of needs. As a result, delivery is likely to increasingly compete with eat-in visits, increasing the risk of cannibalisation and adding pressure on physical outlets to create theatre and experience to drive traffic. Aggregators such as Deliveroo, Just Eat and UberEats will reap ever greater rewards through subscription and loyalty programmes. Look out for foodservice brands partnering with in-home entertainment providers. Winners? The OOH delivery aggregators that provide consumers with value for money and a good experience while offering meaningful partnerships and innovative loyalty schemes.

Delivery spend (£m) – actual and forecast to 2020 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

3.6 4.1 4.7 5.2 5.8

More people are choosing vegetarian options

Veganism and vegetarianism will grow There is wide debate about consumption of meat and dairy products and whether a different approach to what we eat can help protect the world’s climate and environment. The number of vegans and vegetarians has increased rapidly in recent years, so much so mainstream operators are responding rapidly to this consumer demand by adding large numbers of vegetarian and vegan items to menus. However, many more people say they are flexitarian – meaning they are occasional vegetarians. In this case, they visit an operator to buy vegetarian burgers, eggs, non-protein salads and pasta, vegetable sides, cheese sides, meat substitutes or sandwiches with vegetable fillings. NPD’s

CREST panel data shows OOH flexitarian visits account for almost one-third of all OOH visits and have increased at more than ten times the rate of overall market growth during the past three years. Among 16 to 34-year-olds, overall visits have declined almost 3% since 2015, while flexitarian visits within this age group have increased 12%. However, some operators have failed to adapt because they see veganism and vegetarianism as a fad, while others have already evolved their menus. Winners? It’s important to respond carefully. Operators need to ensure they provide a balanced menu with the right choices for vegans and vegetarians while not alienating meat-eaters. ▲

Flexitarian visits: three-year growth to YE Nov 2018 (all age groups) 10%


Transparency and trust will make their way on to the menu Consumers want to know more about the contents and source of food they consume and the impact on their health and the environment. There is increased concern over the environmental impact of raw materials such as palm oil. Operators have started to offer more information about ingredients in terms of allergies and nutrition. Winners? The operators that listen to the transparency agenda and respond. Consumers will ask questions about the food they are buying. The best operators will provide the answers and address consumer concerns about single-use items, especially those made of plastic.


0.9% Total OOH visits

Flexitarian visits


Flexitarian visits: three -year growth to YE Nov 2018 (16 to 34-year olds) 12.2%

Visit increase for non-meat items: three-year growth to YE Nov 2018 43%

-2.7% Total OOH visits – 16 to 34s

19% 10% Vegetarian burgers, wraps and sandwiches

Non-protein salads



Vegetable Accompaniment/ Side


Flexitarian visits – 16 to 34s

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Insight “Consumers don’t want to waste time searching for food and drinks; many simply search for their favourite dish anyway. Crowded menus don’t work. Don’t be tempted to go down this route”

Virtual restaurants to take off The delivery boom is driving another trend – virtual restaurants. Usually run from “dark kitchens” owned by aggregators such as Deliveroo, a virtual restaurant is a delivery-only brand. While they often trade from an industrial estate rather than a traditional retail location, virtual restaurants can also be run from under-used conventional restaurant premises. A core appeal is virtual restaurants can begin trading quickly, are relatively cheap to run and are flexible, aided by a lack of overheads such as dedicated retail premises and waiting staff. Deliveroo already has about 400 virtual restaurants, with plans for more, while UberEats is aiming for a similar number by the end of 2018. Just Eat is entering this space with “digital pop-ups”.


amount consumer

Winners? Those spend on restaurant delivery aggregators food delivery could and restaurant grow in 2019 to operators best able to reach more than grow virtual brands into Sweating assets meaningful propositions will reap dividends £5bn in the eyes of consumers In recent years, operators will do well. The wealth of have faced a perfect customer data available to delivery storm of rising business rates, aggregators will provide opportunities increased input costs and soaring rents, to marry virtual restaurants with local coupled with faltering demand. Property preferences. costs continue to be high and provide a challenge to the best of operators, Menus will become slimmer and particularly in London and other major urban hubs. easier to digest One way operators have approached For some diners, when they’re handed a this is through all-day dining, which draws menu with dozens of choices it becomes on the growth of the breakfast daypart. a burden. They stop talking to study The explosion of delivery has provided the menu before the waiter or waitress operators with another potential revenue returns a few minutes later to take stream, particularly during quieter their order. In the face of today’s fierce competition, operators try to innovate but periods. Some operators have created “virtual sub-brands” in their own kitchens. this often results in crowded menus, with An example of this is Café Rouge, which some operators trying to be everything operates a number of virtual brands such to everybody. Consumers don’t want to as its Chef & Rooster chicken brand or waste time searching for food and drinks; its Stack & Grill offer. The aim is to use many simply search for their favourite spare kitchen capacity in the evening dish anyway. Crowded menus don’t work. – when business is often quieter – to Don’t be tempted to go down this route. serve delivery-only customers. Some restaurants have started hosting pop-ups Winners? An operator that focuses on of other restaurants in their premises to what it does best won’t go far wrong. create additional reasons for consumers It will establish a great reputation for a to visit. Pop-ups have been widely used specific cuisine, style or experience. Its in pubs and now it looks like they are slimmer menus will mean less complexity gaining more ground in restaurants as in the kitchen, a leaner supply chain, well, especially restaurants with large but lower food costs, and less food waste under-used spaces. too.



“The good news is while Britain’s foodservice industry is grappling with all sorts of cost pressures, it is showing it can recognise and address the new trends” Winners? Operators that make the best use of property assets will be rewarded with valuable additional business but must be mindful of the possibility of cannibalisation of sales and visits. Change affects any business, and nobody can stand still, least of all in British foodservice. The good news is while Britain’s foodservice industry is grappling with all sorts of cost pressures, it is showing it can recognise and address the new trends – and surely that’s the right way to go? As Sir Winston Churchill said: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” We can all improve. Whether we can be perfect is another matter – but is there any harm in trying?

Dominic Allport is insight director foodservice UK at NPD Group

Crisps as they should taste. Voted Winners of BEST SNACK BRAND six times by readers of Fine Food Digest Winners of 42 Great Taste Awards since 2007


Swipe right Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia reveals how to make your brand an attractive online prospect


n my opinion the UK eating out market is the most sophisticated in the world. It has a number of outstanding brands with finely tuned distinct offerings vying for the attention of an ever more demanding and educated consumer. There is a lot of choice, which has driven up quality and customer expectation. In this environment, it’s not enough for a brand to simply stand still in the hope that what works today will work tomorrow. Businesses need to be dynamic and agile. They need to try new things and constantly evolve. They need to scrutinise every aspect of their business and customer journey and, more so than ever, they are turning to technology to help them make these decisions. Getting customers through the door is a vital battle and one being increasingly fought on phone screens across the country. The way in which we consume information has changed, with the internet and social media channels often the primary source of reference. This is becoming ever more important with each generation and smart businesses are turning it to their advantage by not only influencing their online reputation but also tapping into the data across review channels to inform their business decisions. Having a quick “Google” to find a restaurant to book for a special occasion, date or meeting has become a habit for consumers and is something we all do. If the stars staring back at you on Google, TripAdvisor or Facebook aren’t attractive, you’ll more than likely search for another restaurant and book elsewhere. Even when someone else has booked the restaurant, we can’t resist having a quick snoop across a couple of review sites to look at polarised reviews to sense-check if it’s any good.

Which review sites need to be on your radar? The first name that crops up is TripAdvisor. The platform has dominated debates in the industry and come under fire for its reluctance to remove “bogus” reviews. It was even famously trolled by a reporter



of customers check Google before visiting a restaurant compared with...





from Vice, who managed to turn his garden shed into London’s highest-rated restaurant by using false reviews from his pals. However, despite all the noise and its arguable flaws, TripAdvisor isn’t the most popular channel for social reviews. In fact, data from our Monthly Social Tracker, which is published exclusively in Propel each month, reveals Google is the most prominent channel by some way, accounting for 60% of reviews, while TripAdvisor only has 31%, followed by Facebook (9%). These figures have remained relatively stable during the past year but in August Facebook changed its algorithm, adopting a polarised “yes” or “no” recommendation. This has slowly had an impact on results as it transfers sections of its users over to the new system but, once this switch is complete, it will significantly change the landscape.

Why is this interesting? The key differentiator between Facebook and Google versus TripAdvisor is the former two are driven by location prompts, which enable apps to send push notifications to your phone asking you to leave a review or recommending restaurants in the immediate area based on your preference. While this is only happening on a small scale at the moment, it is something that


will become increasingly prominent in the coming years, tapping into the trend for personalisation and ease. Against this backdrop, operators simply have to manage their online reputation by tracking social reviews, engaging with them and influencing opinion. Rather than using review platforms to solely engage with customers and influence opinion, we are working closely with many savvy operators to help them tap into the data across the social channels to inform their business decisions. This turns social review sites into your own data centre that can be squeezed to produce fresh insight-revealing trends and commonalities that can inform your offer. This doesn’t need to be overly complicated. At Feed It Back we have spent considerable time creating a seamless platform that renders social review data from Facebook, TripAdvisor and Google into easily digestible word clouds, displaying positive and negative sentiment. This can be integrated with post-meal surveys to create rich, robust and true data to inform decisions. This could be as simple as thickening a specific sauce because all the negative feedback aligns that particular dish with being too runny, or speeding the wait time between starters and mains because this is the main driver of complaints. It might seem simple stuff but it delivers a return for businesses that listen and act on it. This is your data and is available in the public domain. Third-party businesses such as delivery companies and booking platforms have been dining out on your data, so now is the time to reclaim it and harness its power. Track social reviews, influence your online reputation and tap into the insight that will help you get more people through the door.

Carlo Platia is founder of Feed It Back. For more information on how you can tap into the power of social review, email allears@


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combination of new technology, training and career development have been evolving in the sector, enabling hospitality to grow faster than any other industry since 2008. The sector has grown to such an extent that hospitality is now the third largest private sector employer in the UK – double the size of financial services and bigger than automotive, pharmaceuticals and aerospace combined. It’s vibrant and dynamic environment attracts people who are passionate about what they do, because they enjoy the flair and creativity of developing new dishes or drinks menus, working in a team environment to deliver excellent customer service and an out-of-home experience that is second to none. It’s fair to assume that very few make a career in catering and hospitality because they enjoy paperwork and sitting behind a desk. And, yet, the irony is that the more successful you become at running your hospitality business the more time you spend on administration, especially once you’ve expanded to multiple sites. Personnel Today reports that 60% of UK

employees are regularly engaged in timewasting tasks and a 2017 survey* found 400 million days a year are wasted on unnecessary office tasks, with 24% finding slow technology being a key hindrance. As well as standard business procedures such as recruitment, invoicing and payroll, hospitality operators must manage reservations and ticketing, EPOS and site maintenance and compliance in addition to a host of disproportionate regulation. With operators generally having a streamlined head office team, or time-poor general managers to manage these tasks, it’s easy to see the impact it can have on customer experience and loyalty. Imagine, therefore the impact of a technology system that helps streamline all the areas that are stopping you getting on with what you’re best at – and what you enjoy most. A system that reduces complexity and drives efficiencies by combining HR processes, event management, EPOS, finance, purchase to pay and even property maintenance with just one sign in.

That’s exactly what Access Workspace has been developed to provide. It cuts out the administrative nightmare of managing users across numerous systems and switching between applications which are slow, inefficient and laborious. Henry Seddon, managing director of Access Hospitality said: “Access Workspace gives hospitality sector operators a single view of key operational data in one location. It delivers multiple applications to a widespread workforce, streamlining management of everyone using it and enabling general managers to focus on the key information they need to make sure the business maintains its emphasis on delivering excellent customer service." A British Hospitality Association (later UKHospitality) Think Tank Report in 2018 noted that all payments will be incorporated seamlessly into a wider experience in the future, with some industry insiders predicting that making a payment as a separate action will soon become obsolete. If this rate of change is repeated across the different operating systems of a pub, bar, restaurant, food-to-go outlet or hotel, shouldn’t every hospitality business already be integrating its entire technology interface to stay ahead of the game? Access Workspace is the place to go to monitor and manage your entire hospitality environment at every level and provides the vital ingredient for thriving not just surviving in a challenging market. It gives you the freedom to do what you do best while simplifying and streamlining operating procedures, leaving staff with their enthusiasm boosted and customers enjoying a high level of satisfaction. Q Find out more 0845 340 4542

*Source 2017 Red Letter for Business Survey


How leaders build...

Professor Chris Edger says business leaders who nurture trust will be commercially rewarded, while financial punishment awaits those who abuse it


rust lies at the heart of all productive interpersonal relationships. Deep levels of trust occur when individuals possess a firm belief in the integrity, ability or effectiveness of someone or something. In the dispersed multi-unit hospitality world – where employees and teams work in isolation from the centre and their immediate bosses – it is achieved when the leadership of the organisation is emotionally intelligent enough (in spite of physical constraints) to close the psychological distance between itself and its units. But why is it important, what is the state of trust within business today, and how do leaders build it?

Why is trust important? One reason is humans have a primal instinct to survive. As Darwin observed more than 150 years ago, the survival and procreation of the human species depends not only on evolutionary adaptation but also on a sixth sense to identify and anticipate danger. In short – as further neurological and scientific investigation has proved – we are hard-wired to sense whether we trust or distrust someone or something based on natural instinct. It follows that leaders and managers must obey this irrefutable law of nature in their dealings with others and

act in a trustworthy manner if they want to develop productive relationships. Trust is also important because building it within organisations has proved a hard economic virtue that gives a business its competitive advantage. The Franklin Covey Institute, which has conducted an immense amount of analysis and work in this area, estimates high-trust companies are two-and-a-half times more likely to be high-performing revenue companies than low-trust companies. High-trust organisations with good climates have greater longevity, higher productivity, better retention and superior agility.

What is the state of trust in organisations today? According to Franklin Covey Institute research in 2016, less than half (49%) of employees “trusted” senior management

‘Trust is important because building it within organisations has proved a hard economic virtue that gives a business its advantage’

and a measly 28% believed chief executives were a “credible source of information”. Obviously business doesn’t operate in a vacuum – there has been a growing trend of declining trust in authority figures globally and a growing scepticism over “fake news”. For our industry, where almost two-thirds of employees are under 25, the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey that questioned 12,000 millennials and Generation Zs presented an equally dismal picture. Less than half (47%) believed business leaders were “committed to helping improve society”, three-quarters (75%) thought business leaders “focused on their own agenda rather than considering the wider society” and 62% said business leaders had “no ambition beyond wanting to make money”.

How do leaders build trust? A decade ago I founded the Academy of Multi-Unit Leadership, which has taught and developed more than 800 multi-site leaders from 22 leisure and hospitality companies on its post-graduate programmes. At the start of my service leadership module I always ask my multisite leaders to reflect on and discuss the qualities of hospitality leaders they admire. Trust always features at the top of the ▲ SPRING 2019 PROPEL QUARTERLY



‘Hospitality leaders who opt to build trust through being demonstrably credible, characterful, consistent, caring and clear can gain a real competitive advantage’

list – but how is it built? Here are the five main components, accompanied by living exemplars cited by academy students: CREDIBILITY Something established through perceived levels of knowledge, competence, capability, expertise, skills, results and track record. People are more apt to trust someone who has “been there and got the T-shirt” or “walked a mile in their shoes” than a “Johnny-cum-lately bullshitter”. Regarding the first two statements, Ian Payne and Simon Longbottom, chairman and chief executive of Stonegate Pub Company respectively, are mentioned regularly. They are both held in the highest regard as leaders who have travelled from “bar to boardroom” while retaining an infectious, messianic belief in the pub industry and those who work in it. CHARACTER Exhibiting virtues and values such as integrity, ethics, resilience, authenticity and humility. A leader’s ability to absorb pressure and treat people with grace while under sustained fire garners intense levels of love and loyalty from those they lead. Phil Urban, chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers, and Jens Hofma, chief executive of Pizza Hut, are highly admired


of 12,000 millennials and Generation Zs think business leaders focus on their own agenda rather than considering wider society 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey


for the tenacity and character they have shown while stabilising and growing their respective companies in extremely challenging circumstances. CONSISTENCY Steadfastly consistent in decisionmaking and delivering promises while being perceived as “firm but fair”. In the tenanted and leased world, Punch chief executive Clive Chesser is frequently cited by business managers on my programmes as someone who acts with an even hand, balancing the needs of his tenants/ lessees with the requirements of his business. CARE A genuine and heartfelt interest in the welfare, well-being and happiness of employees. Students cite many leaders but in addition to those above, McDonald’s chief executive Steve Easterbrook and JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin also stand out. In spite of recent events on the ground, both individuals are seen as being singularly vested in driving industryleading and generous training, development, progression, reward, bonus and incentive programmes resulting in high rates of retention, engagement and advocacy at all levels of their organisations. CLARITY With regards to purpose, meaning and


direction. Peter Borg-Neal, founder of Oakman Inns and Restaurants, and Bistrot Pierre founders Rob Beecham and John Whitehead are highly admired by our academy delegates for the simplicity, clarity and inspirational tone of their communications. Their people “get” and buy into what Peter, John and Rob are trying to achieve (albeit in different concepts) – delivering memorable service with delightful food and drink in iconic, stylish surroundings. In summary, trust is crucial in building and sustaining high-performance organisations. In society and across business in general, trust in authority figures is declining. However, hospitality leaders who opt to build trust through being demonstrably credible, characterful, consistent, caring and clear can gain a real competitive advantage. Trust is the fundamental foundation and cornerstone of all productive human relations. Nurture it as business leaders and you will be commercially rewarded – abuse it and you will be financially punished!

Dr Chris Edger is a lecturer, coach and multiple author on multi-site franchising, branded and service leadership. His latest book, Events Management – 87 Key Models For Event, Venue And Experience Managers, will be published in June

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Beating the January blues Ann Elliott looks at what brands did this year to gain traction to help them through the infamously difficult post-festive period


particularly enjoyed analysing what marketing brands in our sector did in December for Propel Opinion so it’s only right to take a look at the other side of the spectrum and see how brands made the most of the traditionally difficult first month of the year. With the usual cold snap well and truly set and consumers generally watching their wallets post-Christmas, eating out is arguably at its most unappealing in January. We all know this but the best brands in our sector never stop working to create demand.

Traction So what did brands do this year to get traction to help them through the infamously difficult January? Naturally a lot of brands offered 50% off food or mains and the premium end of the dining spectrum was by no means immune this year, with operators such as

Gusto, Chaophraya and The Alchemist opting for such promotions. The Botanist offered 40% off but, cleverly, only to those who downloaded its app, which helped drive interaction with its relatively new digital platform. Other premium venues that went all-in to induce customers included Cinnamon Club, which offered a £50 voucher for anyone returning to dine in January; Mayfair restaurant Stem, which offered its six-course set menu for half-price; and Refinery Manchester, which appealed to dieters and cash-strapped consumers by offering a low-calorie dish and glass of prosecco for less than £10.

Discounting There were, as ever, brands that tinkered slightly with the tried and tested half-price discount. Red’s True Barbecue took as novel an approach as one would expect

“Red’s True Barbecue took as novel an approach as one would expect – why offer 50% and stand in line with much of the sector when you can offer 51%?” 44


– why offer 50% and stand in line with much of the sector when you can offer 51%? Carluccio’s, meanwhile, opted for buy one main, get another for £1. However, the answer can’t always be to slash prices in half and, every year, some brands use January to positively differentiate. Veganuary, in particular, seems to have garnered a lot of brands’ attention.

Greggs’ vegan sausage roll Most Propel readers will have seen the social frenzy whipped up by Greggs’ launch of its vegan sausage roll – almost 50,000 likes on Twitter and more than 8,500 comments. What worked so well was its blunt, almost unapologetic tone on social media – vegans and advocates love Greggs championing vegan food in such a cavalier way, while the strong reaction from naysayers only serves to dial up awareness. So much so when Piers Morgan piped in with his say, Greggs was ready with its response. “Hello Piers, we’ve been expecting you” helped increase the social campaign’s lifespan and prompted Morgan to try the roll on air. Staying true to its offer and not knee-jerking at a polarising reaction helped Greggs win on social. ▲

Acid tongue?

Great hospitality is all about people 7KH TXDOLW\ RI \RXU SURGXFW DQG WKH HÉ?FLHQF\ RI \RXU SURFHVVHV DUH \RXU foundation – what separates you from the competition is how your people translate these into great guest experiences. Our client success team, many of whom have a background in hospitality, can work with you to identify opportunities to develop and empower your teams to deliver what your brand promises.

Food for thought at

Insight Veganuary

featuring longer happy hours, new events and – you guessed it – limited-edition Elsewhere, Las Iguanas offered two-forvegan cocktails. one on vegan mains throughout January, All Bar One celebrated Veganuary with an What was also noticeable was an “all about plant platter”, and Bill’s increased attention on alcohol-free launched a vegan set menu full of bars. Redemption Bar in London, for innovative ingredients such as seitan instance, featured in a number of “duck” salad. articles in industry and mainstream A multitude of brands are media and was the champion embracing vegan food and using of highlighting that Dry January as a starting point. January doesn’t Veganuary has really taken have to be boring! off and it’s no surprise the The New Year, UK has become the world New You theme of consumers were leader in the vegan food can be a most persuaded by market, according to powerful one, “percentage off” Mintel. Mintel’s research which prompted offers ranging stated almost one in ten some brands to from 20% to (9%) British diners would craft an offer 50% like to see more vegan items dedicated to allowing on menus, while more than customers to experiment in one-third (34%) of British meat-eaters January. YO! Sushi’s 2019 cut their meat consumption during the Resolution Menu had 40 specially first half of 2018. These compelling selected dishes for £3 in January alone, statistics have no doubt contributed to while Floral by Lima in Covent Garden more brands across all segments taking launched a January menu in collaboration Veganuary vegan food seriously. Frankie & Benny’s, with Instagrammer @lickyplate promoting at All Bar One Pret A Manger, TGI Friday’s, Malmaison, “retox” rather than “detox” Café Rouge, Zizzi and McDonald’s all Instagrammable and indulgent dishes. introduced new vegan options on menus But how does all this align with Almost one-fifth (17%) of consumers in January. customer expectations? To find out more find two-for-one deals a persuasive offer Costa Coffee also launched a January about discounts and offers in January, I to visit a restaurant in January but adding menu offering lacto-free milk and now has carried out a micro-survey of 100 value to a visit as opposed to discounting seven milk options – by all accounts it is consumers to see what they felt would gets note too – a free item such as a the first major coffee chain to offer most influence them to visit a drink, dessert, meal, samples or lacto-free milk but supported this by restaurant specifically in children eat free was a key revamping its food menu, which mainly January. promotion to attract consisted of new lunchtime recipes. We found almost customers in January for three-fifths (59%) of 12% of respondents – Veganuary hasn’t displaced Dry of consumers consumers planned to especially 35 to 44-yearJanuary, of course, and usual suspects planned to dine dine out less than five olds. such as JD Wetherspoon rightly offered out less than times in January, not a lot discounts to try to buck the January trend. Only a minority (3%) of of occasions to penetrate. Others took a more interesting approach. respondents said they were five times in The cold, hard numbers Be At One promoted a “balanced” looking for offers or menus January do work it seems. Almost half January, embracing the hashtag that specifically supported (45%) of consumers were most #yesyoucan on Twitter and running Veganuary – expect that number persuaded by “percentage off” offers competitions and yoga classes alongside to rise next year. ranging from 20% to 50%. With most its cocktails. Dirty Martini did something So what convinced consumers to revisit attracted by 50% deals there is a similar, with its “support a restaurant in January? More than resonance to it but perhaps that’s due to squad” campaign one-quarter (27%) of consumers were the plethora of brands running such deals. encouraged by a monetary discount – Veganuary at This is driven by 25 to 34-year-olds and 35 again that 50% off – but we found this All Bar One to 44-year-olds. Here are some comments: appealed more to females (27%) than males. Be warned, though, almost “I have had a few 50% off coupons already one-third of consumers (32%) said they this month” had yet to see anything that convinced “If they had a percentage off a them to revisit a restaurant! meal or generous discount code No doubt we’ll all read Propel during I might visit, otherwise I’m not the next couple of months fearful for the interested” fortunes of peers in our sector. These are “It is tough in January, perhaps good tough times but, as ever, tough times discount might tempt me in?” present opportunity for those innovative “I tend to use Groupon when it brands to stand tall. Bad times don’t last, comes to offers for dining this good brands do! month as it means lower prices



but still being able to get that dining experience”



Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliotts, the leading integrated marketing agency in the hospitality and leisure sector






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In our nature

Paul Chase looks at the reasons why people drink alcohol and why others want to stop them


et us look at why people drink. For most drinkers, can create that “feel-good factor” – but moderate drinking is alcohol consumption is both a pleasure and relief, an efficient and reliable way of doing so and doesn’t require the a way of lightening their mood after a hard day at same effort! work or celebrating a special event. Alcohol is used If the consumption of fermented liquids is important for as a celebrant and for a variety of purposes that are both bonding and friendships, these in turn have hidden benefits – commonplace and special. To a public health official this health and susceptibility to disease, how quickly we recover from normalisation of alcohol is frustrating – why do people drink if it’s surgery and longevity are all influenced by the number of friends so bad for them? we have. One study by psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad collated results from 148 studies of heart attack victims Evolutionary biologists see it differently. Like all monkeys and the best predictor of surviving the 12 months and apes, humans are social and the disinhibiting “Like all after a first heart attack was the number and quality effects of alcohol help us bond and form friendships of the patient’s friends. This was more important – but it does more than that. The alcohol in beer or monkeys and apes, than giving up smoking or losing weight. wine, for example, triggers that part of our brain humans are social and involved in building and maintaining friendships. Writing in the Financial Times, evolutionary the disinhibiting effects This mechanism is called the endorphin system. biologist Professor Robin Dunbar wrote: of alcohol help us bond The word “endorphin” is itself a contraction of “While the role of alcohol in sustaining the two words – “endogenous” and “morphine”. friendship networks that provide us with and form friendships Endorphins are neurotransmitters that have opiatepsychological and emotional support is crucial, – but it does more like effects and are involved in the management of the endorphins triggered by what we do with than that” pain and creating a feeling all is well with the world. friends may have hidden benefits. They appear This feeling of well-being in turn facilitates bonded to tune the immune system by activating the body’s relationships that allow people to trust each other. T-cells – part of the defence mechanism that gives us resistance to many common ailments.” Friendships protect us from outside threats and internal stresses – this has been key to our evolutionary success. Primate Patrick McGovern, from the University of Pennsylvania social groups, unlike many other animals, rely on bonding to Museum, has found residues of fermentation in clay vessels in maintain social coherence. There are, of course, many activities China dating back more than 8,000 years. One emerging view is that can trigger our endorphin system – exercise, for example, the reason humans started cultivating wheat and barley was ▲



Opinion not for making bread but to make a gruel that could be fermented and turned into alcohol. Therefore, it seems reasonable to propose alcohol has played a role in our evolution and facilitated human bonding for millennia. It is, of course, not the only intoxicant that triggers our endorphin system but its widespread use, in moderation, seems to meet a fundamental human need – the need to change our consciousness. Seen in this light, puritanical campaigns in favour of abstinence, whether by persuasion or compulsion, fly in the face of a deeply embedded evolutionary impulse.

But if their anti-alcohol stance is anchored in a much wider puritanical religious belief system that disapproves of any kind of pleasure-seeking because they perceive it as coarsening humanity and an affront to God, changing their position on alcohol becomes more problematic because so much more is at stake. We’re asking that person not just to change a belief but to resign their adherence to a belief system in which they may have a lifetime of intellectual and emotional investment. Likewise, if a person’s opposition to alcohol is not simply about the harm excessive consumption can cause but is anchored in a political ideology that characterises the alcohol industry as a conspiracy by consumer capitalism to addict Why do some people want to stop us drinking? millions to a drug, then persuading them to change a belief After laying out the benefits, there are legitimate concerns over about alcohol means they also have to resign their broader the effects of excessive alcohol consumption on health, crime political ideology. Religion and ideology serve to armour and disorder, and society in general. There are people within cause-oriented people against rational argument by raising the and outside the medical community who dedicate their lives stakes. In terms of their emotional and intellectual investment in to helping those who have become addicted to alcohol. These a stance, it becomes so much more difficult for them to resign people have genuine social concerns and it’s not my intention to from it. This is how rational perspective is lost and emotionally ridicule or denigrate their efforts. anchored dogma is formed. However, there are others who dedicate their lives and I use the term “alcophobia” to careers to obsessing about alcohol. indicate an antipathy to beverage They inflate and emotionalise alcohol that is a manifestation of its dangers; issue dire warnings puritanical sentiment – whether about the consequences of religiously or ideologically inspired alcohol consumption, even in tiny – and exacerbated by deeply-held quantities; and tell downright fears and views related variously lies about harms caused even by to race, class, cultural identity and, moderate consumption because latterly, to anti-capitalism; fears that they believe the ends justify the serve to inflate their opposition means. All this is done with the to alcohol use beyond anything intention of achieving prohibition people with fewer hang-ups would by stealth. For these people, the consider rational. suppression of alcohol is part of a much wider political agenda. In any society there will always be people who, for whatever I believe these are often strange reason, are deeply unhappy and people who possess a particular seek escape by taking everyday psychology – one that is obsessive pleasures such as drinking to a selfand compulsive, impervious to destructive extreme. The same may reason and which impels them to be said of gambling, illegal drugs be cause-oriented as a means of or video games. Likewise, there filling their lives. I call these people will always be a minority of people “alcophobes”. opposed to all such pleasures (puritans). I believe it is also true Cause-orientation and to say that while only a minority ideological rabbit holes of people are opposed to all Why do people fight for “causes”? pleasurable forms of consumption, The simple explanation is they are passionate about their beliefs The down hill road. Temperance print showing a young man possibly a majority are opposed to and seek to effect change to taking leave of his mother, giving in to alcohol, and ending in at least one form. It seems part of make the world a better place. the grave over which his mother mourns. lithograph ca. 1878 the human condition that people believe if they dislike an activity it Fighting for causes has often been entitles them to write a moral prescription for everyone else. a progressive activity that has improved the human condition We see this manifested in an increasingly organised way by but there is a line dividing passionate belief from irrational Public Health England, whose obsession with controlling the obsession. What causes that line to be crossed is the anchoring lifestyle decisions of the masses has seen a paternalistic and of belief in puritanical religion or sentiment or secular ideologies controlling agenda move from tobacco to alcohol, gambling, that are puritanical in nature. The UK temperance movement sugar and now wholesale interference in the food chain. All that began in the 1830s was inspired by ascetic forms of this is underpinned by junk science that seeks to generate a Protestantism. Today’s neo-temperance movement is inspired permanently alarmed public opinion by creating moral panics by anti-capitalism or outright Marxism – an ideology that shares around imaginary “epidemics” and “timebombs” – obesity, many of the characteristics of puritanical religious belief. childhood obesity, binge-drinking and so on. Of course no How does religion or ideology cause people to cross the line moral panic is ever complete without the statement it threatens between passionate belief and the sort of swivel-eyed, antito “bankrupt the NHS”. There is no better way of getting alcohol fanaticism we see daily on Twitter and other social media? politicians to respond to the call “something must be done” We need to understand how a belief becomes anchored in a than to invoke a threat to our national religion. belief system. If an individual expresses the view drinking alcohol is bad for health, causes crime and disorder, and it would be better if people just stopped and embraced abstinence, it might Paul Chase is director of CPL Training and a still be possible to convince them alcohol can’t be disinvented, leading commentator on alcohol and health while there’s no realistic prospect of population-wide abstinence. policy. This article is an extract from Paul Therefore, might these people be more effective campaigning Chase’s new book Alcophobia – An Exploration for moderate consumption instead? A person who was thus Of Puritanism And The Alcohol Issue, which persuaded to change their belief has resigned the means but not the ends of the cause for which they are fighting. will be published shortly



Conference Overview

PEOPLE & TRAINING CONFERENCE Insights editor Mark Wingett looks at highlights from the People and Training Conference, organised by the British Institute of Innkeeping and Propel

Buzzworks Holdings managing director Kenny Blair


enny Blair, managing director of Buzzworks Holdings, which has appeared in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies To Work For list for three consecutive years, talked about the company’s unique approach to its staff. This includes supporting personal growth through training and development programmes, encouraging charitable activities, a hands-on leadership team, and flexible working contracts. Buzzworks operates 11 venues with two in the pipeline and employs 520 staff, only 25 of them non-UK residents. Staff turnover was 45% last year, and less than 5% at senior level. Blair said the firm’s “people culture” would help staff grow alongside the business. He said: “Personal growth is linked to business growth. In the last Sunday Times list, 92% of our staff said their job was good for personal growth. Because we’re good at communicating, every person in the business knows we’re growing and we want all our people to grow with us. “We don’t just want to hit turnover of £40m, we want to be proud of how we got there – that’s really important to us. When we set out our vision, the first thing we wanted to be world class in was our people culture. We knew if we wanted to build a large-scale hospitality business, we would have to employ a lot of people and creating the right culture would be key to success. We want the personality of our people to shine through – it emphasises the importance we put on two-way

British Institute of Innkeeping chairman and Yummy Pub Co founder Anthony Pender told delegates the training landscape needs to change.


e said: “This time last year we were pondering the Apprenticeship Levy, what it was going to look like and what it was going to mean for the sector. I think it’s safe to say this year we are in a position where costs are escalating in our businesses, there’s a big pot of money sitting with government we need to be spending, and a lot of uncertainty on the way.

communication and the attitude we take to feedback from our people and customers.” The company holds six-monthly road shows in which directors visit each venue to obtain feedback and every employee fills in an anonymous survey on how they view the company. Buzzworks is scoring an employee net promoter score of 53%, while its engagement score is 83%. The company also makes sure every staff member has a clear idea of how their venue is performing. Blair said: “The communication is simple, even the cleaners understand it, green is good and red is bad. It should be a two-way conversation. The core aim our people came up with was to make people great through hospitality and the order we put the people in our business in was – our people, our customers, our suppliers, our community and our stakeholders. We created focus groups to find our core values, ditched the previous ten and came up with three – grow forward together, care with flair, and value every voice. “We have a suggestions scheme, because the best ideas come from those closest to the customer. We have also created a culture book, which is a great way to get new people in the business to know what Buzzworks is about.” The company’s training philosophy is based on teaching each other. Blair said: “My vision for the business is if we have 520 staff, we have 520 teachers – 92% of our people say their job is good for personal growth. All directors undergo external training and get placed out of their comfort zone to test them.” The company is also trying to tackle the

age-old problem of improving the work-life balance in a business that operates seven days a week. Blair said: “We came up with six small steps our people told us were very important to achieve the right balance. The first was to reduce the working week. We did this by two hours without affecting pay – it was the equivalent of an extra week’s holiday. We were happy to sacrifice shortterm profit to gain reduced staff turnover, lower recruitment costs, lower training costs and, ultimately. better service to the customer. I would like to reduce the working week again over the next five years, difficult though that might seem. “We then offered a four-day week to our full-time people, although it doesn’t suit a lot of them. We also pledge to give 12 weekends off a year and we only ask our full-time people to do three nights a week. Time back in lieu has been one of the most popular measures. People know if they have to work extra they will get that back at some point. Another area they said was important was the ability to plan ahead so we publish work schedules more in advance.” The last thing the company introduced was a “love life” form, where staff can request regular weekly time off to do something important such as picking up children from school, playing golf with friends or having a date. Future plans include creating an employee profit share and ownership scheme and forging closer links with schools and colleges. Blair said: “Despite challenges at present, my vision is for an industry that not only provides well-paid jobs and a work-life balance but also training where a life-time career is not only a possibility but an aspiration. We try to have fun in everything we do.”

“We are all evaluating what we do and trying to save money. We’re in that danger zone where we can end up trying to cut corners with staffing and training but at the same time it’s about how we adapt our businesses. “It’s really important to look at how we’re going to adapt technology, how property and external forces come in and affect our people, and how we deliver what the customers expects from us. “At Yummy Pubs we have moved from 140 staff to 110 and, probably like a lot

of businesses, we are going to end up with less staff but paying them a hell of a lot more money and investing more in their training. The big buzzword at the moment is ‘productivity’. “Last year we made Yummy’s training system, including workbooks and learning structures, available to all. We have seen almost 16,000 downloads of our workbooks, more than 600 of them from the US, which shows UK hospitality is leading the world.” ▲



Conference Overview Propel managing director Paul Charity talked to JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin about his “people philosophy” PC: I’ve heard you say in the past that apart from John Lewis and its staff profitsharing scheme, there’s no-one else publicly-listed that shares as much profit as Wetherspoon. Is that right? TM: Yes it is. About 20 years ago I read a book by Walmart founder Sam Walton, who paid 5% of people’s salaries into a retirement fund. This helped staff enormously because they couldn’t touch the money and were paid in shares so it really built up. He said he deeply regretted not starting the scheme earlier so we decided to copy it and give everyone about 5% in shares and we’ve done that since. Although it’s not much for each individual, it adds up to about half our post-tax profits so it’s a lot for the company. In a highly labour-intensive business such as the pub trade, we paid out £43m last year. No individual gets a huge amount, but it still matters. PC: You now have 11,000 employees holding shares in the company out of a total of circa 40,000. Do you think that has helped staff retention?

the stock market for 28 years and our profits have gone from £2m to £107m and we still get pilloried by influential people. PC: Two of your board members – John Hutson and Su Cacioppo – have served the company for 25 years. How do you quantify the importance of longevity to a business?

TM: I think it does help. A lot of people when they start don’t know if they intend to TM: In the pub trade it works really well stay and are only eligible for the shares after if you can get people to stay for a long 18 months. Most people time. They understand the ‘‘We’re trying then sign up for the shares business, have seen things but can’t sell them for three to speak to the before, retain some loyalty years so a lot of them get the business, and their people who will to a pleasant surprise four or relatives often work for the run the company business. Our pub managers five years later despite never having understood shares have been with us on 25, 50 years very well, which many people 11 to 12 years, which down the line and average don’t. But it has definitely means other staff think if that telling them what guy has worked here for that worked. We have one chap who has never sold a share period of time, it can’t be too we’ve learned’’ and has worked for us for 30 bad a company. If you can years. He has £1m of Wetherspoon shares get people to stay around for a long time, and runs a pub. For a lot of people, though, it’s a good thing. they are a deposit for a house. I sometimes shudder when shares are used for a world PC: Su Cacioppo started as a pub shift cruise but the scheme is definitely a plus! manager in 1991 and is now on the board. Does that send a message to staff that the PC: Have you ever had push-back from company is good at recognising talent? institutional shareholders who say you’re sharing too much profit with staff? TM: Ben Whitley has worked for the company for 15 to 16 years. He started TM: Over the years I have, particularly if working in our pubs, transferred to the there’s been a downturn. In 2003-04, a lot of head office a few years later, qualified as an pub companies got into trouble. Our trade accountant and now he’s finance director. wasn’t great and we were paying out a lot of People say to me: “He took a long time to money for shares. One quite famous analyst qualify.” I say: “Yes, but he is good at sums said Wetherspoon was too generous to staff, and that’s what counts!” which if you look at things in one year can be true. However, if you can make it work over PC: You invested £20m in hourly paid five, ten, 20 years, it’s a benefit. We said our levels for staff last year with a further £27m profits would be down on last year because planned for this year. What will this mean we upped pay and there’s an article in the for hourly-paid staff? Do you like to be Financial Times criticising us. We’ve been on ahead of the market in this respect?



TM: It’s a tricky area for anyone running a pub or restaurant. With supermarkets, it’s 10p a pint for wages, for us it’s more like 35p a pint so a hell of a lot of our turnover goes into wages. We are a bigger company so we try to pay more and try to be ahead of the game. When the National Living Wage was introduced it was a terrible thing for pubs because politicians are in competition to see who can introduce the highest wage level. It really helped supermarkets versus pubs. When they first brought out the National Living Wage, we were already paying quite a bit more than that. What we did recently was push our wages up so they are above the level the government will apply in April. We aren’t talking megabucks but we’re paying ahead and paying bonuses in addition. There have been a lot of times over the years when people have said: “If we take away the bonus we can go to £9 an hour and it won’t cost us anything.” We are going to keep the bonuses for 50, 100 years. We are going to bite the bullet and pay. PC: Part of your employee development plan involves what you call “lifetime training”, what is that? TM: It’s what it says on the tin – we’re trying to train people for a lifetime. At the start of the year we said we were going to run 15 training sessions for the top 100 staff at Wetherspoon. We took a book, by Sam Walton again, and we all went away, read it and had a meeting where we went through it to see how it applied to us. These were our most senior guys, with a combined 2,000 years of experience in the room at the first meeting. We have done seven of those so far. That’s training for all of us, me included. We’re trying to speak to the people who will run the company 25, 50 years down the line and telling them what we’ve learned.

Conference Overview PC: You’ve gone from operating one pub in Muswell Hill to having 40,000 staff and 900 pubs. How many times have you felt challenged by the need to learn new skills and what has the journey been like in terms of upskilling? TM: The first two or three years at the first pub was a nightmare, most of what I presumed I knew about business as a 24-year-old proved to be error strewn. There were vast learning curves. Opening a second pub was another big learning curve as you’re not spending time at the first. Having ten pubs was another big learning curve because suddenly you need an area manager to run the business so your influence diminishes. Dealing with banks was massive and deadly! If you get that relationship wrong you are dead in the water. There’s a tremendous amount to learn but if you look at the good businessmen and women over the years, the most important question is “what do you think”? PC: How would you characterise your management style? TM: Don’t criticise, issue praise and appeal to a person’s good side. Say thank you and realise you know damn all about pubs compared with the people who run them day to day. Write down what they say, do ten pub visits a week, take back what they say to head office and say this is what I’ve been told, do you agree? What we manage to do is get all the information in the pubs and use it to make small adjustments. PC: How difficult have you found it while growing the business to 40,000 staff to delegate key tasks to key people?

meal with the powers that be then come in for a series of meetings the next day. We make dozens of decisions and sometimes we can’t decide. Area managers and pub managers often take a different view. Everything can be approved in these meetings, from the design of a poster to the colour of a coffee cup. All the decisions get raked over in this two-hour meeting then the pub managers have a separate meeting with Su and area managers have a meeting with me followed by a separate meeting. The great thing is, and I say this to Su, John and Ben, what we have to show is we aren’t frightened about our ideas being overturned. I come up with a lot of ideas myself and about 70% are rejected and 90% of the rest are modified. Now and again one of mine gets through! Coming off social media was my idea, but I had to fight for it. We got rid of it and our sales have gone up. PC: You also have a scheme called Tell Tim, which encourages staff to offer suggestions. What’s the best one you’ve received? TM: The best ones are where they say: “If we could change the description on the kitchen screens when people order a burger without gherkins, it would be much clearer for kitchen teams.” It only saves about 20 seconds per order but that’s 20 seconds multiplied by millions of transactions, so we focus on those. PC: You plan to move managers to a 40-hour week. I presume this is part of an ongoing push to get the best work-life balance for your staff? A 40-hour week in the historical context of the pub trade is a short working week isn’t it?

TM: You need to find a formula that suits you. What works for me is I only go to head office one day a week, where I have meetings with pub and area managers and a couple with the finance team and cover all the major bases in one day. I go around our pubs two days a week. Ideas I gain from the tours are put in the agenda of the head office meetings. I’m perfectly happy to delegate the day-to-day running of the business to other people because I know the things I’m hearing from staff are being taken up. That combination has worked for me.

TM: Straight shifts, 40 hours is a short working week. We are a commercial company and we hope by doing that sort of thing people will be more highly motivated, have more energy, and want to stay with us longer. We also hope it will encourage more people to apply for jobs with us.

PC: You sent me notes from one of your recent pub visits. They mention a big operations meeting which, I believe, involves people from across Wetherspoon. How important is it to involve people from all levels of the company in that?

TM: It must be a factor but it’s an area where you can never be complacent because, if your costs go up too much, you soon get people on your back. The art is to push the sales forward so you can bear the cost. As the years go by you have to try to make your customers a bit better off – don’t put your prices up as much as inflation if you can and try to make your staff better off as well. That’s what the great companies do. You have to run a business with the long term in mind.

TM: They are key. They happen every Thursday and notes from my pub visits are part of a 100-page agenda. The night before the meeting, shift managers, kitchen managers and other staff have a

PC: Pub manager retention is now at 12 years, compared with seven years and one month ten years ago. Is this down to the benefits on offer and the way staff are treated?

Trail managing director and founder Joe Cripps


oe Cripps, managing director and founder of hospitality smart checklist app Trail, talked about maximising the service profit chain and how behavioural economics can find the flaws in us all. He said: “There is a lot of doom and gloom and we’ve seen rises in business rates and food prices but the subject most relevant for us is staff. Not just because staff costs have increased with the minimum wage but also the fact availability of staff is declining. “We know immigration is declining so the question is, how do you do the best you can with what you have and optimise your current staff? Aristotle put it as: ‘Excellence is not an act but a habit.’ During 2018-19, almost one-third (30%) of our customers opened new sites. This is a substantial increase so there are positive stories in the industry but what are those guys doing that everyone else is failing to do?” Cripps said he spent a year working in Pret A Manger’s head office, where the company took a checklist approach to staff training through a detailed book entitled Pret Pages. He said: “Pret has created a culture of excellence around its daily routine. It’s this idea Trail is trying to push the boundary on. Organisations aren’t the sum of books head office gives out – operations manuals, training material –your company isn’t running on those things, organisations are the sum of their historical habits. Across a multi-site business those inconsistencies and bad habits build up and can damage all the work you’re putting in at head office. Legacy processes can cost you. Have an operational audit, ask your general managers to go through every daily process and you’ll probably find one at each site from a former member of staff that’s still being followed. Cripps said producing the best customer experience was about staff on the floor being able to deal with new situations in front of them without having to worry about menial back-of-house tasks. He said: “Organisations need to focus on the jobs and routines in their sites. It could be something as simple as a team brief. What we’re looking for is a keystone habit, something that can change the organisation as a whole. In a time of crisis old habits, and habits in general, can be suspended. An organisation can seem to be malleable. As a leader you can suspend the traditional hierarchies, go back to the sites and say to staff ‘let’s work this out together’.” ▲ SPRING 2019 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Conference Overview CPL Online chief commercial officer Jamie Campbell


amie Campbell, chief commercial officer of online training and staff engagement business CPL Online, which is part of CGA, shared findings from the company’s Business Leaders survey. Unsurprisingly, 99% said engaged and motivated staff were “important” or “very important” to the success of their business. Campbell said key challenges included staff retention and availability, with 92% fearing decreased availability of kitchen staff, followed by front-of-house teams (88%) and other staff (87%). Regarding Brexit, almost threequarters (71%) of leaders said they had seen a negative effect on their business – 80% food-led versus 60% wet-led – while 36% said they had passed increased costs on to consumers. Campbell said: “We have seen price inflation during the past five years and it hasn’t necessarily had an impact on the frequency of eating out. However with spend being squeezed, we’re at a point where those incremental price increases are not only chipping away at frequency but are also more likely to have an impact on people’s expectations of the experience they are likely to receive. If you are going to charge more money, you have to improve your service standards

Bill’s head of HR Charley O’Toole


ead of HR Charley O’Toole outlined Bill’s innovative approach to training, including its apprenticeship programme, which offers industry-recognised Level 2 hospitality diplomas. She said the company’s heritage was important to the way the business grew, while it kept its ethos alive through its people. She said: “At Bill’s, we’re lucky founder Bill Collinson is such a big part of our business and culture. We don’t believe people development just sits with the people team, it’s something the whole business needs to get involved in to make it consistent. “We want to ensure our internal talent is identified quickly and given opportunities to progress while attracting the best talent who see us as a potential career, not just a job. We assess our talent through our talent matrix, and those with high potential can apply for a development programme with full support from their operations manager, head chef and general manager. This leads to the assessment centre, which is led by every head of department and

and everything that goes with it.” Regarding planning ahead for Brexit, two-fifths (40%) of leaders have invested in apprenticeship schemes and 73% in staff training and retention. More than four-fifths (81%) said offering a high-quality experience was essential to drive customer visits, followed by service (72%), value for money (70%), value for experience (69%) and food quality (63%). Less than two-fifths (36%) of business leaders perceive employee engagement in their business as “good”. Campbell said this was “concerning” but added: “What it does mean is there’s a lot of opportunity. There’s a strong correlation between good service and overall satisfaction so if we can train better to give good service, that produces a positive virtuous circle. Through CGA’s BrandTrack insight, we’ve calculated if you can convert a customer from being ‘satisfied’ to ‘very satisfied’, it results in £1.37 extra per visit. An extra visit every six months can be turned into an incremental spend of £21.22.” Campbell highlighted staff knowledge also leads to better trust in a brand. He said: “At the average brand, those who deem themselves ‘very satisfied’ with

staff knowledge are five times more likely to describe the brand as one they trust. At the average eating-out brand, 33% of customers are very satisfied with how friendly the staff are – with a further 47% satisfied – while 30% of customers are very satisfied with how knowledgeable the staff are (43% satisfied). Again it is important to work out what’s the headroom for improvement. If we benchmark this against general satisfaction there is room to grow, especially around staff knowledge, with 38% of customers at the average brand very satisfied in general at the average eatingout brand.” How does this translate to training teams? Campbell said: “Micro-learning will play a big part, whether shorts clips or infograms, as well as social learning via a number of platforms to get direct engagement with teams. Gamification is also an avenue to explore – pit teams versus teams, job title versus job title, but making it engaging, quick and simple. Finally, look at data-driven learning with an opportunity to link data to training. People are your biggest lever – hoping they improve is not a strategy, giving them tools to improve is.”

operations managers. This is probably the only formal part of our process.” Bill’s assessment day breaks down into four parts – a competency-based interview based on company values, a group activity monitored by heads of departments, a presentation based on current objectives, and a profit-and-loss quiz so they have an understanding of the business. O’Toole said: “We are firm believers there is nothing worse than mismanaging people who are unsuccessful or missing their potential. If you don’t pass the assessment, that’s not a failure, just a need for further development.” Bill’s core values – love is all you need, food comes first, taking the lead, doing it our way, and obsessed with detail – form the content for each assessment. More than two-fifths (84%) of people who took the last course were promoted, some during the course. Bill’s also continually asks itself how it can encourage younger generations to try a career in hospitality. O’Toole said: “We listen to see how these generations want training delivered, there’s no point trying to second guess. In many cases the training we deliver hasn’t changed. We had to make our training materials easily

accessible so they could be undertaken commuting, travelling or at home. Some like self-learning while others like to be taken on a journey, this is why we wanted a blended approach to training.” O’Toole said recognition and an engagement culture play a significant part in Bill’s development. She said: “We created Facebook group Bill’s Backyard and three-quarters of our workforce are on there. This is a great way for our teams to communicate and share the weird and wonderful things they are doing in their restaurants. It also provides peer recognition, which is so powerful. This brings a lot of joy to the business, especially in the darker months when we’re pushing sales. “We also operate a platform, Bill’s Hub, which is dedicated to internal communication and benefits. Each employee can access thousands of discounts and get employee assistance for any part of their life. We need to make each employee feel individual through effective training and development programmes. Be bespoke and adapt to employees’ learning needs. Learn from what you deliver – know how you can grow and change without changing the basics. We learned from our mistakes when expanding so quickly – this year is about consistency across the entire company.” ▲



MYSTERY.CO.UK / Tel 020 7046 6111 @brandsbymystery

Conference Overview 16 Hospitality managing director Edward Barlow


dward Barlow, managing director of 16 Hospitality, talked about the company’s approach to developing its people through its Hub programme. Hub welcomes recruits regardless of age, background and experience as the company’s people culture is about “not judging our books by their covers, we like to dig a little deeper”, while providing an environment to “untap potential”. Barlow said: “We use the analogy of a rowing race. If we want to win, what do we need to do to be able to row our boat quicker than anyone else? We need a good boat, a bit of luck and, most importantly, we need to have the right people in the boat in the first place. “We have to get the right team, get them to work together and give them the skills to get that boat going quicker than anyone else. We use this analogy regularly in our business, it provides focus. When our people are looking at our competition and things that can have an impact on the business, we talk about getting their eyes in the boat and concentrating on what they can do to make the boat go faster. “ Barlow admitted his philosophy as an area manager 15 years ago was if sales and commercial performance weren’t good enough, “the first thing you did was cut

Yapster founder Rob Liddiard


apster founder Rob Liddiard revealed some key findings from CODE’s Happiness in Hospitality Report 2018, which surveyed UK hospitality staff attitudes to issues such as work-life balance, training and well-being, and discussed the role HR and operational leaders can play in creating more engaged workforces. Liddiard said: “What levers can you pull to make people feel great about working for you so they stick around for a meaningful period of time? You can’t have hospitality without happy people. The survey found after year one average staff turnover dropped from 40% to 24% for front of house and 48% to 24% for back-of-house staff. The average UK worker changes job every five years.” Liddiard said there would always be a degree of transience in the hospitality sector but the majority of people didn’t go to another industry but another job in the sector. He said: “They are taking a punt the business across the road is doing a better job of delivering on the employee promise – just 7% said they moved jobs for better pay. Opportunities for personal development elsewhere (38%), lack of support from their current


the training budget”. He said: “That was the easiest thing to do. I am embarrassed about that now. What was the legacy of that decision? The next year was harder because we didn’t have the right skills in the business. Five years later I began coaching rugby for different ages and ability. I learnt some principles I use in my business today – the right attributes, right environment (physical and social), best resources and great opportunities equal growth.” As an example, Barlow spoke about Leanne, someone who joined the business near the beginning although she had been kicked out of school and had a difficult home life. He said: “We saw a steely determination in her. We started her on our Rookie Journey for people who haven’t been in the hospitality sector. They have to have two key traits to go on this journey – can they get out of bed in the morning and do they have a genuine passion for people? This includes formal qualifications such as NVQs and our own online training platform, which has 120 modules. We also take them on Rookie Days such as a trip up Snowdonia or encourage them to try new things. They learn some basic personal skills. “We have a Rookie Graduation Night at the end of the process. Last year, Leanne became our Rookie of the Year. She was invited to join the head office on our

first international food and drink trip to Bologna. She is now a training supervisor at one of our sites.” Barlow also highlighted another member of his team, Nigel, who had been a night supervisor at a hotel for 20 years. Barlow said: “He came to us to see if he could improve. We put him in a restaurant environment and he struggled so we sat him down and talked to him about his aspirations, his development and how we might be able to help. We started to take him on some of our Hub Days, which is where we take people out and put them in situations they wouldn’t normally find themselves in. We test them and sometimes there are tears, often a lot of laughter. We do some team-building, cook food on top of mountains, sea fishing. “Nigel really learnt when he went on our future leaders course, which is about self-analysis, belief, looking at leadership and different management traits. Nigel now holds the keys to our busiest site, which turns over £1.7m a year. In three years he has gone from the bumbling guy to running a significant hospitality business. “We put 4% of our turnover back into our people. Why? Like-for-like turnover is up, company turnover is up, number of sites up, number of opportunities for our employees up, Ebitda up, employee engagement up, guest satisfaction up, tips as percentage of sales up, TripAdvisor scores up, employee satisfaction up, hopes for the future up, and employee turnover down.”

employer (22%) and incompatibility with their manager (12%) were much more important. Although we think the perception of a long-term career in the sector is poor externally, perhaps we aren’t taking it as seriously as we should internally because people believe we aren’t investing in their careers. Your team want to help their peers and learn from them too – 87% of respondents would like to be a mentor and 85% would like to be mentored. Here we have a perfectly matched market place. What they need is leaders and an HR strategist to create that market place.” Liddiard said staff wanted a safe and pleasant working environment, with 90% of respondents experiencing or witnessing abuse during their career. One in three have received unwanted communications from colleagues and 40% didn’t feel comfortable turning to their employer for help. The average rating for worklife balance was six out of ten, with lack of a support network the second most-common cause of burn-out, after workload. Liddiard said: “The good news is

many of the main issues that make staff unhappy can be fixed with changes in thinking or behaviour rather than significant investment – feeling valued and respected, being recognised for a job well done, availability and accessibility of managers and senior leaders, and chances to learn and do new things. “Employee engagement isn’t about lavish benefits and hammocks, or even after-work drinks, it’s about genuine twoway dialogue between the company and its employees. If you don’t know what the problems are, you can’t fix them. If you don’t hear about the great work going on in your teams, you can’t praise and reward them for it. “Communication isn’t all about peer to peer, it’s also about transformative leadership. People want to hear from their business leaders – share a recent piece of feedback (good or bad) you received with the wider team; think of someone you know doing a good job and tell them; create a 30 to 60-minute slot in your weekly schedule and let your teams know they can reach you at that time with any questions or issues.”


Conference Overview London Olympics customer services strategist Linda Moir


inda Moir, who created the customer services strategy at the London Olympics and was director of customer services at Virgin Atlantic, talked about motivating staff through effective leadership. She explained when Virgin Atlantic started with one aeroplane and circa 100 staff, it had to find a way to appeal to business customers. She said: “It was very innovative and tried to do the small things differently. For example, when the inflight film started, the cabin crew brought round ice creams – so the first part of the equation is an innovative product. “The second, more important part of the equation is delivering a great customer experience by wrapping that product with brilliant human service. I built the cabin crew workforce from 3,500 to 5,500. When I joined, the culture was very collaborative. When we launched our first flat bed in business class, a few months later Singapore Airlines launched its own with a better product. However, even though Singapore’s product was better, when you added in our service levels we won an award that year.” When Moir joined Virgin from British Airways she carried out some simple research on what customers were saying about cabin crew service at both airlines. She said: “When we asked about BA, consumers said the onboard service was very professional but if you wanted something different, generally you wouldn’t get it as the crew wouldn’t deviate from procedure. However, Virgin customers thought its onboard crew was fun, informal and sexy but inconsistent. We all struggle

Mitchells & Butlers HR director Susan Martindale


usan Martindale, Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) HR director, talked about the company’s approach to developing people and its apprenticeship programme. She said M&B’s people strategy focused on four key themes – attracting and recruiting the best people, effective team onboarding, identifying and developing talent, and appropriate reward and recognition. She said: “We employ 46,000 people so you can imagine the talent we’ve got. We’re an industry where you can start as a pot-washer and reach the board – but we’ve got to get that message out more often. In hospitality, quality of service is our key differentiator – if we get that wrong it can destroy the brand. Without great people you’re not going to deliver great service day in, day out. “Our staff turnover in the past five years has reduced 10%. Engagement with staff on the front-line, circa 45,000 out of 46,000, has increased two points, which is hard to achieve.”

with service consistency. When you’re working in a safety-critical environment, if you aren’t consistent in terms of service, customers start to worry about your pilots and engineers. “On the back of this, Virgin created a service plan called Brilliant Basics, Magic Touches, which meant we had to nail the basic parts of our service every time then give our crew the freedom to go and have fun with the customer and deliver those iconic touches that make Virgin’s reputation for great service so terrific. These Brilliant Basics aren’t sexy, they are things such as keeping toilets clean, but we had to make sure our crew appreciated they had to do them. Magic Touches were much more fun. For people to make a real difference, they have to love their jobs. “Two measures used to really matter at Virgin – morale and staff motivation. The new service plan meant the amount of people who felt proud to work for Virgin rose from 90% to 95%, while customer satisfaction in the most profitable cabin, business class, increased from 89% to 92%. The culture you create is exactly what your customers see, you can’t be something on the outside you aren’t on the inside.” On Moir’s first day working on the Olympics, she expected a detailed briefing but was simply told there would be 9.5 million spectators across 36 venues. She said: “I was lucky to have a team of 15,000 Games Makers and 6,500 hourly-paid safety stewards. We didn’t have the same funding as the previous games in Beijing, we didn’t have the resources, so we had to dig deep

and use our personality in a way that meant spectators didn’t just have a good day, they had a really memorable day. “The product in this instance was our beautiful venues. We also wanted to tap into the friendliness, diversity, cheekiness, personality, warmth and spontaneity of people in the UK and wrap those venues with human service never seen before. I learnt you should never underestimate people’s appetite to learn new stuff. We had volunteers who were 18, while our eldest was 92. He was based at Earl’s Court and came in one day with a great idea to reduce queuing time. We had been planning this for four years, he had an idea on the day – and he was right. “Another golden rule was recognition. We would give people small shift gifts – badges – which I didn’t think would work but people loved them. We also asked all our front-line team leaders to make sure they spent most of their shifts walking around the venues talking to the Games Makers, asking their names and whether they had any ideas on how to improve the service. When I meet volunteers now, they say: ‘I was made to feel my contribution was really important.’ Saying thank you costs nothing. “We also asked our volunteers to treat spectators as if they were hosting them in their homes. We asked Games Makers to use their common sense and personalities. Positivity bred positivity – something very unBritish but it became cool to be positive. Having that sense of pride in what they were doing made such a difference.”

The company’s people strategy starts at recruitment and is built around its Employee Value Proposition – its “people promise”. She said: “If you work for M&B we want you to give X and we’ll give you X in return. This has been front of mind for the past 12 to 15 months.” The business has also been working on the quality of its learning and development with the help of digital learning platform MABLE. Martindale said: “That’s where all our development goes through. We do a little bit of face-to-face training but this was all about researching how our teams wanted to learn. The loud feedback was they wanted a social platform where managers could discuss an issue socially. In the first year, 46,000 people completed some form of learning on MABLE – 50% of learning is completed on a smart device. Our young talent is really enjoying MABLE. For the first time they can interact with others from across the entire business.” The company launched its 2020 apprentice vision in 2015, with an ambition to drive 25% company engagement or 11,500 starts and create an apprenticeship programme that drives passion, pride,

professionalism and supports all brands to attract, develop and retail talent. Martindale said: “We needed to produce something we could look ourselves in the mirror and say these programmes are going to deliver what our apprentices want and give them a defined career.” M&B now has 2,200 apprentices and a retention rate of 76%, while the company’s social media advertisements led to 2,500 applications a month through Snapchat and Instagram. Martindale said. “We have tried to create some good news stories and ambassadors within our general managers to understand the benefits of apprenticeships. I’m amazed schools aren’t doing as much around culinary. What we’re trying to do is buck that trend and we started chef academies in Birmingham and Manchester and hope to open another shortly.” Martindale said the key to continuing the company’s success would be based on identifying more external hires than competitors, treating apprentices as normal employees, 30-hour minimum paid contracts, ensuring online learning was bite-sized, and hiring under-18s to work in licensed premises. She said: “We’ve made good progress but there’s much more to do.” SPRING 2019 PROPEL QUARTERLY



The changing face of marketing H

James Hacon provides a checklist of areas you should consider when building your sales and marketing team and strategies

Customer service: All businesses receive some form of ospitality leaders are finally starting to value inbound communication from guests, be it online feedback, the importance of great sales and marketing as reviews, social media or email. Forward-thinking businesses businesses turn from expansion to increasing market realise listening and engaging boosts the amount of guest share given the saturation in dining out. feedback they can use to gain insights, improve the business, Like many, I subscribe to the school of thought that life’s too convert enquiries and improve digital presence. Depending on short not to experience it every day. I’ve watched my dad work the size of business, this can be a role in its own right. These his whole career with one holiday a year and that’s not what responsibilities have a distinctly similar skills base – empathy, me or my generation are going to do. I travel regularly and good writing skills, an ability to embody the brand and a lot make use of every day off or holiday allocation. The experience of patience. It naturally makes a role of its own within bigger economy has been driven by a generation who are chomping businesses as a guest relations or customer service manager. at the bit to try something new and go somewhere different. This has, in part, driven the boom in our industry. No more Direct marketing: With all that customer data, the amount of wasting time making a packed lunch to take to the office – non-personalised, promotion pushing messages the industry grab a meal deal on the go. No more wasting time doing the sticks out is unforgivable. While some do it well in our sector, dishes – eat out! most don’t and we are way behind experiential sectors such At this year’s Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European as travel. It’s time we upped our game and started Summit, we saw a host of intelligent, passionate and treating people as individuals, not a statistic on our inspired marketing leaders share strategies and dashboard. When collecting data, with the right “While most tactics they will deploy in 2019 to fight for those set-up at the front end, well-placed, contentsales and position their business for long-term other departments driving self-selecting segmentation and success. look after aspects some clever analysis, you can revolutionise Marketing, as a discipline, is much more of guest experience your open and conversion rates. It’s time than promotion of products, it’s about to start thinking about lapsed customers, and the way a brand creating, keeping and satisfying customers. sending the right message to gain that one looks and feels, the While most other departments look after extra visit a year so many see as the holy marketing team aspects of guest experience and the way a grail. Once more, this calls for someone should be the glue brand looks and feels, the marketing team who understands data and can build out that bonds it all should be the glue that bonds it all together. segmentation models. If really skilled, you together” Strategic-level marketing overarches the could find this a dual function with insight but whole customer journey and puts the customer you’ve got to remember you’re unlikely to get this at the centre of decision-making. In this modern view person to carry out the content development too, they on marketing there are three distinct disciplines – customer, are very different skill sets. commercial and brand.

Customer The customer function centres on three areas: Insight: At strategic level it’s vital you listen to customers, understand the market place and your competitors. Use this insight to guide your proposition and business development. The latest feedback tools will allow you to get a handle on your customers’ views on an almost live basis, avoiding dedicated survey costs and providing information you can react to instantly rather than ahead of big development projects. The biggest opportunity in this area lies in having an insight manager who understands data and feedback analysis and who’ll develop easy to digest insights with recommendations to operational and development teams. With so much data at our fingertips, these positions will grow exponentially.



The commercial arm is where it becomes a lot more tactical and focused on driving measurable direct returns from your marketing and sales activities. There are four distinct areas: Local marketing: Marketing is increasingly about digital and having so many key channels online can lead to shared content becoming relevant to the brand’s wider estate rather than site-specific. There are always local angles and opportunities to get your message in front of the right audience. A local-based approach is growing in popularity, with many larger brands employing dedicated marketing managers to look after a cluster of sites or creating a marketing ambassador programme that benefits from local knowledge. If you aren’t considering this structure, it becomes even more important to work with sitelevel operators to help them activate the brand locally.


Insight Inbound sales: Do you know if your availability is being optimised? How about the conversion rate of inbound enquiries? The time it takes to get back to someone who enquires about an event? Are you effective in converting opportunities? Do you know how many phone calls your business receives and how many get answered? I’m always surprised to find businesses that invest heavily in marketing but nothing on converting enquiries. Every hotel has a revenue manager responsible for the availability, channels and rates on offer. This is within the sales and marketing function, not finance. Any business will have a natural flow of enquiries and reservations, which you hope will increase thanks to marketing. If not doing so already, optimising this area could be your easiest win. The late-night sector has led the way in the growth of pre-booked covers by concentrating on in-bound sales management and conversion. Outbound sales: Across the sector we find an array of approaches to outbound business development, from those nailing call centre activities to those with a site or regional business development structure. Many blend local marketing and outbound sales, which I personally find unhelpful as it crosses disciplines while marketing aspects of the role are often prioritised as they can be more fun and less traceable. There are businesses smashing outbound and relationship-based sales, particularly where there are considerable corporate or high-net-worth clientele to be had. The key is finding business development managers who are dynamic and hungry to sell, who will get on the phone, email or LinkedIn to chase opportunities and keep in touch with existing clients. It takes hard yards and is relentless to say the least. Be wary of sales teams spending too much time hosting but not setting up events, it’s one way of building corporate business but not the only way and, again, can often be an unnecessary distraction. Digital: Generating enquiries and traffic to your website is vital. It’s about being visible through search, online maps and the best third-party sites and using that visibility to drive traffic to your own website before converting or capturing data. We’re talking search engine optimisation, digital and social advertising, then website optimisation. Far too many boards accept big numbers as marketing success, whether its web hits, database sizes, followers or reach. Frankly none of this matters if it doesn’t convert in the end. Someone who can drive online conversion is worth their weight in gold. There are some nifty tricks in this area experienced digital marketers know. One I picked up is how people regularly search for offers or deals, so having your proposition packaged in the right way to capture this traffic and convert it to a specific call to action is a great win – as is capturing traffic through dietary requirement searches to special landing pages.

“If you follow Danny Meyer’s principle of enlightened hospitality, you’ll know you concentrate on making your team happy and they’ll make your guests happy”

Brand It’s the area many small marketing teams concentrate on to their detriment, especially when senior leaders want to see direct and tracked results on their spend. Brand should be the thread of all of the above, making it feel cohesive. There should be a clear brand strategy in place for any business with an external face. You should be clear who you are – your purpose, proposition and personality. This should show through in everything you do and guide you. That said, I know far too many marketing leaders who think their role is purely guardianship of the brand. This guardianship should be based on customer views and insight and ultimately deliver commercially, otherwise what’s the point in having the brand (or marketing team) at all. I’m alarmed when I hear of too many rules surrounding a brand, it’s easy to be smothered. Marketers need to remember their job is about maximising the exposure and brand, not protecting it. Unfortunately, many use it as a weapon to defend their decision or inaction, which causes frustration and a lack of cohesiveness with the rest of the business. At the end of the day, your brand is only as good as your interaction with customers – it lives, breathes and will evolve naturally.

“Someone who knows your brand inside out and can spot and tell great stories will put you in good stead in a world where content is king” Two other key responsibility sets that have become increasingly important in the social age are: Storytelling: Someone who knows your brand inside out and can spot and tell great stories will put you in good stead in a world where content is king. Telling a good story will help you get your message out via all your key channels – website, social, email, in-store and internal communications. We often forget the latter as we concentrate on customers. If you follow Danny Meyer’s principle of enlightened hospitality, you’ll know you concentrate on making your team happy and they’ll make your guests happy. Why do we spend so much time communicating with customers but not internally? The same with design. If you’ve got a great storyteller, make internal communications part of their role too. Storytelling is becoming as much about the visuals as the writing, traditionally separate strings but increasingly overlapping. If you can get someone who can write stories and produce great photos and videos, so much the better. Visual: For many brands the aesthetic is what makes them distinct. Having a clear style can make or break a campaign and make a major difference in your brand’s pulling power on the high street. This is an area that’s usually outsourced, which is great, but if I’ve learnt one thing managing and working with agencies and freelancers, there is a degree of chemistry in getting the right match in terms of design. I’ve never worked with a designer who delivers on all briefs. It’s worth working hard to find someone who really “gets it” and aligns with your brand on a deeper level. If working with an agency, be sure to ask for that specific person to lead on your design. You’ll notice I’ve not talked about creativity in this article. Having worked with so many clients, brands and campaigns, I know there’s no exclusivity on where great ideas come from. You should engage far and wide to find them, internally and with customers and agency partners. I know that’s a long list and they aren’t mutually exclusive in terms of skills, but what it hopefully provides is a checklist of areas you should consider when building your sales and marketing team and strategies.

James Hacon is managing director of Think Hospitality, which advises multi-site brands on growth, brand and development strategy, as well as investing in early-stage concepts with a bright future SPRING 2019 PROPEL QUARTERLY



A year of transformation Ian Dunstall looks at some of the key trends for 2019 and says operators must remain responsive to evolving consumer needs


his year is a transformational one for the restaurant industry. In 2018 we witnessed household brands negotiating company voluntary arrangements, rapid expansion of deliveries and KFC infamously running out of chicken – so which key themes are set to emerge in 2019? This is difficult to call because of the impact of Brexit and the disruption it could cause. Beyond the economics, two likely scenarios are a boost to patriotic product provenance – buy British – and a greater focus on team retention. Whatever the Brexit outcome, the cost and availability of staff will continue to be a major issue. Consumers are becoming more intolerant of mediocrity and reliance by businesses on a relatively low-tenure, low-paid, low-skilled workforce is an unsustainable response. The solution is a dual approach of winning the talent war by attracting, developing and retaining the best teams while developing the technological solutions to support appropriate elements of the guest journey and back-of-house production. In the more convenience sectors, digital solutions to order-andpayment processes are already being developed to remove service pinch points, but how does this translate into the more experiential segments? In retail, trends are clearly the growth of online purchases due to convenience and a cut in store visits as consumers increasingly look for more experiential and entertainment occasions. The same trends are relevant to hospitality. Quick service and fast casual concepts remain relevant for convenience-based occasions but casual dining concepts have a high dependence on social and special-visit occasions and, like retail stores, need to invest to create an enhanced guest experience. Last autumn’s Propel Experiential Leisure Conference highlighted the new wave of experiential concepts entering the market. While still relatively niche, these venues are excellent examples of how to satisfy social occasion requirements by offering guests a more interactive experience and, most importantly, creating conversation and memories for guests to share. A recent visit to Flight Club in Bloomsbury, London, demonstrated how appealing these concepts can be. A game of darts was transformed into interactive fun by clever use of technology supported by a superbly presented food and drinks offer. A memorable evening was enhanced by a follow-up email from the venue the next day with a video attached showing highlights from our event. This is a stunning example of how new competition in the sector is raising the bar on how to host memorable social occasions. The food delivery revolution shows no signs of stopping as it accelerates beyond an £8bn market with ongoing double-digit growth. Heavy investment by the aggregators continues to evolve the sector with the growth of virtual restaurant “dark kitchens” and technology innovation to automate delivery transportation. The delivery industry claims this is an opportunity for the restaurant market to more effectively compete with in-home meal preparation. Generally, restaurant brands are now realising they


need to be in this market and accepting additional operations complexity and lower profit margins. The challenge for many remains how to distinguish their brand in a value-added way compared with the intensity of commodity competitors. A key trend is the shift from heavy meat-based meals. This has been subtly developing for years, evidenced by the popularity of “lighter” chicken, the success of brands such as Nando’s, KFC and Chick-fil-A, and the growth of Asian and salad concepts that depend less on meat. Now the trend is accelerating further, fuelled by a growing sensitivity to meat production and concerns surrounding health, diet, animal welfare and the environment, with vegetarian and vegan food moving towards mainstream acceptance.

“A game of darts was transformed into interactive fun by clever use of technology supported by a superbly presented food and drinks offer” Healthier eating also continues to be an important trend, especially for younger generations. Whatever the outcome of government desires to force foodservice to cap calories in meals, the general heightening of awareness and health concerns around obesity will in some way encourage a shift in consumer behaviour away from more extreme menu options. The drinks mix is also shifting as consumer trends change. For younger generations the habit of alcohol with a meal has become less relevant. Demand is growing for more premium “craft” drinks at the expense of mainstream ones. There are many other trends to respond to – the development of digital strategy as social media platforms become the primary source of consumer information; food supply and cost inflation challenges; how millennials adapt their restaurant requirements as they become the next generation of families; developing consumer interest in product sourcing and sustainability; the ongoing consumer appeal of freshness; and the seasonal evolution of new craft flavours and product trends. What is assured is the restaurant industry is in a period of rapid evolution. At a time when the daily business challenges can be easily dominated by surviving the short-term economic and political uncertainty, there is a need for businesses to additionally remain responsive and tuned to the evolving consumer needs and trends that will determine the longer-term relevance and appeal of their business in the market.

Ian Dunstall is a brand consultant advising hospitality businesses on brand strategy and development. He has a strong legacy of success, including startup brands and brand revitalisation


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