Propel Quarterly Spring 2020

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



Two Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur Simon Rogan reveals international expansion plans for his Cartmel-based empire and a possible return to the pub sector

Inside: Roadchef’s king Rescuing Ceviche Seven eating out trends for 2020 Unlocking hospitality’s potential Observations of a brand consultant How to become an ops director RM&I insights Is MUP working?


ISSUE 30 • SPRING 2020






This issue... 04

Take my lead


Rogan’s return


King of the road


Snap happy


Seven eating out trends for 2020


Unlocking hospitality’s potential


Observations of a brand consultant


Moore in the mix


How to become an operations director

Welcome from insights editor Mark Wingett Two Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan retains a passion to open another pub – but this time on his own terms Roadchef chief Mark Fox on ensuring motorway service areas are no longer the poor relation among travel hubs Glynn Davis argues Samuel Smith’s mobile phone ban flies in the face of Instagramfriendly moves elsewhere in the sector NPD Group’s Dominic Allport looks at what’s on the menu for the sector this year Kate Nicholls reveals what she’ll ask the chancellor for in the next Budget

Ian Dunstall’s key takeaways from a career working with more than 40 brands – and counting

Alex Moore and Raquel de Oliveira on rescuing Peruvian restaurant business Ceviche and where their new vehicle is heading

Chris Edger maps out how area managers can reach the promised land


Expert insights


If you don’t say hello, they say goodbye

Highlights from the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit

Ann Elliott says a genuine welcome is critical if you want customers to return


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:


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

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Insights Editor Mark Wingett E:

Paul Lawrence E:


Unintended consequences Paul Chase looks at the effects of minimum unit pricing in Scotland

Contributors Dominic Allport, Paul Chase, Glynn Davis, Chris Edger, Ian Dunstall, Ann Elliott and Kate Nicholls Printing and Distribution Bishops Printers Walton Road Farlington Portsmouth PO6 1TR

u uarterly ©Propel Hospitality Ltd. 2020

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Take my lead Welcome to Propel Quarterly Spring 2020


perception problem still surrounds working in the hospitality industry. There’s nothing unsurprising in that statement but the sector continues to spend significant time and energy into changing that misconception. Research published to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week in early February sadly revealed more work is required. The survey, conducted by Mumsnet on behalf of the Department for Education, found more than one-third (35%) of parents still associate apprenticeships with manual jobs such as plumbing and carpentry, while 45% are unaware qualifications can rise to degree level. Three-fifths of respondents were concerned their child would be “left making the tea” during their apprenticeship. At the same time mayor of London Sadiq Khan launched the London Progression Collaboration in a move aimed to boost apprenticeship opportunities for low-paid Londoners. The initiative, supported by JP Morgan, aims to help more than 1,000 Londoners progress from unemployment into work and from lowpaid, low-skilled work into better-quality, higher-paying jobs. Large employers in the capital, including Pearson, City University and the London boroughs of Hounslow, Camden and Croydon, have committed to transfer unspent Apprenticeship Levy funds to support the capital’s small businesses, using the London Progression Collaboration’s services. Their support will enable at least 30 small and medium-sized enterprises in London’s hospitality, retail and construction sectors to offer apprenticeships to train new and existing staff. The mayor was prompted to launch the initiative after a decline in the take up of apprenticeships in a number of sectors. Thankfully the UK’s hospitality sector is bucking that trend, seeing a 15% increase in apprenticeships during the past 12 months.

Mark Wingett Insights editor Christou’s move not only reveals the power a company chief executive can have when they return to a former school or college to talk about their career but also highlights hospitality as the ultimate meritocracy. A recent set of tweets highlighted the career paths of some other sector leaders. Matt Snell, managing director of Italian restaurant chain Gusto, tweeted: “I started in the industry 22 years ago with no relevant qualifications. Since my first job as a member of bar staff in a big steak pub, I have been house supervisor, assistant manager, deputy manager, general manager, area manager, head of ops, operations director and now managing director.” Alex Reilley, co-founder and chairman of AIM-listed Loungers, put it more succinctly: “Started as a waiter at the Holiday Inn, now chairman of a PLC.”


increase in hospitality apprenticeships during the past 12 months

“While changing the perception of long-term careers in our industry is one important strand, the other is generating greater diversity” However, as UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has pointed out, the industry still faces a staffing crisis in the current uncertain environment and the focus must be on training UK staff using apprenticeships, structured career paths and a fair migration policy. Again, it’s up to the industry itself to highlight the career paths it can offer. In early February, Pret A Manger chief executive Pano Christou closed the brand’s national quarterly briefing for the first time as head of a business he joined 20 years ago as assistant manager of its Carnaby Street store in London. Pret has been a sector leader in terms of its apprenticeship programme and, to mark his first briefing as chief executive, Christou decided to touch on his own journey through that programme by inviting a 16-year-old called Isaac to close the proceedings. Christou said: “I met Isaac last year when I returned to my secondary school to speak to Year 11 students about our apprenticeship programme. He joined Pret last September. On a personal note, it has been wonderful to see someone who grew up in the same area as me, from a similar background and from my old school starting their journey at Pret. It looks like I will be handing over the reins to Isaac, who has aspirations to be chief executive of Pret”.


While changing the perception of long-term careers in our industry is one important strand, the other is generating greater diversity. Last month it was pointed out one-third of all board members in the FTSE 100 are women. That target, set by the Hampton-Alexander Review, has been hit a year early. What’s more, there are now no men-only FTSE 100 boards. When you consider less than a decade ago only 12.5% of FTSE 100 board roles were held by women, this should be viewed as a significant step on the road to gender equality. In our own industry the Plan B initiative led by Holly Addison, Emma Causer, Kate Nicholls and Ann Elliott is leading the way in helping entrepreneurial women and those within the corporate environment to attain board-level positions. One of the key pillars of Plan B’s work is a mentoring programme in which board-level men and women provide additional support and advice to help women who are one or two steps away from board level to reach their goal. Feedback on the initiative has been positive from the start and Plan B continues to gain momentum and traction. Here’s to a similar outcome regarding a change in the long-held misconceptions surrounding a career in hospitality.





Two Michelinstarred chef Simon Rogan tells Glynn Davis he retains a passion to open another pub – but this time on his own terms

“There are five pubs in Cartmel and I’d like to do a pub in the village as I have a great love of pubs offering well-cooked food” 6


lthough he’s known for operating at the top end of the industry, with his two Michelinstarred restaurant L’Enclume in Cartmel in Cumbria and single star Roganic in London, one of the UK’s best chefs retains a passion for the great British pub and its traditional dishes. Simon Rogan, chef proprietor of eight restaurants in total, says adding a pub to his burgeoning portfolio is definitely on his mind. He adds: “Pubs offering traditional pub fayre are an obvious choice. That’s what we’d look to do. There are five pubs in Cartmel and I’d like to do a pub in the village as I have a great love of pubs offering well-cooked food.” Rogan cites Fuller’s as a “top-end operator in the field” and he is now linked to the pub company through its sponsorship of the UK’s team in the Bocuse d’Or world chef championship. With Rogan the current Bocuse d’Or president, the move presents Fuller’s with an opportunity to expose its chefs to Rogan’s skills and that of the many other high-end chefs involved in the biennial contest, which sees the UK team battle the world’s best. Rogan says: “It isn’t only about the competition, it’s about raising the profile of chefs in the UK. Fuller’s has a lot of chefs we can help make better cooks. Perhaps they’ll also get the chance to become candidates in the competition in the future or become upper-end chefs. We’ll be doing what we can to raise the standards of them all.” For Rogan, making a success of a pub would be an opportunity to erase the memory of a previous encounter that ended disappointingly – he took on the Pig & Whistle in Cartmel, which would have “gone down the pan” if he hadn’t stepped in. He says: “It was dying a death and I thought I’d have a crack at it – but it was a tied pub. The building had issues but they wouldn’t let


us change anything. The toilets were minging but we couldn’t get permission to do them up. Nothing was easy. I’d do a pub again – but not if it’s tied.” That was a rare misstep for Rogan, especially in Cartmel where he has a significant presence, but his move to the village was a risk in itself. The Hampshire-born chef was working in top-end London restaurants for the likes of Marco Pierre White and Jean-Christophe Novelli when he decided to decamp to the Lake District with his wife. Rogan says: “We took two risks – going there in the first place and the products we put on offer. The locals thought aliens had moved in – they wanted a cosy tea room and sticky toffee pudding. It was a massive challenge because most of our customers were from London and the south east – it took a while for us to settle in.” Despite bringing in fresh ideas from outside the community, Rogan was an early advocate of local produce and seasonality from the start, although he admits he got sucked into sourcing rich ingredients globally. He adds: “We were hijacked a bit by overseas food


but I was unhappy and got back to the time and place being important. Now we have no foreign items on the menu at Cartmel.”

Home-grown Rogan was also sucked into the trend for foraging, which he admits was a bit overdone. He says: “Perhaps we used things we’d not use now. Now flavour is everything, innovation isn’t what it’s about. Maybe I had been guilty of that in the past. We’ve scaled it down and focused on the usual things. The farm-grown produce overrides it.” This refers to the farm Rogan has set up in Cartmel, which supplies all his fruit and vegetables. This has become central to the operation and highlights how Rogan has planted a firm flag for provenance. As much as the farm is beneficial for his own restaurants, Rogan is equally proud to see it provide inspiration to others in the industry. He says: “People visit the farm to study what we do. We’re flattered people want to mimic us. We want to innovate, help people and inspire them to do things the right way. “Even the big chains can do this. They just

“People visit the farm to study what we do. We’re flattered people want to mimic us. We want to innovate, help people and inspire them to do things the right way”

need to focus on the customer, seasonality and general quality of their ingredients. You’ve got to have the will and desire to do it, though. It does cost – but those should be your principles.” Although the farm is unable to supply London-based Roganic, chefs frequently send suitcases full of vacuum-packed bags of pickles from Cartmel to the capital, which highlights the challenge of running multi-site operations to exacting standards. Rogan should know as he has been involved in a variety of operations, including running the dining rooms in the high-profile Midland Hotel in Manchester and Claridge’s in London. However, they weren’t entirely happy experiences. Rogan says: “Those venues are someone else’s, like tied pubs, and you feel like the naughty little squatter in the corner. Everything from recruitment to purchasing and style of food – they have you tied. When you’re in these partnerships you’re not in control. It’s a cheap way of making money and it gets your foot in the door of cities such as Manchester and London but we want to do what we want – and quickly.” ▲ SPRING 2020 PROPEL QUARTERLY




If that’s so, I ask, why did he add another outpost to his operation by launching Henrock hotel near Lake residents in Windermere recently? He replies: “I Cartmel, which is said I’d never do a hotel again but on the list of top with Henrock we control all the F&B – places to visit in breakfast, coffee, mid-morning, lunch, the world alongside afternoon tea, dinner and functions. Cape Town and It’s a joint venture but this time the New York chairman is a man I can work with. The deal feels like we own the place and it’s in our area so it’s close to our resources.” This means the farm will feed ingredients into the Henrock operation but, to make it a unique venue, Rogan has recruited a Californian chef to bring something new to the table as it “had to be a new concept different to Cartmel”.

On the map Differentiation is always in Rogan’s mind, especially in Cartmel where his concentration of outlets is almost akin to Rick Stein in Padstow – with L’Enclume, Rogan & Co, Aulis Kitchen and 16 accommodation rooms in the small village. However, he says he is less visible now than before because his success has helped to attract other operators to the area. He says: “There’s now a wine bar, brewery, cheese shop, upmarket deli and gift shop. We call it Team Cartmel and I’m proud to have been a catalyst. We’re part of an expansion of Cartmel that attracts visitors from around the world.” Rogan still find its “weird and funny”, however, that Cartmel, with its mere 800 residents, is on the list of top places to visit in the world alongside the likes of Cape Town and New York! As things have grown, Rogan still likes to maintain control and has accepted he has only been able to ensure his exacting standards are met by surrounding himself with “amazing people and trusting them with the responsibility”. He adds: “You can’t do everything yourself. It was all me initially but as you get older you slow down and need quality people. It’s much like Bocuse d’Or, with its committee environment. Everyone has a voice. I’ve got the final say but, unlike Cartmel where I’m very much involved, the other restaurants simply present me with dishes to try before they go on the menu. It now seems pretty seamless.” As part of Rogan’s growth plans for his Umbel Restaurant Group, he has promoted operations director Sam Ward to the role of

Rogan in short: Restaurants: L’Enclume, Aulis at L’Enclume, Roganic, Rogan & Co, Aulis London, Roganic HK, Aulis HK and Henrock. Career highlights: Being named AA Chef of the Year in 2017, being appointed Bocuse d’Or UK president in 2018, and writing his first book – Rogan: The Cookbook. Last supper: Extravagant roast with all the trimmings at home with family and friends.

managing director. Ward has spent nine years at the company and will now oversee every element of Rogan’s eight-strong restaurant portfolio. Ward grew up a mile from Cartmel and joined the group as bar manager before moving to London to become a sommelier at The Ritz. Two years later he returned as maitre’d of L’Enclume. Rogan said: “Sam has been integral to helping us get where we are today. His energy and passion for the restaurants and our ethos alongside his knowledge of the hospitality landscape and dedication to ensuring the entire team is the best it can be has been amazing to watch. We look forward to seeing where he takes the group next.” For now, though, the most likely expansion will be more versions of Roganic and his chef’s table concept Aulis, which both have outposts in Hong Kong. International expansion of Aulis with an overseas partner is on the cards and, of course, there’s also the possibility of having another crack at a pub – but without the ties he regards as far too restrictive for a passionate free spirit and seasoned operator such as himself.

“We call it Team Cartmel and I’m proud to have been a catalyst. We’re part of an expansion of Cartmel that attracts visitors from around the world” 8


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Roadchef chief executive Mark Fox tells Glynn Davis his company is well on the way to ensuring motorway service areas are no longer seen as a poor relation to other travel hubs



ransport hubs such as airports and train stations have gone from being among the worst places to eat and drink to dining destinations in their own right – attracting many people who don’t even plan to travel. Although the motorway service area (MSA) has generally been left behind in this rejuvenation – things have been quietly changing. Rather like food on trains, which to some travellers remains tainted by the infamous British Rail sandwich – even though they haven’t been around for decades – service stations on the UK’s motorway network continue to be regarded as poor quality and only worth visiting when desperate. Roadchef chief executive Mark Fox, however, says perception and reality are entirely different and blames the negative myth on London-centric media and others who never travel outside the capital. He says: “People typically have no opinion or a bad one when most of them haven’t ▲


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16 million cars entered a Roadchef site in 2016 from a total of 36 million cars registered in the UK at the time

£100m in Roadchef’s 30 sites during the past five years. Fox says: “We are better invested than the others. We’re differentiated as we have nicer assets and we’re by far the best operator – being clean, fast and friendly. What we’re now looking at is differentiating the offer such as bringing in exclusives with the likes of Leon.” Natural fast food brand Leon is regarded as the starting point of this differentiation, with other brands to be brought in soon. Fox says: “Two more trials will be fired up as we continue to innovate. We were the first to bring in branded coffee with Costa. It’s all about testing new ways to deliver customer wants rather than customer needs.” visited a service area recently. It’s a view from the 1970s. We’ve been saddled with this reputation. Those who visit don’t seem to share their good experiences while others propagate the old view.” Overcoming this perception is part of his remit. The vastly experienced Fox joined the business in 2018 following roles at Bill’s, Starbucks, Yum! Brands and Pizza Hut Delivery. In today’s tough environment he figured the best sectors for his next role would be luxury, value or travel. He chose the latter. He says: “Roadchef has great operations but needs new concepts to continue the solid growth it has achieved during the past 15 years. I’m helping to maintain this and the transition – and the owner needs to exit before its ten-year investment time-frame is up.” Those owners, Antin Infrastructure Partners, bought the business for £153m in 2014 and have sought to differentiate the company from its small bunch of competitors. Roadchef, Moto and Welcome Break operate a hefty 90% of MSAs, while Extra has six sites, Westmoreland two and Euro Garages a single location. Antin has invested between £75m and


Norton Cranes on the M6 Toll in Staffordshire

“Two more trials will be fired up as we continue to innovate. We were the first to bring in branded coffee with Costa. It’s all about testing new ways to deliver customer wants rather than customer needs”


On the right track To some extent Fox wants to return the offer to something as attractive as it was at some of the first MSAs. He adds: “When they first started at the Blue Boar at Watford Gap in 1959, it was silver service and luxury – mainly catering to the wealthy. Then it went grim and dowdy as the roads got busier. During the past ten to 15 years the brands have come in and standards have gone up. We now provide more of what customers want. It’s not about them having to stop but because they want to stop. We’re catching up with airports and rail.” One of the key brands for Roadchef is McDonald’s, which entered the mix ten years ago and helped attract more customers while raising standards. McDonald’s sits alongside Costa at most of the sites and with Pret A Manger, Chozen Noodle and The Cornish Bakery at selected sites. Fox says: “Costa and McDonald’s will continue to be the bedrock and we’ll add brands such as Leon. It was a cookie-cutter approach in the past but now we better understand the customer and look to tailor the offer site by site.” ▲

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Feature “When we talk to a brand, 90% are interested as we have the footfall. We’re hopeful we’ll land two more brands this year. We can tell them 1.5 million people will pass by their outlet”

The brands are run as franchises and largely as distinct units, although there’s an opportunity for economies of scale from shared storage spaces. There are also dedicated employees in each outlet but, again, there are shared resources with six hyper-skilled individuals at each site who can work across all brands. “They are trained to work at all the units and are highly paid. They wear black uniforms and pop up wherever it gets busy,” Fox says.

Brand attraction At each site there’s also a Fresh Food Café, which is the only in-house brand operated by Roadchef. Its generic name dates to 15 years ago, when everything was own-brand, and has been used to plug gaps in offers at each site. One of the most important roles it plays is to serve a full English breakfast, which the likes of McDonald’s and Leon don’t. Fox says: “We’ll play with it so it creates its own character. Can we craft a stronger brand out of it?” Fox certainly doesn’t feel restricted by Roadchef’s ability to attract new brands. He says: “When we talk to a brand, 90% are interested as we have the footfall. We’re hopeful we’ll land two more brands this year. We can tell them 1.5 million people will pass by their outlet.” The numbers are certainly impressive. Analysis found 16 million cars entered a Roadchef site in 2016 – from a total of 36 million cars registered in the UK at the time. The level of traffic on the roads is one of the metrics by which Roadchef and other MSAs look to achieve growth. Since it has grown between 1.5% and 2% annually for the past 40 years – and is expected to continue to do so – this has certainly been beneficial. Last year, 613 million vehicles drove past Roadchef’s sites – a number that’s increasing by one million a year. Of those, about 7% stop at one of its locations. The next important metric is conversion, which has been growing at 1% to 2%, followed by level of spend, which



32 million

transactions per year

52 million footfall per year 1.7 million

cars passing per day

98,200 square foot of catering

“Chunks of land like these are tough to find. Some take more than 20 years to negotiate separate plots”


has been increasing at the same rate. One objective for Fox has been to get the “teas and pees brigade” – mainly coach passengers – to up their spending levels. There has been progress on this front as the number of people stopping at Roadchef and spending nothing – simply using the toilets – has halved to 20%. MSAs are regulated to open 24 hours a day and provide two hours of free parking as well as free toilets. Of the 80% of visitors who spend more than a penny, the food and beverage offer takes in 50% while retail (comprising anchors Spar and WH Smith) account for the other half.

Landing sites This focus on organic growth is vital because mergers and acquisitions are a bit of a nonstarter in the MSA sector. Fox says: “There aren’t a lot of opportunities for acquisitions. The opportunity is on new sites and we’ve got two planning permissions ‘live’ for locations on the A1.” However, such openings are tough to pull off because there are few spots on the motorway network that aren’t serviced already. The average distance between MSAs is only 28 miles, with few gaps. Land requirements of between 15 and 50 acres add to the complexity. The average Roadchef site takes up 25 to 30 acres. Of Roadchef’s two sites at planning stage, the one near Catterick encompasses 40 acres while the location near Selby is smaller. Fox says: “Chunks of land like these are tough to find. Some take more than 20 years to negotiate separate plots. We’re hopeful we’ll get one or both of them. It’s a two-year track.” Under Fox’s leadership expectations are for growth of between 5% and 10% annually, with predicted extra traffic on the roads making it likely to be at the upper end of that forecast. If Catterick comes into the mix, that figure will be enhanced further. Last year the growth rate hit 5.5% on both a revenue and Ebit basis. As well as delivering on customer wants rather than needs, Fox is also looking to provide complementary services such as head and neck massages, which were made available at Leon sites recently. He says: “We are considering running trials for other services and we’ll experiment with some pop-up options.” Fox clearly intends to get MSAs fighting fit so they’re no longer seen as the inferior cousin of other travel hubs.

Compliance through partnership Compliance with food hygiene and health & safety regulations is becoming ever more complex for operators. Having access to competent advice and critical policy documentation is vital.

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• Investigate any food complaints • Provide comprehensive auditing and consultancy Adopting a partnership approach is crucial to addressing these challenges and meeting legislative requirements. Streamlining safety management processes, reducing risk and operational costs play an important part in ensuring compliance becomes second nature and a fundamental part of the way you do business day-to-day. Working with independent restaurants and hotels, through to some of the biggest names in hospitality such as PizzaExpress, Fuller’s, Côte, Harbour Hotels and Wasabi, Food Alert is a technology-driven food hygiene and health & safety consultancy. We offer industry-leading compliance software, ALERT65, tailored training, safety audits, incident management, enforcement inspection and Food Hygiene Rating support, as well as food analysis services. Our detailed approach, in-depth expertise and consistently high levels of service give clients complete confidence in the management of their safety and risk compliance. This, in turn, gives assurance that their brand reputation is protected with employees and customers safeguarded. Paul Dickinson, Fuller’s director of food, said:

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Snap happy The ban on mobile phones at Samuel Smith’s pubs flies in the face of operators’ moves to become Instagram-friendly, Glynn Davis argues


orth Yorkshire-based brewer and retailer Samuel Smith’s increasingly finds itself in the news for some rather odd reasons. The latest debacle involves its ban on customers using all forms of electronic device in its pubs. Managers at its outlets run the risk of instant dismissal if a customer is found on the premises using a phone or tablet – no matter the reason. Chairman Humphrey Smith introduced the ban because he wants his customers to talk to each other without digital distractions. Signs in its pubs state: “Digital Detox Pub – beer and conversation encouraged.” It’s a laudable aim I agree with to some extent but with the eccentric Samuel Smith’s there appears to be no flexibility regarding the ban. to be changed to provide a sharper The company’s stance reminds me of Londoners aged focus on the table, thereby of the landlord at one of my favourite 18 to 44 buy food creating an ideal setting for pinLondon pubs, the Nag’s Head sharp photos of the beautifully in Knightsbridge. He has been from restaurants and designed plates of food. vehemently against people chatting takeaways because This Insta-friendly scenario on the phone in his pub since of the way it looks is played out fully at other mobiles first emerged and I’ve seen on Instagram rather businesses too, such as growing him escort people from the premises than the way it cafe chain Elan. A recent meeting and issue various warnings over the tastes at its concessions site at Selfridges in years. Most of this has been delivered Oxford Street revealed the visual appeal with great theatricality and has largely been of its food and surroundings and I duly fished entertainment for the other customers as well out my phone to snap a few shots of the gorgeousas burnishing his reputation as an irascible character. looking cakes. It was a bit too pink for my taste but this It’s one of the reasons you visit this little gem of a is a manifestation of the chain knowing its customer – freehouse tucked away in a quaint mews. young and mainly female judging by my visit. Clearly these operators are on to something Capturing the moment because a recent survey by Just Eat found more than Such anti-technology positions have become one-third (34%) of Londoners aged 18 to 44 claim to increasingly rare in the leisure and hospitality industry, buy food from restaurants and takeaways because of however, as operators recognise they have to not only the way it looks on Instagram rather than the way it allow people to use devices in their outlets but even tastes. Their primary objective is to be able to share encourage it. their images on social media and bump up their Increasingly, a number of businesses are embracing following. devices to the point organisations are being built While this sounds a bit extreme to me there’s no around them, with interiors and food designed to escaping the fact technology is finding a firm place in tempt customers to take a few photographs and circulate them on social media to friends and followers. the foodservice industry. The challenge is for it to sit comfortably within the operation and enhance rather Instagram is the key social media channel for these than hinder the hospitality and service levels delivered snaps, with operators fully aware of the benefits of to the customer. having an Insta-friendly proposition to boost their My recent conversations with senior executives profile and customer visits. from the likes of Hakkasan, Wright Brothers and I first became aware of this scenario at Chinese Harvey Nichols Restaurants makes it clear to me a lot restaurant Kym’s, just before it opened at Bloomberg of work is being undertaken in the industry to integrate Arcade in the City of London in early 2018. I was sitting technology into foodservice businesses while ensuring with Chris Miller, of the White Rabbit Fund, an investor the person-to-person hospitality element is retained. in the business. He pointed to lights above the tables, Samuel Smith’s is notably absent from this list. which looked perfectly good to me, and said they had




“It was a bit too pink for my taste but this is a manifestation of the chain knowing its customer – young and mainly female”

Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

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Seven eating out trends to watch in 2020


NPD Group’s Dominic Allport asks whether there will be less waste, packaging, carbon and meat on the menu in 2020 and what other changes could be in store?

ne modern variation on the Keep Calm And Carry On motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 changes the last two words to read Keep Calm And Embrace Change. That’s good advice for anybody working in British foodservice. So many industries are changing at breakneck speed and foodservice is a

1 Green delivery

Delivery is one of the fastestgrowing order channels in Britain’s OOH or eat-out foodservice market, with visits up 9% during the year ending (YE) November 2019, a growth rate of almost 20 times faster than the total market. NPD is forecasting food and beverages purchased for immediate consumption through the delivery channel will reach 1.1 billion visits per year by 2022 to represent almost 10% of Britain’s entire foodservice market. However, while delivery offers speed and convenience it has the potential to fall foul of consumer concerns around waste, packaging and carbon emissions.

fantastic place to find innovation, creativity and determination to embrace today’s changing world. I’ve met senior executives in foodservice who say success depends on being more than just “receptive” to change. They will tell you to seek change, bring it on board and make it work for you. Get a sense for where the new trends will come from and integrate them carefully and effectively

so it makes sense for your customers and makes your business stronger. A willingness to explore new ideas is a key attribute of any business model. Thinking about some of the changes shaping foodservice, we have identified seven trends that could have an impact on Britain’s £57bn out-of-home (OOH) foodservice industry in 2020 and beyond.

NPD data shows customer dissatisfaction with the quality of delivered, ready-prepared food and drink is higher than the industry average so the need for packaging that retains heat and freshness as a way of improving overall quality remains paramount. At the same time, consumers expect less single-use packaging. Delivery operators, therefore, need to strike a better balance, perhaps by reducing the size of delivery catchments so hot food stays hot and fresh and by using more acceptable, recyclable forms of packaging. They will also need to moderate their carbon footprint through greater use of low-carbon and zero-carbon means of

delivery, such as 100% electric mopeds, motorcycles and road-legal scooters as well as electric and conventional bicycles.

Delivery: % of total foodservice visits forcast

WINNERS in the foodservice delivery channel will work hard to limit any adverse environmental impact. Operators will either use more renewable, compostable or recyclable packaging materials or reduce packaging overall – or even manage both.

Customer dissatisfaction with quality of food and drink: % of total visits

36.5% 32.1% 26.6%



YE Nov 2019

8.3% YE Nov 2017

YE Nov 2020

Total OOH – % dissatisfaction with quality of food & drink OOH Delivery – % dissatisfaction with quality of food & drink

8.9% YE Nov 2021

9.6% YE Nov 2022 Source: NPD CREST / Foodservice Outlook

YE Nov 2019


“Customer dissatisfaction with the quality of delivered, readyprepared food and drink is higher than the industry average so the need for packaging that retains heat and freshness as a way of improving overall quality remains paramount” ▲




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2 Is it a restaurant or a shop?

sip evenings, comedy nights, quizzes and virtual reality rooms. The aim is to modernise the traditional pub experience to attract a new generation of consumers who want “more than a pint”. Meanwhile, independent foodservice brands are also moving directly into retail including operators selling Japanese food such as YO!’s roll-out in Tesco, Wasabi opening in Marks & Spencer, and Sushi Gourmet in Sainsbury’s.

There used to be a clear distinction between restaurants, pubs, bars, coffee shops and fast food and consumers would know if they were visiting a retail, leisure or foodservice outlet. However, those boundaries have blurred. The Loungers chain is an example of a multi-faceted operation that is at once a restaurant, pub and cafe with a focus on its neighbourhood. Planet Organic offers a clever mix of foodservice including food to go and click and collect with conventional retail such as organic grocery and beauty products, all supplemented by community activities such as yoga, cookery classes and workshops. Laine Pub Company provides customers with a range of leisure choices such as shuffleboard, paint and


WINNERS must be prepared to break boundaries to stay ahead of consumer needs and trends. With rising consumer expectations for ultra-convenience and engaging experiences, smart foodservice operators understand defying old conventions can be a route to success.

More than just meat

Meat consumption remains important when eating out but, with more guidance than ever about alternative sources of protein, consumers are finding it easier to flex their diet. NPD data shows in the last three months to November 2019 almost 3% of British eating out visits were influenced by whether or not a venue had vegetarian or vegan options on the menu. During the course of a year, 3% represents more than 300 million visits and it’s likely this figure will grow rapidly. Consumers demand vegetarian and vegan options in different contexts. These options are 22% more important than average at breakfast, for example, and 59% more important than average among 16 to 24-year-olds. Young adults are the parents of the future so the importance of vegetarian and vegan options will only grow. This all translates into good business sense. Average spend by consumers seeking vegetarian and vegan options is higher than average, particularly during breakfast, which is the eating out market’s fastest-growing daypart. In addition, consumers who order ahead and collect their food or drink are almost three times more likely to pick vegetarian and vegan options. Meat-like plant protein will take off and has a major role to play in market growth. WINNERS will understand the value of meat alternatives and the fact consumers of all kinds – even those who love meat – enjoy non-meat meals. The successful operator will serve up food that makes everybody happy – meat eaters, flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans.

4 Grown-up children

Children’s meal deal/ We all know children children’s menu visits eventually grow up but how “grown up” are children’s as % of total visits menus? Are Britain’s foodservice operators keeping 4.0% up with children’s increasingly sophisticated eating-out tastes? 3.1% Visits that include food or drink ordered from a children’s menu or children’s meal deal represent a fast-growing part of the eating out market. NPD YE Nov 2017 YE Nov 2019 data shows such visits now represent 4% of total OOH Source: NPD CREST visits and are growing almost ten times faster than total market growth (YE Oct 19 data). The British high street offers an enormous array of eating out options that reflect many cultures. While much of this is targeted at adults, many operators such as Leon, Pho, Giraffe and Wagamama have introduced innovative new children’s dishes for youngsters with more adventurous tastes. Family visits represent almost 30% of all eating out spend so offering children’s meals that surprise and delight children and parents alike will be a key route to trading success. WINNERS will be those suppliers and operators able to offer classic children’s meals with a contemporary twist while experimenting with new menu items or ingredients.

Vegetarian & vegan menu options as a % of total reasons for visiting an OOH outlet



Growth in spend between YE Nov 2017 and YE Nov 2019

6% Total eaters

2.8% 11% Family with children 0-15 present Total OOH



Three months to Nov 2019 Source: NPD CREST

3% Non-families Source: NPD CREST ▲





See something that tickles your tastebuds? Get in touch...


5 Food halls will fly

“Whether food halls focus on lunch or dinner, the average spend per head can be as little as £10 – a highly affordable amount”

Tapping into the trend for informal, unstructured eating, the food hall format is growing rapidly. Food halls offer lower rents and guaranteed footfall for operators, as well as more choice for consumers. These large indoor spaces allow streetfood vendors and established restaurants to serve adventurous customers from their own stalls. Whether food halls focus on lunch or dinner, the average spend per head can be as little as £10 – a highly affordable amount. Street food operator Kerb recently opened its Seven Dials Market food hall in Covent Garden. Other food hall venues include Arcade Food Theatre in London’s Centre Point, Baltic Market in Liverpool and Mackie Mayor in Manchester (pictured right). WINNERS will provide atmosphere, variety, excitement and value for money, creating a lower-risk environment in which well executed food hall concepts can thrive in a fun and informal atmosphere.

6 Less is more

Value for money is a key consideration when it comes to eating out. The amount of food or drink you receive in exchange for your cash often plays a significant part in most people’s perception of value. This could change as in the two years

Reason for visiting an OOH outlet: Wanted a light/ healthy meal visits (million)

536m 418m YE Nov 2017 Source: NPD CREST

YE Nov 2019

to November 2019 there has been a 28% growth in eating out visits for which consumers have stated they wanted to eat “something light or healthier”. Is this an opportunity for manufacturers and operators to reformulate dishes and reduce portion size while potentially lowering operating costs? Consumers are increasingly looking for something new when eating out and by dialling up the quality and variety of menu items operators can simultaneously reduce portion size and offer new flavours and new reasons to visit. WINNERS will create enticing sharing or tasting dishes in smaller portions. While this won’t work for all eating out occasions or all consumers, this is an opportunity to drive brand allegiance and average spend.

7 Cashless is king

Operators are increasingly turning to a cashless model, offering a safer, swifter and more secure way of doing business. Gone are the days of counting the cash at the end of the day, meaning restaurant staff can focus on delivering great customer experiences. By 2026, only 21% of UK transactions will be cash payments, according to UK Finance. This is down from 40% in 2016 and 62% in 2006. Operators need to adapt – asking customers for cash may soon cause them to take their business elsewhere. Convenience remains a key trend across the total OOH market and consumers increasingly want this convenience extended to how they interact with staff and how they pay their bill at the end of the meal. Speedier transactions mean more restaurant covers and higher traffic, creating an attractive opportunity for operators. Going cashless will pay dividends. WINNERS will be the brands that keep up to date with the latest developments, whether that’s supporting mobile pay platforms such as Apple and Google or Facebook’s Libra, which is expected to launch this year.

Dominic Allport is insight director foodservice UK at NPD Group




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nline reviews have an incredible power to shape consumer behaviour. More consumers than ever are using reviews left by previous guests to inform their booking decisions. More than three-quarters (76%) of guests we surveyed said they always check a hotel’s reviews before booking and for restaurants it’s 45%, making it clear that review management has to be a top priority for every operator. Steven Pike explains: “Reviews are the ultimate public measure of word of mouth – what people are saying about your business.” So how can operators actively manage online word of mouth?

Monitor your performance First of all, embrace it. Everyone has heard the stories of fake reviews and the damage these can cause. But fearing these will lead to you focus on the wrong priorities and they are almost always drowned out by a steady stream of real reviews. Next, know your scores. You probably know what sales you achieved last month but could you state your rating on the main review channels for last month? There are several you need to keep an eye on and it can help to bring them all into an aggregator, such as HGEM’s Hub. This can help you to focus on a single overall score. Google has become easily the most popular review site in recent years but TripAdvisor remains influential, particularly for those who are new to an area. Facebook’s recommendations are also important to monitor. Yelp is popular in the US and is gradually gaining popularity. Then there are various booking sites people consult while planning a visit in advance. But you should also know where you stand relative to your competitors. Several review aggregators enable you to select a handful of local competitors and show where you sit in a league table. This is more meaningful than any kind of industry benchmark as it’s the performance of other local businesses that may decide whether you are graced by a visit. There’s an old adage about outrunning a lion on the savannah – you only need to run faster than the person you’re with. OK, so now you know where you stand. But what about influencing the results?

Monitor, engage and respond to win more business Managing your online reputation has to be a top priority for every operator, says HGEM managing director Steven Pike


of guests we surveyed confirm that they always check a hotel’s reviews before booking and for restaurants its 45%

Engage with your guests Make it easy for guests to give feedback directly to you. Think of this as an extension of the guest’s experience and of their conversation with you. For those who have had a great experience, nudge them to leave a positive online review. This helps other potential guests who



are looking for similar things. For those who haven’t had a great time, this may be down to a mistake or a misunderstanding – much better they tell you about it so you have an opportunity to put things right. In some cases, listening to a complaint and dealing with it really well can actually lead to positive online reviews. More than half (54%) of guests we surveyed said if it takes too much effort, they won’t bother. What is also interesting is more than one-quarter (26%) will only write a review when they have had a bad experience. So the danger is if it isn’t easy to leave feedback, operators may create a platform for those guest who want to vent. With 62% avoiding a restaurant and 71% not booking a

hotel if they see bad reviews, operators will lose business if this becomes the case. On average, only 3% of happy guests leave feedback, but this just serves to illustrate the scale of the opportunity. Sometimes all people need is something interesting to talk about – something to move them out of the passive zone. Your team can create these moments if they have the necessary space and motivation to go beyond the motions of the standard steps of service. The easiest way to capture feedback and influence review postings is through your own-branded feedback site. There are various ways to invite people to land there, such as QR codes and post-booking emails. You can also engage at the table if it feels relevant to do so by using a tablet survey with a particular purpose (such as evaluating experimental dishes). However, try to avoid friction in the payment process by putting a tablet under someone’s nose. The feedback site itself should reflect

your culture rather than looking like “just another survey”. It should work well on mobile and should be quick to complete.

Respond to reviews and feedback Every review or piece of feedback is an opportunity to learn and improve – but there’s often an opportunity to respond too. This is easy on all review channels and you should have a process for managing responses on your own site too. Almost half (48%) of guests expect businesses to acknowledge and 89% expect a personal response to their reviews – but we see response rates that often fall well short of this and vary considerably from one location to another. It’s valuable to monitor your rate of response as well as one other key indicator – the average speed of response. This should ideally be less than two days. Review responses make a real and measurable difference – not only to the guest who leaves the review but also to

everyone else who visits the review page. Interestingly, 45% of guests say they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews. So all’s not lost when you get a negative review. Research by Google indicates 80% of guests believe a business cares more about them when its management responds to their reviews. This explains why the most successful and highly rated businesses on third-party review sites are typically the ones that are most responsive. They’re also usually the ones that can more easily build goodwill and inspire loyalty. Since July 2018, HGEM has collected a million online reviews across its client base from major review sites, including hospitality-specific ones such as TripAdvisor, Expedia,, OpenTable, Resdiary, bookatable and Zomato, as we continue to help clients manage their online reputation. Get in touch today if you wish to learn more. ° SPRING 2020 ° PROPEL QUARTERLY



Unlocking hospitality’s potential


hile the past few years have unquestionably been turbulent for the sector and the UK as a whole, 2020 offers the promise of change and a journey towards a business landscape that empowers hospitality to thrive. We may be in the early spell of a new government but with the UK finally leaving the European Union, our message remains simple, clear and consistent – unleash hospitality’s potential and it will unleash Britain’s potential. The March Budget will be a key moment for the government to demonstrate its commitment to the sector and recognise we are a serious player and a powerful driver for economic growth. Hospitality is well placed to contribute pragmatically and positively, having achieved higher and faster growth in output, wages and productivity than the economy as a whole in recent years. With the right stable and supportive tax and regulatory framework we can boost employment, skills and career opportunities, secure investment in regeneration and unlock the value of our social capital to unleash Britain’s global potential. Our main asks of the Chancellor in the Budget can be grouped into the following themes.

UK has left the European Union there should also be a thorough review of EU regulations with an aim to remove or amend regulations that hamper business. In particular, we believe government has historically misapplied state aid rules in relation to business rates relief and the UK should not be beholden to these any more.

Boosting skills and opportunities for the workforce Hospitality operators want to reward the great work of their staff. To make that growth sustainable, other measures are needed to mitigate cost growth. Raising the employer National Insurance Contributions threshold will help support businesses to pay higher wages. ● We welcome the continued oversight of the Low Pay Commission in ensuring future wage rates are set independently and safeguard the economy. This is particularly important outside London, where it is harder to mitigate wage increases with price increases. It’s vital the commission takes into account broad economic conditions when setting future wage rates. ●

Unlocking economic growth When it comes to business rates, hospitality is the sector most acutely discriminated against, paying more than £3bn – 11% of the total – despite being responsible for only 2.5% of eligible economic activity. We are calling for a 10% cut in the business rates multiplier for one year, funded by central government, and extension of hospitality relief to more premises. ● Business rates are a tax from a different time, before the digital economy existed. The Treasury must begin the promised fundamental review of business rates at the earliest opportunity. ● Use the proposed review of alcohol taxation to incentivise consumption in hospitality venues such as pubs and freeze alcohol duties. ● The UK is one of the few countries that fails to offer a reduced rate of VAT on accommodation and food and drink products sold out of home. This makes the UK uncompetitive on price compared with our major European rivals, adversely affecting inbound tourism and meaning more Britons take their holidays overseas. The government must consider a reduction in VAT for the accommodation and food and drink industry to support tourism throughout the UK, particularly in coastal communities. Now the ●


Kate Nicholls reveals what she’ll ask the chancellor for in the next Budget to empower the sector


Hospitality continues to be a major supporter of apprenticeships in the UK and, via the landmark Tourism Sector Deal, has committed to supporting the ambition of 30,000 apprenticeships per year in England by 2025. However, the apprenticeship regime has proved frustrating for many businesses, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises. We are calling for reform of the Apprenticeship Levy to boost take-up across the sector, including SMEs, by allowing greater flexibility.

Bringing communities together Hospitality and tourism is spread throughout the country, often in remote locations. To maximise the sector’s potential it’s important transport links work well as it can be challenging to travel that “final mile” on public transport to many attractions. That needs to change so we’re calling for investment in local transport and communications infrastructure for the benefit of customers and employees. ● We live in the age of social currency, in which consumers want to share their experiences. With added connectivity there’s more freedom to share and post – a benefit to the overall experience of the consumer but also great for showcasing some of the fantastic tourist and hospitality offerings in the UK. From seaside towns to the countryside, it’s vital we avoid disadvantages dictated by geography. ●

Beyond the policy asks in the Budget we have the fantastic platform of the Tourism Sector Deal to help grow and promote the sector. As a major employer in every region of the country and one that’s committed to expanding the workforce and boosting productivity, we’re focused on ensuring a sustainable flow of people into the sector. Tourism and hospitality are inextricably linked – it’s a rich and diverse employment ecosystem including travel agents, restaurateurs, theme park workers, bed and breakfast owners, museum guides, bar teams and waiting staff. More than 80% of tourism jobs are in hospitality so this deal should have an impact on our ability to recruit and retain staff. The deal will be critical to change the government’s perception of the sector and influence broader public opinion. Hospitality has at last been acknowledged as a key contributor to the UK’s prosperity. Undoubtedly there are busy times ahead as we deliver on our campaign to make hospitality an even better sector in which to work and run a business.

Kate Nicholls is chief executive of UKHospitality







Pubs & restaurants being marketed



Worth of properties advised upon



Bespoke pub mortgages INSURANCE & STOCK TAKING







Observations of a brand consultant

Ian Dunstall reveals his key takeaways from a career working with more than 40 brands – and counting


n the past two and a half decades in a combination of corporate multibrand marketing roles and brand consultancy I have been privileged to gain an inside perspective of more than 40 hospitality brands, covering all sectors from quick service restaurants to premium dining. As we start a new decade with positive aspirations, here are some of the key things I’ve learned on my journey so far. My observations are unashamedly biased towards the marketing strategy and brand development agenda, having spent 16 years at Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) in multi-brand leadership roles (marketing and concept development), playing a part in 14 of the group’s brands. Since then I have worked for eight years on consultancy and interim projects on 27 client assignments. Let’s start at the beginning… Large-scale businesses have an advantage When working at M&B many leavers told me they didn’t appreciate the depth of resources required to get things done effectively until they left the company and learned to manage without it. Since leaving M&B and working to support other businesses, I have also missed the depth and competence of resource the company enabled.


“Many brands tend towards following the market with the generic message of the moment rather than focusing on how to create and maximise their own positive distinctions” With sales of circa £2.7bn, M&B can afford the resources of circa 1,000 employees to support its front-line business. That depth enables the business to have a strong framework to drive and support business practice and the ever-demanding agenda of change that affects all operators in the industry. One other positive footnote for me while at M&B was inevitably a proportion of management outgrew the organisation and spread their wings into many leadership roles across the industry – subsequently forming the core of my client list since I moved into the world of selfemployed consultancy. Sustained success depends on strong leadership and an aligned corporate investor This statement is kind of obvious but a real jolt when you witness it first hand. Fortunately, it has been a rare part of my


client experience but it’s shocking to see how a business can become paralysed by a lack of effective leadership or dysfunction between leadership and the company’s backer. However strong the potential development agenda or committed the support team, positive change depends on a leadership’s effectiveness to drive the agenda. One of my key mentors often said he would rather work with an A-plus team executing a B-minus strategy than vice-versa. I get it. I’ve had the privilege of working with clients who can inspire their team to knock down any barrier by their passion and dedication. That’s where success happens. Many brands aren’t clear enough about their stand-out strengths Every brand I’ve worked with has had potential to be truly distinctive from competitors and to focus on the key features that made it stand out. However, many of them have lacked the clear understanding of what those unique strengths really were and how to maximise their potential benefits with guests. That may be a bias of my client base as strategy and positioning are my personal USP, but as a trend many brands tend towards following the market with the generic message of the moment rather than focusing on how to create and maximise their own positive distinctions. ▲

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Insight Small, driven teams can move mountains I have learned the size of an organisation doesn’t necessarily correlate with its ability to get things done. It’s more about focus, drive, accountability and capability. I’ve seen how effective and dynamic companies with small teams can be when the brand leadership team is hands-on and highly visible, surrounded by a team of motivated experts with clear roles and accountabilities. Conversely, I’ve observed brands with larger teams that lack the direction and drive to make a positive impact, with too many people involved in (and complicating) the core agenda and sometimes too many ancillary projects and activities confusing the business. Growing pains I’ve seen two critical pinch points in an organisation’s growth. The first is when a brand grows into higher single digits. At that time the leadership dynamic changes as the “founder” naturally loses control. At early stages the business is the founder’s personal vision, idiosyncrasies and all, and every small detail of the guest experience and operation reflects this. The founder knows all team members personally and can lead by example to influence every decision and guest interaction. There comes a point at between and eight openings when this personal control naturally dilutes. The connection between

“It’s important there’s a clear understanding and communication of what this brand vision is and how the team must behave to deliver the unique brand experience” founder and employee becomes more difficult in practice, while the founder relies on the team to “translate” his vision of the brand experience. It’s important there’s a clear understanding and communication of what this brand vision is and how the team must behave to deliver the unique brand experience. The other pinch point is when businesses grow to between 50 and 70 sites, at which point the chief executive struggles to connect with each general manager. Need for creative inspiration Like many of these observations, this may appear obvious. Hospitality is about entertainment and requires creative excellence in the restaurant design and atmosphere, product range and presentation, and marketing communication. Brands often compromise themselves by not investing in the calibre of creative resources to deliver something that lives up to the brand potential to excite the guest. Third-party sales channels – a necessary evil? Booking engines and delivery partners create a potential new sales channel and brands must embrace these market

“Compared with other sectors, it still feels like technological innovation in the hospitality industry is at the early stage of a fast-paced evolution”

developments. However, I continue to see how challenging these are to effectively manage. I’m aware of many brands currently struggling to sustain early growth in this channel, with ever-increasing competition, margin erosion and quality issues. Data should be king We all know the e-commerce and “big data” analytics trends mean data-mining will become a major theme. Some brands are further down that road already and I’m beginning to hear remarkable examples of brands using their in-depth understanding of guest behaviour to influence short-term sales and market development. For some brands there’s still an opportunity to develop clear dashboards to better use the data they already have to identify the key metrics that demonstrate key patterns of guest and sales behaviour and ensure these are available and used by all teams that can have an impact on the results. Making marketing accountable In hospitality, many marketing teams are more of a general support function, with the marketing budget viewed as an overhead cost. The opportunity is to ensure the marketing activity and spend is measured to ensure a direct impact on brand reputation and sales growth. IT’s migration from back-of-house support to guest experience Remember when IT focused primarily on finance and back-of-house processes and control? These days the IT department is becoming so instrumental in the development of the guest journey and experience – the development of point of sales systems with more guest interaction with the ordering and payment process, the development of e-commerce sales channels, the importance of the digital journey to influence the guest experience pre, during and post visit, the capture of guest data to develop the microscopic understanding of their behaviour and purchase patterns, and the set up of digital communication channels to create a more personalised communication with the guests. Compared with other sectors, it still feels like technological innovation in the hospitality industry is at the early stage of a fast-paced evolution. This list isn’t conclusive – I edited out countless other examples in the interest of brevity – and I know many points are from the department of the “bleeding obvious”. But, as ever, getting the obvious things right will make our businesses more effective and successful.

Ian Dunstall is a brand strategy consultant working with a portfolio of brand clients to support their ongoing development ° SPRING 2020 ° PROPEL QUARTERLY




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Moore in the


Mark Wingett talks to Alex Moore and Raquel de Oliveira about rescuing Peruvian restaurant business Ceviche and where their new vehicle is heading


osa’s Thai co-founder Alex Moore explains how he became owner and chairman of Mesa Latina, the vehicle he set up to run the former Ceviche and Andina business he acquired through his Atomex business in November. “It was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up – and one we already knew well,” he says. Moore’s relationship with the Peruvian restaurant business began a year earlier following the sale of Rosa’s Thai, the business he founded with wife Saiphin, to private equity group TriSpan in a deal valued at more than £20m.

He says: “We got a lovely message from Ceviche founder Martin Morales congratulating us on the deal, saying it was good to see a fellow entrepreneur secure a successful exit for not only ourselves but also the staff who had share options in the business. It was really appreciated and we got talking from there.” Morales, who founded Ceviche in 2010 and opened an eponymous site in Frith Street, Soho, two years later, soon got in touch again to see if Moore would take a look at his own, now five-strong business to see why it was generating sales that weren’t converting into profit.

By now the business had opened a second Ceviche in Old Street, Andina sites in Piccadilly and Shoreditch, and a restaurant and bakery in Notting Hill. The company made a £200,000 loss in 2018, while trading in its Old Street and Piccadilly sites wasn’t as strong as expected. In early 2019 Moore set up Atomex, which specialises in “reimagining and recovering organisations experiencing challenging times”. Moore says: “I was happy to come in and have a look to see where I could help.” That relationship ended in spring 2019, but Moore kept an eye out on how the business was progressing. ▲ ° SPRING 2020 ° PROPEL QUARTERLY


Feature By the end of the summer it was clear not all was well at Ceviche, with the new restaurant and bakery failing to meet targets and the Old Street site quietly appearing on the market. Meanwhile, a cost-cutting exercise failed to have the desired effect. By the end of the summer Morales began to look for external investment but, with none forthcoming, called in restructuring experts RSM and, with a company voluntary arrangement unlikely to be approved by creditors, the business was placed into administration in November 2019. The restaurant and bakery in Notting Hill had closed by that point and, although there was interest in individual sites, only one party came forward to rescue the group – one that knew it better than most – and the Moores bought the business out of administration in a managementled buy-out deal through Atomex in early December. The deal left the company with three sites – Ceviche in Soho, Andina in Shoreditch, and Casita Andina in Great Windmill Street – and saw Morales leave the business with long-time operations director Raquel de Oliveira stepping up. Moore says: “Martin had put his life and soul into the business but realised by the administration he had to step away for it to go forward. That allowed Raquel to come to the fore.” At the time of the buy-out, Morales said: “It’s with a heavy heart I step away from the business I created and love dearly but I know I’m leaving it in Raquel’s capable hands. She has been with me on this journey from day one and has so much passion for the Ceviche and Andina brands. I’m excited about what lies ahead and sure, with Alex and Saiphin’s support, she can grow the business.”

“There is a new positivity in the business but we need to build on that and make sure we make the most of this second chance” Raquel de Oliveira

De Oliveira became a shareholder in the business, with Moore redefining her role as one that will “stabilise and drive the business in its new chapter with Atomex’s support”, while Moore became chairman of the new venture. De Oliveira says: “I am incredibly grateful for the support of Alex and Saiphin in helping save our beautiful restaurants and our teams’ employment. I’m looking forward to working alongside them and creating a strong company once again.” Group head chef Daniel Ribeiro and group operations manager Alessio Bascherini also remain with the business. De Oliveira says: “It feels like the teams, many of them having been with the business from the start, have been refreshed. There is a new positivity in the business but we need to build on that and make sure we make the most of this second chance.” Expansion will focus on the Andina brand. Oliveira says: “It’s a bit more grown-up, structured and aimed at an allday concept than Ceviche. We have also

“The business may have lost sight of what made it a success in the first place. We think there’s potential to grow the business – but first we need to stabilise what we’ve got” Alex Moore



started to expand the menu to incorporate more South American dishes and flavours. Peruvian food will always be the base of what the business is about but widening our gaze in terms of neighbouring countries allows us to experiment and broaden our range.” Moore adds: “We hope by the end of this year we’ll be in a position to add a further Andina site to the portfolio. We think there’s potential for more sites in the capital and in major cities across the UK for the concept.” Talks with previous shareholders, including Moshi Monsters founder Michael Acton Smith and Zoopla founder Alex Chesterman, are about to get under way to see if they want to reinvest after having their stakes wiped out during the administration process. Moore says: “We want to engage with them and set out our vision for the business. It’s important we’re seen to be doing right by them. Will they reinvest? I don’t know and wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t – but fundamentally there’s a good business here. We need to get the fundamentals in place to be able to support that growth, and we have started to do that. The business may have lost sight of what made it a success in the first place. We think there’s potential to grow the business – but first we need to stabilise what we’ve got.” ■

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спсп ϭϳ :ƵŶĞ ϮϬϮϬ ƌĞǁĞ ,Ăůů ,ŽƚĞů͕ ƌĞǁĞ͕ tϭ ϲh dŚĞ /Ž>ΖƐ ^ƵŵŵĞƌ dƌĂŝŶŝŶŐ ŽŶĨĞƌĞŶĐĞ ǁŝůů ƚĂŬĞ Ăƚ ƚŚĞ ŐŽƌŐĞŽƵƐ ƌĞǁĞ ,Ăůů ,ŽƚĞů ŝŶ ŚĞƐŚŝƌĞ ŽŶ ϭϳ :ƵŶĞ ϮϬϮϬ͘ ĨƵůů ĚĂLJ ŽĨ ĞdžƉĞƌƚ ƐƉĞĂŬĞƌƐ ŽŶ ƚŽƉŝĐĂů ƐƵďũĞĐƚƐ͕ ŝŶĐůƵĚŝŶŐ DŝŬĞ <ŝůů Ͳ Ed/ ͕ ^ĂƌĂŚ ůŽǀĞƌ Ͳ <ŝŶŐƐ ŚĂŵďĞƌƐ͕ 'ĂƌLJ 'ƌĂŶƚ Ͳ &ƌĂŶĐŝƐ dĂLJůŽƌ ƵŝůĚŝŶŐƐ ĂŶĚ ĂŶŝĞů ĂǀŝĞƐ Ͳ ZŽĐŬƉŽŝŶƚ >ĞŝƐƵƌĞ͘ :ŽŝŶ ƵƐ ƚŚĞ ŶŝŐŚƚ ďĞĨŽƌĞ ĨŽƌ ŽƵƌ ƚĂƐƚLJ ďĂƌďĞƋƵĞ ;ǁĞĂƚŚĞƌ ƉĞƌŵŝƚƚŝŶŐͿ Ͳ ƚŚĞ ƉĞƌĨĞĐƚ ŶĞƚǁŽƌŬŝŶŐ ŽƉƉŽƌƚƵŶŝƚLJ ŝŶ Ă ƌĞůĂdžĞĚ ĂƚŵŽƐƉŚĞƌĞ͘




How to become an operations director Chris Edger maps out how area managers can reach the promised land


question I’m frequently asked by area managers during my multiunit postgraduate programmes and one-to-one coaching is: “Chris, how can I get to operations director level in my organisation?” They pose the question because although many have been identified as high-performing talent by their company, they believe preferential treatment is often given to outsiders or “undeserving” internal competitors when it comes to job appointments. “Why not me? What do I have to do to get there?” I try to give them informed advice based on my analysis and observation of exemplar students who have internally progressed to this level and beyond during the past decade. As a starting point they need to appreciate the actual nature of the operations director’s role and how it differs from an area management position. Two years ago I wrote an article for Propel Quarterly entitled The Leader Of Area Managers, in which I pinpointed the main distinctions. First, compared with area managers, operations directors require higher-level stakeholder management and networking skills as they work more closely and intimately with policy-makers at head office.

Sense and sensitivity Secondly, they need to think more strategically across a wider portfolio and take a helicopter view over a longer time horizon than area managers. Third, they need to have the gravitas, heft, credibility and sensitivity to lead a team of area managers, many of whom will have been peers or previous colleagues. Fourth, they will need to display higherlevel cognitive thinking skills to “join the

“Compared with area managers, operations directors require higher-level stakeholder management and networking skills as they work more closely and intimately with policymakers at head office”

dots”, rooting out systemic problems and exploiting clear market opportunities they spot during their dynamic leadership of the region/ brand. Lastly, they need to be equipped with a higher degree of judgement, courage and mental toughness because operating as the articulator, synthesiser, aggregator, translator and implementer sandwiched between the region/brand and head office often entails making difficult decisions – especially with regards to labour cost control – that will inevitably upset either constituency. Having absorbed what the job entails, area managers need to understand what they need to do to get there. Based on observations of those I’ve taught and coached who have made it, I suggest they nail down the following six factors:

Perform as an area manager The start point – and it can’t be avoided – is that to achieve a good reputation area managers who want to get promoted need to perform over a sustained period. Not “first every quarter or year” but regularly in the upper quartile of performance. The profit and loss (P&L) they will manage as an operations director will be up to eight times the size of the one they had as an area manager and their executive has to see they have consistently demonstrated a capacity to perform over a range of key input (employee and operations) and output (customer and profit) metrics at area level.

Be famous for something To get noticed (for the right reasons) I often ask area managers what they have achieved to make themselves “famous” in their organisation. Have they added significant value by suggesting or landing new products, events, service systems or labour-saving devices that don’t harm service? In short, have they ever advanced or contributed to anything that has materially increased sales or cut costs across their region or organisation? ▲ ° SPRING 2020 ° PROPEL QUARTERLY



Work at head office

Working hard out in the field, area managers often believe hiding behind their excellent P&L and coming up with new ideas will be enough to get them promoted – but it isn’t enough. They must be brave enough to confront the fact they have to own their development and agitate to spend more time at head office on secondment, projects or in a functional role (in HR, marketing or operational excellence) to widen their network. Why? Firstly it will help senior decisionmakers (many of whom will take part in the operations director recruitment process) get to know them. Secondly, it will make the area manager more rounded, less operationally centric and more appreciative of the contributions of others in their operational success – ridding them of any “them and us” predispositions. Thirdly, the contacts they make at head office will be useful to get things done quickly if they reach operations director level.

Show the right behaviours Working at head office will also help aspiring operations directors to demonstrate they have the right behaviours to operate at a more senior level. What are they? Putting to one side the obvious – intelligence, drive, curiosity, judgement and emotional intelligence – decision-makers are looking at behaviours such as maturity and an ability to work with ambiguity and complexity. Further down the operational


“Doing what I suggest will give ambitious area managers a fighting chance of internally progressing to operations director”

line things are often seen in black and white. At a more senior level, issues require more nuanced analysis accompanied by mature balanced judgement.

Get an education To develop critical thinking and reflective capabilities I also advocate aspiring operations directors challenge themselves by signing up for stretching development (accredited or supervised) that takes them out of their comfort zone. Many area managers started out as general managers and how they have been conditioned to think, behave and operate has got them to the top of the area management tree. Now they now need to shift their analytical skills up a few gears to operate on a higher intellectual plane to join the dots on a far larger operational canvas.

Find a senior advocate I advise aspiring operations directors to foster or develop a relationship with a powerful senior advocate who often won’t be their immediate boss, who could be accused of being tainted by blind loyalty.


Asking a senior leader they respect to act as a mentor is usually fruitful. Senior people generally love helping talent and not only get to nurture future senior leaders but also learn more about the organisation from their encounters. Doing what I suggest will give ambitious area managers a fighting chance of internally progressing to operations director, although in fairly flat structures opportunities may arise infrequently. Sometimes companies create bridging roles between area manager and operations director level, which requires supervision of fewer area managers or half a region/brand, to test their capabilities and prepare them for the day when a full area manager vacancy becomes open. That’s fine but it doesn’t negate the advice I’ve outlined above. If a talented area manager has avoided working or participating in projects at head office or swerved opportunities to stretch their thinking capabilities through advanced development for fear of failure, they are more likely to experience delayed performance or outright failure when they reach the promised land!

Professor Chris Edger is an expert in multi-site leadership and founder of the Multi-Unit Leader Company, which provides customised coaching to senior multi-site leaders

Advertising Feature

How to control costs in times of uncertainty


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



For more information on controlling costs across your entire operation visit

www.theaccessgroup. com/solutions/ controlling-costs

* IRI Cider report 52 w/e to 04.01.2020, % growth vs 2018


Expert insights Highlights from the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit

The science of craveability Daniel Bennett, consulting director of behavioural science practice at Ogilvy Consulting, shared the science behind making food more craveable during promotions. He said: “In the past ten years there’s been a revolution in simplifying the academic texts and tomes of insights. There are more connections between the cells in your brain then there are known stars in the galaxy. “If I showed you a table with healthy and high-sugar items such as muffins on it, what do you think people would go for? Healthy or unhealthy? If you give people free choice about 75% go for the unhealthy choice – until you do four things. You put fruit towards the middle of the table because we gravitate towards central choices. We raise the fruit a couple of inches, perhaps a couple of books underneath the tray to make them slightly easier to grab and we sort out the bananas from the oranges and apples because it makes it easier for your brain to select the right object. The TK Max effect. Finally, we put a big mirror behind the table because your reflection helps you think about long-term behaviour rather than cravings in the moment. If you do all that, only 22% go for the unhealthy option. “No-one walking away from that table would be able to tell you why they chose the fruit but it will have been down to those four subconscious nudges. We like to think we have fixed preferences on brands but it can’t be true. They are led by the context within which we make the decision. Context affects a lot of the decisions we make.”


Thriving amid food ‘hacktivism’ The wellness trend has affected the way we interact with food and drink brands. Elise Craft, global planning partner at Ogilvy Health & Wellness, said consumers had started to raise their voice on social platforms and companies and brands needed to pay attention to the noise. She said: “Consumers are thinking about health in a much more holistic way – it’s mind, body, spirit but also sustainable living. It’s about the way we live in our communities and the impact we have on our planet. With that comes a lot of anxiety. “Online ‘hacktivism’ is changing our relationship with food brands. Lots of brands think you need to lock things down when you get called out online in case it affects your business – but

what can be exposed, will be exposed. If something goes wrong and you have a weakness in your brand, don’t expect it to go unnoticed. You gain nothing by doing nothing. “A lot of people are on a mission to be heard – and that has evolved into ‘call-out culture’. There are four consumer groups – social foodies, wellness seekers, hacktivists and absolutists. If we can empathise with where they’re coming from we can engage in more meaningful conversations. Tell people about your story and vision. Lay everything open for your customers to explore and open the floor – you don’t have to do everything everybody asks you to but have the courage to bring them into the room and see if you can innovate together.”

Captured in the kitchen Dan Burns, managing director of creative company Natural Selection Design, revealed he has helped brands and personalities share stories through the power of video including projects with Michelin-starred chef Michael O’Hare and Gary Usher’s Channel 4 documentary The Rebel Chef. Burns encourages clients to pick up a camera or hire a video agency or someone


internally, as long as they make it “real and raw”. Burns advises restaurateurs to “keep it honest, tell a good story, keep it short and stick to the core message”. He said The Rebel Chef documentary shone a light on the pride we once felt for the British high street as well as the power inherent in “local voices”. He added: “The British high street is in decline and oncevibrant town centres across the UK are suffering. The success of this documentary was 100% down to people in Prescot’s warmth and openness. They were so proud of their town and even prouder someone was willing to take a risk.”



ntroducing the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator (RMI) European Summit, Think Hospitality chief executive and RMI co-founder James Hacon highlighted key sector trends of the past year. He told delegates: “No matter where I went in the world it seemed everyone had plant-based items on the menu. This

was driven not only by a rise in veganism but also the everyday consumer being encouraged to cut their meat intake because of the perceived environmental impact meat production has on the planet. “I think Greggs captured the sentiment in the UK with its vegan sausage roll. The Impossible Meat Company went bang last year too and reached a valuation of $2bn.

Burger King also launched a plant-based burger in 2019.” Hacon added the sector saw many brands “move beyond their walls” in 2019, as they continued to look for product licensing agreements, new formats and retail items such as cookbooks, with YO! the “one brand that led the way”.

Adding science to menu design

Claire Scullion, account director at MVAD, shared how menu design tricks can change encourage upselling and a positive customer experience. She said: “We are trying to improve the overall experience for diners and we do that by analysing behavioural science and the psychology of decisionmaking. There is the ‘choice paradox’, where customers become more paralysed by having too much choice rather than being decisive and happy. “We always think we want more choice but actually removing the element of choice makes it easier to make those decisions. Fewer choices always induces more confidence in a brand. What you’re actually saying is you’re a specialist in one specific thing.” Scullion said the “psychology of colour” was another factor when it came to menus. She said: “Oranges, yellows, pinks and reds are all appetite boosters. If you think about the most successful and popular food brands and their logos, you’ll notice that too.”

Restaurant robotics Robots may not replace humans in the restaurant sector but they can make customer service more efficient, Robolab chief marketing officer Johannes Kanter told delegates. He said: “Can robots replace humans in the sector? There are different opinions and at Robolab we think yes and no. We’re not ready to replace the human aspects of serving drinks or food to people but there are repetitive tasks that can be automated. Some of the most popular robotic solutions include robot bartender Yanu, Zume’s pizza robot, Sally

the salad robot, coffee robot Café X, burger robot Creator and Starship the delivery robot, as well as the countless other solutions to assist staff in the kitchen and over the counter.” Kanter said robots could maximise upselling opportunities and become userfriendly for those “on the go”. He said: “Vending machines are primitive – you push the button and get what you want. The main difference comes when the machines have some kind of artificial intelligence and offer different food based on your preferences.”

Reinvigorating a beloved brand Elise Ash, strategy and brand director at The Restaurant Group, revealed the tools and techniques the company used to reinvigorate its Frankie & Benny’s business. She said the team talked to as many Frankie & Benny’s customers as it could find – current and lapsed – and asked them what they would like to see change. She added: “We haven’t stopped talking to them since. We found out we got it wrong for a lot of people – predominantly around food quality. We also found our heartland isn’t central London, which was a really big thing for a brand with a head office in Borough High Street. We also learned a core base of customers loved Frankie and Benny’s, which showed it wasn’t completely broken.” Ash said the turning point came when the group started to do four things differently in relation to the brand. She said: “The first was redefining the brand DNA, the second was upgrading our product offering, the third was utilising our digital and social media assets, and the fourth was having a bit of fun while doing it all. “It hasn’t been easy and we’ve made some mistakes along the way. We trialled cutting down the menu but took it too far, there was a cheese sauce debacle, but we reacted quickly to it all and learned from those mistakes. Frankie & Benny’s has been a really big ship to turn – it takes time.” ° SPRING 2020 ° PROPEL QUARTERLY



Transforming an iconic brand Carluccio’s marketing director Hilary Ansell talked about the company’s Fresca brand transformation and why it was necessary. She said: “In 1999 the first Carluccio’s as we recognise it today came into existence. Everything founder Antonio Carluccio did in the Neal Street restaurant and every site he opened was driven by his philosophy of MOF – minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour. “However, by 2019 the casual dining market place had changed beyond recognition and I use the phrase ‘hyper-competitive’ to describe where we are today. We had seen a slow and steady covers decline and in 2018 we were one of the first restaurant groups to go through a company voluntary

arrangement so we bore a lot of negative publicity around that. “What did we learn from version one of the Fresca programme? We created some beautiful restaurants, saw moderate sales growth and only changed the environment of the buildings. We felt we could do better so we relooked at the results and research and came up with Fresca II – a more holistic approach. We looked at service steps, service style, all the touchpoints guests experienced on their journey. We looked at the environment

again and the menu.” Carluccio’s also carried out in-depth analysis into what its guests were saying and how they were interacting with the touchpoints. Ansell said: “One of the hypotheses was if we updated a lot of touchpoints around guests, the sum of everything would be more than the individual part. The guest might not notice the napkins were better quality or the wine glass had a dainty stem, but they would notice they felt more special overall.”

Awards move performance

Rolling out with relevance

Maya Orr, senior marketing consultant at Lidl, told delegates the company’s strategy showed you could drive footfall by getting your message to customers through marketing campaigns and product award wins. Orr said she was an advocate of entering food awards to prove quality shouldn’t be assessed on price alone. She said: “Raising awareness you can get things that are high quality for low value is a really interesting challenge and one that should be accepted. Being able to educate our customers as to why our prices are low has been really important, otherwise people don’t know you have been selective about the products stores such as Lidl showcase.

Meg Ellis, commercial director of Honest Burgers, revealed the brand uses a local approach regarding its roll-out beyond London. She said: “There is a humble humility and honesty to Honest. We happen to be selling burger and chips but really we’re selling a feeling. We don’t always get it right. Actually, we get it royally wrong sometimes, but because we’re being human with other humans in our restaurants, there’s an honesty to it. “We asked 4,000 customers if Honest felt like a chain and they said ‘we don’t think it does’. That’s very kind of them because we are a chain – we just don’t want to behave like one.” As part of company research, Ellis revealed 94%


“We are limited as a retailer – we only have 2,000 SKUs compared with other supermarkets that have more than 50,000 – so we don’t have eight brands of water, we have one. Instead, we can guarantee it’s the best water, ketchup or whatever for that price point.”


of Honest Burgers’ customers recognise the business sources locally, with 61% of the 94% saying that had an impact on their choice to return.

5 top tips

to ace party bookings at your venue

Whether it’s a hen do or Christmas party, group IVVRPUNZ JHU IL HU L_[YLTLS` LɈLJ[P]L ^H` [V ÄSS your venue and boost the bottom line - if done right. >L»]L W\[ [VNL[OLY V\Y Ä]L [VW [PWZ [V OLSW `V\ maximise group bookings:


Give bookers real-time availability across all channels

45% of consumers prefer to make a booking online compared to 20% who still prefer the phone. With party VYNHUPZLYZ YLZLHYJOPUN HZ THU` HZ Ä]L ]LU\LZ VY TVYL at a time, make sure your group booking availability is live and up to date across all channels – don’t give bookers a reason to look elsewhere!


Make it an experience to remember

With the recent shift towards customers seeking ‘experiences’ , there has never been a better time to focus on upselling optional extras. Party packages, drinks packages, birthday cakes – whatever they may be. Diners have a great experience, and you boost the bottom line. It’s a win-win.


Take pre-orders electronically

Organising menu options for a party of eight or more can be a huge headache for both guests and the kitchen team. Pre-order solutions such as Zonal’s Events and Pre-Order provide a welcome relief, allowing customers to log in to a dedicated portal where they can view menus, pre-order and pre-pay for their food and drink in advance.


EPoS-integrated deposits

Deposits can be messy business, especially for larger bookings. Zonal’s EPoS-integrated Events & Pre-Order solution allows you to manage deposits electronically, sending out reminders and allowing guests to pay their deposit, which is then automatically redeemed at the till. No more pain-staking reconciling bills at the end of the night!


La Touche Finale

( -YLUJO [LYT MVY [OL MPUHS [V\JO N\LZ[Z SV]L [OL SP[[SL things that make them feel special. An EPoS-integrated bookings and pre-order system will enable you to connect spend and behavioural data, giving you a complete picture of every customer and their preferences, so you can PTWYLZZ [OL ZVJRZ VMM [OLT UL_[ [PTL [OL` ]PZP[ ^P[O a glass of their favourite tipple.


How to Manage Party Bookings Electronically Like a Pro Join Zonal and Prezzo’s Director of IT - David Broom, for an insightful 50-minute webinar, packed with top tips and advice to help you manage your event and party bookings like a pro and boost your bottom line.

Register now!

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PANEL Leveraging digital to drive brand growth Mark Stretton, managing director of Fleet Street Communications, led a panel that discussed the way technology and digital is being leveraged to drive brand growth.

Consumers’ quest for convenience Katy Moses, managing director of KAM Media, said hyperconnectivity and busy lifestyles were influencing buying decisions in “different ways” and hospitality brands had to evolve to meet those needs. She said: “With the average commute at two hours, marketers need to look at how to deliver unique experiences that save time and fit in. There has been a global trend towards urbanisation, 72% of couples now have two working parents and this can change the way consumer lifestyles look. “Those changes in lifestyle make work-life balance a key challenge – and two-thirds of people are unhappy with theirs. There has been a massive rise in anxiety-related illness and antidepressant prescriptions have doubled in ten years. Doctors are telling us workplace stress is the health epidemic of the 21st century.” In terms of hospitality, this means the sector needs to work harder to relieve points of frustration for consumers, who are worn down by increased responsibilities. Moses said: “Potentially you have seven points of frustration when eating out – choosing a venue, making a reservation, getting seated, choosing food and drink, taking the order, receiving food and drink, and paying the bill. Operators need to ask themselves whether they are tapping into consumers’ connected lifestyles using digital assets and data? Are they creating a frictionless experience and making life simpler? Is it easy for customers to connect with you? Is convenience at the centre of your customer strategy?”

Libby Andrews, marketing director of Pho, said the company had benefited from social media by reaching an audience that “would enjoy Vietnamese food but didn’t necessarily know Pho existed”. She said: “Social media has allowed us to create larger creative campaigns. Pho is always targeting certain cities and people to drive awareness and education because, as the brand grows outside London, few people know what Vietnamese food is about so the goal is to get people thinking they might like to try our food.” Feed It Back operational excellence manager Lisa Campbell used to work with Las Iguanas and said the most impact digital had for the brand was “being able to capture personalised feedback”. However, she warned digital services only work if a brand was already giving customers a good experience. She said: “You can drive footfall through the door but if that restaurant isn’t performing consistently, you can’t drive growth and you can’t drive loyalty.” Lesley McIlroy, marketing director of Bill’s Restaurants, revealed the group’s main use of digital is to learn more about its customer base to target them directly. She said: “Our main focus has been customer relationship management (CRM) and our database. We take information from Wi-Fi when someone visits. If they make an online booking or use our app we get transactional data and compile all that information in our CRM system.” McIlroy said Bill’s recorded its highest amount of party bookings last Christmas but if people were 15 minutes late, it “threw the whole restaurant out”. She added: “That made us ask whether, when offering bookings like this, it should be the whole restaurant or only a section? Learning while things happen has offered insights.” ▲ ° SPRING 2020 ° PROPEL QUARTERLY





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Evolution of intelligent offline spaces


What’s your beef? With plant-based diets on the increase, there are mixed messages about the environmental impact of meat production. James Coldrey-Mobbs, of Ego Restaurants, said he adapted his diet to include only 100% pasture-fed meat – animals reared eating grass, herbs and flowers but no grain – meat that was organic and included no pesticides. He said: “It was about locking down the carbon that goes into the soil – cattle can form an important part of biodiversity.” Emmy Van Beek, head of sustainability at Hawksmoor, said: “Our company has a responsibility to source ethical beef through animal welfare and what we need to do now is look at the environmental impact of not just beef but our entire supply chain. All farming has an impact on the environment, whether it is crop-based or animal-based. There’s so much to consider but it’s not as black and white as we’re led to believe in the media.” Harry Boglione, owner and director of Haye Farm in Devon, said a lot of restaurants were trying to source more sustainably produced food but were coming up against a “lot of barriers”. He said: “I think the supply chain isn’t necessarily where the restaurants need it to be to be more sustainable, while there’s also a minefield of information. It’s easy to get lost in that and seasonality because we live in a global economy where a lot of people are following the wrong season.” Erpingham House founder Loui Blake said: “The accumulative biomass of every cow on earth is ten times that of every other animal combined. In turn, you have a complete imbalance that leads to water overusage, habitat destruction and food and grain necessary to sustain that many animals at one time. It’s a bigger picture than saying ‘we independently source ours from wherever’ because only the best-performing restaurants can afford to do that. It’s about being willing to have an open conversation with your customers. By giving them ownership to a degree, you’re encouraging them to visit your restaurant as well.”

Beaver Trison chief executive Peter Critchley used McDonald’s, Upper Crust and Ikea as examples of brands that use artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver intelligent retail spaces to maximise sales. Critchley said consumers were using AI every day when interacting with brands and services. He said: “AI is being used in consumers’ daily life – predictive text, LinkedIn matching like-minded people or companies understanding what they want to buy. We use an online funnel every day when we buy something. We land on the website, have a look around, click on things and dwell on stuff, then we’re prompted by the brand to buy the goods. We almost instinctively follow that process. The challenge in an offline world is how to nudge behaviour. How can you push people into actions that are meaningful? More than that, it has to be a value exchange for something someone actually wants to do.” Critchley said digital food display boards could tempt a customer to make buying choices – often turning queuing into an upselling opportunity using visually enticing images of dishes. He said: “As human beings, we want to see tasty-looking food. Words don’t really cut it.”

Winning the race Puttshack marketing director Sophie Evans told delegates the experiential brand uses the “RACE model” to drive commercial results. Explaining the acronym, she said: “Reach is about acquiring new guests, using your own brand marketing channels and maximising them to get full exposure. Act is about driving people to your website. Convert is getting guests over the line to part with their money. Engage is around operational delivery in the venue. Working as part of a team in the Puttshack community can take seven departments due to all the intricacies of systems that need to work together. This has meant we need to be aligned with our strategy.” ° SPRING 2020 ° PROPEL QUARTERLY



Engaging future customers early Laura Vana, head of research and development at Siigur Restaurants, explained how restaurants can help to develop a child’s relationship with food. She told delegates: “Sensory education is where you teach about taste. I see it as an alternative to normal nutritional education, which is based on labelling food as good or bad and is guiltbased. Sensory education makes you pay attention to the sensory elements of food – how it tastes, smells, the texture and colour. This encourages children to not just say it’s yum or yuck but think more about how it tastes.” For the past six years Vana has been generating ideas on how to get children familiar with sensory education by devising games, running a pilot in Estonia at kindergartens and elementary schools. She said: “One idea is questioning why we tell our children not to play with food? Perhaps we’ve

got it wrong? Perhaps playing with food is the best way for children to get to know and love what they are eating? Forcing your child to finish their plate can be traumatising and lead to unwillingness to try new foods, also known as food

neophobia, leading to certain food groups being avoided altogether. “When designing a menu we shouldn’t just think short term – satisfying hunger – or keeping children quiet so they don’t disturb other guests but as a way to boost the overall acceptance of healthier foods. There’s no proof children like fried chicken more than grilled chicken or blueberry muffins more than berries but, if you eat enough ‘kid food’ as a child, the presumption of limited tastes will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Vana said one way to help younger customers expand their tastebuds was through picture games – something restaurants should consider implementing. She said: “Studies have shown when children play memory games with pictures of vegetables that are new to them or they dislike, they end up liking those vegetables later on.”

Insights in unlikely places Happen UK managing director Suzanne Robinson shared tips on where to look for innovation and revealed: “Behind every opportunity and great idea lies a really good insight – but if you want to open up new opportunities you need to know what an opportunity looks like.” Robinson revealed four ways to gain insights to unlock innovation. She said: “The first one is to decode. Look at anything around you and ask ‘what is going on here? Why are people buying that? Why is that idea so successful?’


The second strategy is by staying up to date with your ‘who’ – keeping up with the context of their lives and understanding how things are shifting. The third area is data and the challenge is to extract real insights from that data because emotion is the bit that really drives behaviour change. The fourth strategy is learning from other categories. You have to remember your customers are also consumers of multiple other categories, and experience in one category inevitably drives expectation in another.”


From concept to meaningful Dishoom public relations manager Rachael Whittle said restaurant and brand owners should go from something that “feels like a concept” and build it into “something that resonates with people and adds more purpose and value”. She said: “Finding inspiration and heritage and tapping into that in a meaningful way is important. At Dishoom we pay homage to the Irani cafes of old Bombay. There used to be hundreds but now there are only 25 remaining so we’re trying to preserve their heritage rather than replicate them.” Dishoom hosts an average of 45,000 guests a week across its estate and employs almost 1,000 staff but how do you grow to that size while retaining your roots and heritage? Whittle said: “With culture. Summarise what you’re about and what your purpose is in four or five words. For something to succeed there should be a bit of poetry at the heart so we have Dishoom Dharma, a way to express the core of our business in a poetic way. It’s an expression of how things should feel for our guests and our teams and dictates everything we do.”


Swapping tech for tiffin SpiceBox founder Grace Regan revealed why she left Silicon Valley to launch a vegan restaurant in London. She said: “I founded Clippet News, an audio news app, in London in 2012. We raised good investment and ended up employing a team of 20. One thing led to another and we got accepted by one of Silicon Valley’s top startup accelerators. “I jumped at the opportunity to move to California but Silicon Valley

lived up to every cliche. There were standing desks, corny signs around the office and I lived in a hacker home – essentially a house with 30 people living in it. I had a bunk bed and shared my room with six other females – each weekend they had hackathons. My housemates worked for Tesla, Apple, Google but I didn’t take to Silicon Valley. There’s no culture, not much to do and it’s full of hot air – albeit with added genius.”

Engaging creative communities around your startup Daniel Davies, group chief executive of Rockpoint Leisure, described the regeneration scheme he has undertaken in his home town, New Brighton, one of many that councils and governments had “forgotten” as people left in their droves to work in Manchester, London or Liverpool. He said a lot of wealthy neighbours had chosen to “ignore what’s on their own doorstep”, while he felt “deeply uncomfortable” pulling up at the local pub in a £100,000 car and seeing children who “probably hadn’t eaten that night”. It spurred him on to create something for his community. He added: “I couldn’t see all this on my doorstep so I proceeded to buy or lease every single boarded-up shop, office or pub. It’s not good to have the only pub open when everything else is boarded up because all that happens is you drive down pricing. Whereas, if you spend a few quid on brightening the area and including other local businesses, you have a much better model.”

As a result, Regan spent every weekend in San Francisco and Los Angeles, becoming swept up in the emerging vegan food scene. She said: “I realised if things were like that in San Francisco and LA, in three years London would be like it too. I was right and left

to set up a vegan Indian food business. I found it interesting there was an Indian restaurant in almost every high street but no brand dominated. “SpiceBox is essentially a curry house. We’ve got one site in Walthamstow and serve modern spins on British curry house classics that also happen to be vegan. It’s our aim to be the UK’s leading curry house brand. One of the first things you learn in Silicon Valley is to go for it.”

Marketing in 2020 Mark McCulloch, who has more than 20 years’ brand, marketing, digital and social media experience, gave an update on changes marketers need to make in 2020. He told delegates: “I want you to think about how you can be ‘ambitchous’ this year – to dream bigger, be badder and live unapologetically. This is your armour and shield when you go into your marketing meetings or see your bosses and think: ‘I am going to fight tooth and nail for marketing to be at that board table and top of the agenda’.” McCulloch advised brand owners to think about “owned”, “earned” and “paid media”. He said: “Owned will get you so far – your website or social media pages – paid will get you a bit further, but earned will get you a lot further still. A

lot of entrepreneurs and startups think they’re different and won’t do things the traditional way – how did BrewDog do it? – but there’s no silver bullet. It’s a million things that make a half per cent improvement. “The phrase ‘eat s*** – a million flies can’t be wrong’ reminds people they need to pay attention to others’ successes and realise the paths they took to get there. There are no shortcuts.” McCulloch said a lot of companies were still failing to make SEO part of their online plan. He added: “They may have built an amazing website but have basically bought a Ferrari and forgotten to put petrol in it. Businesses need to remember people aren’t searching for their place by name – they’re searching for ‘best restaurants to take my mum’, ‘best restaurants that do steak’ or ‘best sushi near me’.” ▲ ° SPRING 2020 ° PROPEL QUARTERLY



PANEL Devising a killer content strategy Regarding how to develop strategies that build audiences, engage communities and deliver for individual brands, CH&Co head of content Steph Howson said it was important content always “feeds into company values”. She said: “We are all about our people, food and sustainability so whatever content we’re pushing out aligns with that.” Inception Group senior group digital marketing manager Emine Mehmet revealed the company continually trials things. She said: “We do loads of testing. Everything we try to do is moving. We include lots of staff and customers in the photos because our venues are immersive. We also do a bit of paid social so a lot of that is targeted.” Petersham Nurseries brand and digital manager Rosie Prior said companies could get “several bites of the pie” if they considered reusable content rather than focusing on the specifics of

seasonal events. She said: “Valentine’s Day at Petersham Nurseries this year was about sustainability. Instead of running a campaign based around a set menu and a Valentine’s Day package, we said we

weren’t going to sell roses because they aren’t necessarily sustainable but focus on British-grown flowers instead. We’re investing in stuff we can use time and again.”

Right person, right place, right time ETM Group and Wireless Social shared a case study – Hedgehog – that revealed how to leverage technologies. Wireless Social chief executive Julian Ross said: “Hedgehog was used to bring drinks vouchers into venues in real time. We can track people we have marketed to and those we haven’t and look at visit frequency. We saw the average visit frequency of a normal ETM guest during the Rugby World Cup was high but dropped when the tournament ended. However, those people who redeemed the Hedgehog voucher continued to come in at the same frequency.”



ETM Group director of sales and marketing Sam Bourke said the company had used the technology to build a digital infrastructure that enabled it to get to know its guests and target them better. She said: “Rather than knowing the age and birthday of someone on our database, I want to know what they like. If they like shooting and eating game, they will probably enjoy dining at The Jugged Hare. It’s the same with sport. Do they like Premier League or Formula One? We’re now confident the database can carve out a good segment of people and serve them relevant content. Hedgehog was a huge success. We learned a lot.”


PANEL Restaurant of the future The think-tank returned to determine the industry’s biggest issues for the years ahead. Adam Handling, chief executive of Adam Handling Restaurants, said: “Sustainability for me is ridiculously important but I feel it has become a bandwagon – people talking about it for a great piece of PR but doing nothing about it. Say you buy the whole animal or use the whole fish? That’s a start but responsible sourcing is the first thing to talk about – you can buy a whole chicken that has lived in a cage and never seen daylight. Is that sustainable?” Bistrot Pierre marketing director Arpita Anstey agreed with Handling but said costs at Bistrot Pierre were different. She said: “The bedrock of our business is a two-course lunch for £12.95. It’s lovely

food and chef-cooked but we’re on really tight margins so while we would like to be more sustainable and have the same values, it’s hard to deliver from a cost perspective. I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of brands.” Veganism and plant-based food was another lifestyle trend flagged as “here to stay”. Paul Webster, vice-president of business development at restaurant design company Livit, said the company had signed a deal with a business that was looking to open 100 stores in the US – “all plant-based – so I hope it’s not a fad!” Remarkable Pubs managing director

Elton Mouna said he has seen “lots of trends” but after a while you get a feeling “something is going to stick”. He added: “Low and no is definitely here to stay – so is vegan food.” Villa Mamas founder Roaya Saleh said: “Veganism is used in the European and American markets as marketing but it’s a religion in India and started hundreds of years ago. It doesn’t have to be created out of something artificial called ‘vegan’ to attract people we just need to keep something plant-based on the menu to satisfy everybody.”

PANEL Creating a culture of innovation On the subject of how to create a culture that encourages innovation, Tortilla managing director Richard Morris said: “As you grow bigger you can’t be the only one who makes decisions, you have to trust other people and be consistent in the way you manage, lead and communicate with your team. If you ask them to treat the business like it’s their own and involve them in setting budgets and local marketing, there are many rewards. If you give them more responsibility, some won’t make it and some will struggle with the responsibility – but most will blossom.” Sushi Shop chief executive Christopher Jones said: “The bigger you go, the more


risky it becomes so you need to create some processes and have a specialist to manage that too. The culture of innovation through ideas or anticipation initiatives is the same everywhere.” Black and White Hospitality managing director Brandie Deignan said it was important to be unafraid of failure because it can teach us important lessons. She said: “Being comfortable with failure is quite important. How do you stumble on something new? You can write a strategy, copy someone else or do something and risk failure, which can reveal how to do it a different way. This becomes a lesson in itself. If you’re not failing, you’re probably not innovating.”


Bartender to brand owner Be At One co-founder Rhys Oldfield told delegates how he went from being a bartender at TGI Friday’s to building the Be At One brand to 32 sites before selling it to Stonegate Pub Company for £50m. Oldfield, who founded the company with Steve Locke and Leigh Miller, said: “We bought a rundown Indian restaurant in 1998 with £60,000. It was a success from the off, but it was slow. In the first week we did £1,300, the second week we did £2,500, and the third week we did £4,000. Then we hit £10,000 in three months.” After the brand grew to 32 sites the company met with “ten or 12 private equity firms and received eight offers” before accepting Stonegate’s. Oldfield said all brands should remember it’s “all about people and engaging with them”. He added: “Even with all the technology and marketing, if you’re not delivering at point of contact with the guest, people aren’t going to come back.”


Delivery hacks

PANEL Delivery evolution Asked whether Wagamama intended to expand further into the breakfast segment, business development director Andre Johnstone said: “We think more about the customer segments than the time slot. Customer segments are the interesting bit where we get to new consumers. We’re seeing most growth in single diners and families, the main groups adopting delivery. “Those customer segments are a natural fit for delivery for the obvious reason families can’t be bothered to go out and need convenience to get food in. For single diners it’s a safe way to try new food at home – essentially a blend of convenience and experimentation in a safe environment.” EatClever co-founder Robin Himmels said corporate orders had become a “new occasion in their own right” but, while the route was simplistic for some, a lot more thought needed to go into providing a delivery service for large corporations. He said: “There are two ways to reach corporate customers – through the employee or employer. With employees it’s usually the same people who order at home with their family so you need to let them know you can deliver to their office. Going through the employer has a lot more challenges as you need to build a platform where all employees can order food.” I am Döner director James Hacon has seen corporate orders help reposition a food brand’s offer in new and compelling ways – a “relatively straightforward route for brands to access”. He said: “Corporate ordering is an easy access point for a lot of brands. I am Döner has worked with Petersham Nurseries in the past year and it’s a brand that isn’t going to go on Just Eat or Deliveroo because it’s not where the company wants to be. What’s interesting with the city pantry-style offer we did with Petersham was it was able to get orders in the night before so we could prep them and, because it has a bakery department, it was all presented beautifully. We worked on some nice packaging for afternoon tea and suddenly you’re demonstrating the brand in a different way. I never thought people would eat döner kebabs at lunchtime but we have rice boxes and salad boxes – and they fly.”

Just Eat UK marketing director Matthew Bushby revealed his five delivery growth hacks for 2020. He said: “Make sure your menu is tailored for delivery; ensure you are relevant throughout the day; look at corporate ordering and make sure you know what role that can play in your business; upsell to drive average order value; and remember the speed and customer experience – speed is everything and the expectations around speed have changed fundamentally. “Delivery should be a huge driver of your business and of value to your customers. It should be relatively

simple but it’s about hard work and making sure you do all these things to create a joined-up experience. That means having the right menu at the right time; looking at those need states and user occasions and making sure you’re relevant; making sure you’re not just looking at your B2C offering and broadening and bringing a B2B offering into that space as there’s a huge amount of spend to exploit; and improving speed and efficiency. If businesses make all those incremental improvements it will make the customer experience brilliant and separate you from competitors.”

Startup stories Andy Young, managing director of cereal cafe operator Black Milk, said: “We have been focused on being a premium dessert bar and, more recently, a food brand creating Instagrammable experiences. We treat everyone the same and make sure they have a great experience. It’s about getting outside your cafe, working with other brands and doing fun stuff. The worst thing you can be is grey – because that really shows.” Hayley Simpson, founder of events and bar agency Lucky Pineapple, said she grabbed attention by arousing the curiosity of festivalgoers. She said: “I wanted to create structures you could see across a festival field. Something people would want to photograph and, when they arrived, find something they wanted to engage with. It has been a massive success and will be the model we adopt for cocktail bars too.” Icelandic entrepreneur Ragnar Eiríksson said he launched wine bar concept Vínstúkan after becoming frustrated by Reykjavik’s lack of independent sites. He said: “We have a wine bar in Reykjavik high street that focuses on organic food and natural wine. We needed a bar like this for ourselves. There are so many beer-driven restaurants and most are connected to larger brands. I could walk into any bar and know what beer and wine they would offer, and it was always a bad selection.” Wing Shack founder Josh Jarvis said his brand went from strength to strength after gaining a celebrity following, helping to market the company further. He said: “We mainly grew our social media by using influencers and getting celebrities down to the shop – rappers, footballers, reality TV stars. We also collaborated with fashion brands such as Pretty Little Thing, Adidas and Offspring. When people see that kind of brand collaboration, they trust your brand more.” ° SPRING 2020 ° PROPEL QUARTERLY



If you don't say HELLO, they say GOODBYE 83% Ann Elliott says greeting customers with a genuine warm welcome is critical if you want them to return or recommend your brand


n an ever more competitive world where operators frantically work to deliver a customer experience that differentiates their brand above others, service initiatives (always top of an operator’s agenda) are increasingly on the rise. From the slick to the theatrical, operators in our space have turned a lens on the service they offer at their venues – hoping to create a memorable and highly satisfying experience for customers. Some of my favourites include Mr Fogg’s, where the team delivers service in full character, and Dishoom, which hands customers free cups of hot, sweet chai when queuing outside for a table. The impact of how effective these initiatives – arguably gimmicks in some cases – are is largely unknown to operators as they often need to use gut instinct combined with in-the-moment customer feedback to gauge effectiveness. What we consistently see across our client work, however, is the importance of welcoming a customer when they first walk into your venue. While not a shiny and new concept, the impact of how your customers are greeted is one of the most critical to ensuring levels of satisfaction remain high during their experience as well as their likelihood to return and recommend your brand. You know the old industry saying – there’s never just one thing wrong, it’s everything. More often than not that’s triggered by customers who weren’t acknowledged, greeted or treated respectfully when they walked in. This could be anything from having to wait

of customers considered the welcome they receive the most important factor when visiting a bar, restaurant, hotel or pub

Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals with no acknowledgement from staff to being challenged about the time of their reservation. If you plant a bad seed early on, it will grow a tree of niggles during the rest of their experience. As part of a service experience report, more than four-fifths (83%) of customers considered the welcome they receive the most important factor when visiting a bar, restaurant, hotel or pub. In addition, more than three-quarters (79%) of them said they would be put off a return visit if the welcome

“If you plant a bad seed early on, it will grow a tree of niggles during the rest of their experience”

they received was poor, disingenuous or not engaging (HGEM, 2017). Our data from a collection of casual dining clients shows those customers who score highly for their welcome have an NPS of 89, compared with 63 from customers of the same brands who had a low-scoring welcome. This shows the importance an effective welcome has on long-term brand perception. The type of greeting customers expect and desire will vary depending on your brand and time of visit but there are some consistencies across the sector. Having delivered many client brand research projects during the past year, it has reaffirmed a prompt, genuine and warm welcome is key – regardless of the operator. ▲ Staff at Cahoots dress in the spirit of post-war London






Team members at the host desk at Dishoom welcoming guests

Be prompt, seconds are precious Customers who are quickly identified and acknowledged by your team will feel looked after through the initial “where do I go, who do I speak to, do I just sit down?” phase. If teams are quick to make eye contact and acknowledge a customer’s arrival it makes a significant difference to how they perceive their greeting. Even if team members are busy serving other customers, having them deliver a visual acknowledgement such as eye contact, a quick smile or hand signal is very effective in letting guests know they have become part of the customer journey. This is especially key for restaurants, as the HGEM report stated more than two-fifths (42%) of restaurant customers claimed not being greeted with eye contact or a smile made them “feel unwelcome”. A speedy reception has even more impact on non-regular customers, peaking for first-time visitors whose satisfaction levels are up to three times higher when they have a prompt welcome compared with those that don’t. For operators such as pubs, bars and coffee shops, which don’t necessarily have door hosts or “floating” team members available to focus on greeting customers, you don’t escape the expectations, they just come in a slightly different form. In fact, it becomes even more important for a bar team to acknowledge customers as they join the throng, letting them know they’ve been clocked and their place in the line is secure. For venues where it would help, signs guiding customers, for example “please take a seat then order at the bar”, go a long way to helping customers navigate the protocol, with research showing this proxy greeting drives increases in customer satisfaction.

Warm team, warm hearts

Robotic service doesn’t fly with customers in 2020. If teams are wooden, scripted and evidently unhappy to be there, customers take note and their satisfaction levels across key measures for not only service but also food and drink take a dive. It’s not new news that positive energy is

“A speedy reception has even more impact on non-regular customers, peaking for firsttime visitors whose satisfaction levels are up to three times higher when they have a prompt welcome compared with those that don’t” infectious and operators that have upbeat, passionate and welcoming team cultures exude this to their customers. Some of the best examples I’ve experienced recently range from Turtle Bay and The Alchemist to TGI Friday’s. Regardless of venue type and customer demographic, the teams at those venues made me feel they loved their jobs, were passionate about their customers and were genuinely interested in myself, my friends and family. In recent projects, when getting under the skin of what makes a “warm” and “genuine” welcome for restaurant customers, we find customers talking about “authenticity”. Respondents describe this as a combination of the team greeting them using natural language (that’s appropriate, of course) and tailoring their greeting to the customers themselves. Here, context and relevancy is key in landing authenticity, having tangible positive effects on customer perception of their welcome and overall experience. For example, customers laden with bags being greeted in Nando’s with “hey guys, are you having a good day’s shopping?” would be considered as warm and genuine as a couple on a date at The Ivy Brasserie being greeted with “good evening and welcome to The Ivy, please come in out of the cold”. The environment and customer should dictate what sort of welcome is delivered, ensuring each one is genuine and unique.

Empower the individual Customers are also telling us the greeting should reflect the team member, showcasing their personality and individuality whether they’re a 19-year-old

part-time student or a seasoned maître d. Operators should empower teams to showcase their individuality and personality (within brand and service standard guidelines) to deliver this effectively. Anything more rigid and forced will be apparent to customers, and it’s jarring. This not only encompasses individual characteristics such as personality, language and self-expression but extends to empowering team members to look after customers and deliver a service they feel is right. For example, if a team member welcomes a couple who are celebrating an occasion and is empowered to acknowledge that with a free glass of fizz or a couple of scoops of ice cream, this not only enhances the customer experience (making them more likely to return to and recommend your brand) but also creates a feeling of goodwill and ownership within the team member. This empowerment is a much-underestimated motivator for teams and a powerful undercurrent of highly successful operator cultures. There has been an ever-increasing focus on service standards, processes and initiatives, something I don’t expect to slow any time soon. In times when operators are looking for quick, easy-toimplement and cost-effective solutions to elevate the customer experience, taking stock of what the welcome in your restaurant looks like for customers is something I would highly recommend. There’s no silver bullet or fixed formula for delivering a genuine and effective welcome to your customers – that’s down to you. I encourage you to put yourself in the shoes of your customer as if you had never visited your pub, restaurant or cafe. What does it look like? How do the people there make you feel as soon as you walk in the door? How you say hello to customers could be key to ensuring they don’t say goodbye.

Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliotts, the leading integrated marketing agency in the hospitality and leisure sector – ° SPRING 2020 ° PROPEL QUARTERLY



Unintended consequences Paul Chase looks at the effects of minimum unit pricing in Scotland on the industry and the health of the nation


ollowing the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP) in Scotland on 1 May 2018, it has just come into force in Wales set at 50p per unit. While debating the matter, Welsh Assembly member Dai Lloyd said a household survey based on self-reported drinking suggested the policy had been a “sweeping success in reducing the amount of alcohol people in Scotland drink”. However, actual sales figures provided by Information Resources International (IRI) barcode sales data show consumption in Scotland has risen – both in terms of volume as measured in litres and unit consumption of pure ethyl alcohol. The Sheffield Alcohol Research Group has made similar predictions for MUP outcomes in Wales to the ones it made for Scotland. It predicts a 3.6% fall in percapita consumption in year one; 22 fewer units consumed per capita, per annum – rising to 69 units for the poorest drinkers who buy the cheapest alcohol; 591 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions; 31 fewer alcohol-related deaths and 2,093 fewer alcohol-related crimes. We shall have to see if these predictions on consumption come true but similar predictions made for Scotland are contradicted by IRI sales data. If we assume sales data is a good proxy for consumption and look at the first year of MUP in Scotland – comparing 52 weeks of IRI sales data from 29 April 2018 to 27 April 2019 with the same period the previous year before MUP was introduced – we discover the following: Money spent buying alcohol rose 9.8% during the year following the introduction of MUP ● The volume of alcohol sold, as measured in litres, rose 1.7% ● There was an increase of 2,499,969 units of alcohol purchased ● Alcohol-related deaths rose overall by 1% ●

How does this suggest the policy has been a “sweeping success in reducing the amount people drink in Scotland”? It depends on whose data you rely on. The data Dai Lloyd referred to was household survey data provided by Kantor and was based on self-reported purchasing before and after the introduction of MUP. If social science is “soft science”, this kind of survey is at the softest end and I don’t attach a great deal of credibility to it.


However, research recently published by NHS Scotland, which is also based on barcode sales data, confirms the amount of pure ethyl alcohol purchased fell 3.6% in Scotland in the year following the introduction of MUP. The NHS research relies on sales data from Nielsen – one of IRI’s competitors. How do we explain the fact one market research company shows a fall in unit consumption and the other a rise when both rely on objective sales data? The answer may lie in differences between datasets but also differences in how data is interpreted and analysed. Both company’s sales numbers solely covered the off-trade. Nielsen’s data surveyed bar code information from supermarkets – defined as alcohol retailers with ten or more outlets under common ownership. IRI also surveyed supermarket sales data. Crucially, neither company was able to survey sales from discounters Aldi and Lidl, which don’t sell data to market research companies. Therefore each organisation will have estimated or “modelled” those sales figures and the unit consumption derived from them. I don’t know if the modelling methodology was the same for both companies or whether this accounts for the differing outcomes.

on for pinpoint accuracy where shifts in purchasing behaviour are a couple of percentages either way ● Where sales estimates based on modelling form a significant part of the results, there’s much greater wriggleroom for those who want data to demonstrate a particular result ● This has implications for how government evaluates the success or otherwise of MUP – there’s no 100% accurate way of measuring sales or consumption – research can only be indicative There’s no doubt MUP in Scotland has had a major disruptive effect on the market – creating new winners and losers – and the degree of product

Modelling exercise Likewise, a modelling exercise is carried out in relation to alcohol purchases from other sectors, such as convenience stores, but there’s one other potential confounding factor – the units. To convert volume sales into unit sales you apply a simple formula – the volume of alcohol in litres multiplied by the ABV of the drink and divided by 1,000 gives you the number of units. The ABV printed on the label of, say a bottle of beer, can be relied on as accurate, right? Not right. Under EU rules a bottle of beer labelled as 4% ABV could actually be anywhere between 3.6% and 4.4% so the outcome of converting from volumes to units depends on what assumptions you make about ABV in the beer or beer categories concerned. Spirits ABVs, by contrast, can be relied on. I could go into further detail about confounding factors but I don’t want to bore my readers to death! The takeaways from this are: ●

Sales data is good at spotting big changes in trends but can’t be relied


“There’s no doubt MUP in Scotland has had a major disruptive effect on the market – creating new winners and losers – and the degree of product substitution is significant, not minor”


“The Scottish government intends to review MUP in May – in other words, to increase it. My guess would be a rise to 65p per unit”

substitution is significant, not minor. This disruption has both a demand and supply side. On the demand side consumers have switched from cider, perry and wine, which collectively have sold more than 74 million fewer units, to spirits, fortified wine, ready-to-drink options, lager, ale and stout, which collectively have sold 76.5 million more units – a net increase in unit consumption of almost 2.5 million units – according to IRI data. On the supply side, supermarkets have reacted to protect volumes and boost profits. Supermarket own-label products have almost disappeared as MUP has eliminated the price proposition own-label depended on. Consumers have switched to branded products and the supermarkets have switched from large packs to smaller ones to keep the price of a pack below the price points that deter consumers. For example, in the spirits category one-litre and 1.5-litre bottles have sold significantly less as volume switches to smaller bottles – particularly 70cl and 35cl – but overall, volumes have increased 7.5 million units of alcohol compared with last year.


rise in money spent buying alcohol during the year following the introduction of MUP

MUP appears to have encouraged consumers to replace cider with 15% ABV, caffeine-laced tonic wine, in particular Buckfast, the tipple of choice for chaotic street drinkers in Scotland. Lager, ale and stout have all seen increases in volume and unit sales and a decline in own-label sales to the point most supermarkets have withdrawn them from sale. Consumers have reacted to MUP by trading up to more expensive and betterquality products. Supermarkets have closely examined price points, package sizes and what deters spending to protect volumes and have thereby navigated MUP and produced an increase in spending on alcohol and sales volumes.

Nonsensical The idea MUP is good for pubs because it will tip people out of the living room and into the taproom is nonsensical. If people spend almost 10% more money to get less than 2% more product, they have less money to spend on going out. This is what happens when virtue-signalling politicians are gulled into believing the predictions of activist academics who don’t understand how markets work and throw a price regulation into the middle of a free market populated by players who know exactly how markets work. Whatever the marginal increase or decrease in unit consumption since MUP’s introduction, the unintended consequences of increased spending and the growth in consumption of spirits and products such as Buckfast can’t possibly be welcomed by health campaigners – so where does the policy go next? The Scottish government intends to review MUP in May – in other words, to increase it. My guess would be a rise to 65p per unit. That will undoubtedly reduce consumption – at least from licit channels – but it will affect middle-class wine and spirits drinkers. It becomes impossible at that point to argue MUP only targets the cheapest alcohol consumed by problem drinkers. At this higher price point MUP starts to have political consequences and politicians may start worrying about raising the cost of living for people who actually bother to vote. Watch this space! ■

Paul Chase is director of Chase Consultancy and a leading industry commentator on alcohol and health ° SPRING 2020 ° PROPEL QUARTERLY


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