Propel Quarterly Winter 2018

Page 1


Propel www.propelhospitality. com

ISSUE 25 • WINTER 2018


Chelsea v Fulham Sunday 2 December, 12pm

Arsenal v Tottenham Sunday 2 December, 2.05pm

Liverpool v Everton Sunday 2 December, 4.15pm

Liverpool v Man Utd Sunday 16 December, 4pm Premier League

Derby v Nottingham Forest Monday 17 December, 7.45pm Sky Bet Championship

Rangers v Celtic Saturday 29 December, 12.30pm Scottish Premiership

Man City v Liverpool Thursday 3 January, 8pm Premier League

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

Remarkable renaissance Managing director Elton Mouna reveals why Remarkable Pubs continues to champion traditional London boozers

Inside: Fresh challenges ahead When trouble brews Improving mental health in hospitality Chips ahoy Women’s Entrepreneur Conference Casual dining still pulling in punters News from the floor In the club Making hospitality sexy Marketing leadership


ISSUE 25 • WINTER 2018







Fresh challenges ahead


When trouble brews


Improving mental health in hospitality


Give me a London pub every time


Chips ahoy


Women’s Entrepreneur Conference


Casual dining still pulling in punters


News from the floor


In the club


Making hospitality sexy


Marketing leadership

Work to ensure government fully understands what the sector needs to continue its significant contribution to the UK has only just begun, says UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls

The takeover of independent brewers by ‘big beer’ has provoked extreme reactions. John Porter gets the views of industry experts

Professor Chris Edger looks at how companies in the sector can make their staff feel more valued, respected and loved while benefiting in the process

Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna tells Glynn Davis why the company continues to champion the capital's traditional boozers

Fish and chip shops could steal a march on calls to cut calories by cutting chip portions, argues Glynn Davis

Jessica Mason rounds up highlights from the sector’s first conference to feature an all-female line-up of company leaders

The casual dining segment has transformed the British high street but there may be trouble brewing, says Dominic Allport

Jessica Mason reveals highlights from the recent Propel Multi Club Conference

Martin Cooper turns the spotlight on the Bar and Nightclub Conference, which celebrates the best of the late-night sector

It’s time to market our industry more effectively to get young people to see the sector as a career choice, says James Hacon

Business leaders and marketers need to maximise the effectiveness of resources and ensure the team’s focus is on core business issues, argues Ian Dunstall

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

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Fresh challenges ahead UKHospitality’s work to ensure government fully understands what the sector needs to continue its significant contribution to the UK’s economic and social well-being has only just begun, says chief executive Kate Nicholls


ropel Quarterly readers know the significant toll policy-instigated costs are taking on their business and the wider eating and drinking out sector, with hard evidence provided by the annual UKHospitality Christie & Co Benchmarking Report. Published in November in partnership with Christie & Co, the report found controllable costs had risen to an average of 52.5% of turnover, the highest in the survey’s 12-year history. Payroll costs, the largest cost for eating and drinking out businesses, now stand at 29.4% of turnover, an increase of 1.5 percentage points from 12 months ago. As in previous years, the report seeks not only to observe trends within the industry but also to provide a more in-depth analysis into their underlying causes. While the survey was sent out by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and Christie & Co, the ALMR’s subsequent merger with the British Hospitality Association (BHA) meant the resulting report was also produced for the wider benefit of all UKHospitality members. It is our intention stakeholders use the data contained to benchmark themselves and competitors as well as to inform policy and assist with strategic business decisions

Sobering figures The report also shows realterm shrinkage of like-for-like sales that have risen 1.1%, below inflation. Margins for food sales remain flat while margins for drinks sales have declined since last year.

52.5% percentage of turnover taken up by controllable costs, the highest figure in the UKHospitality Christie & Co Benchmarking Report’s 12-year history


These figures make for somewhat sobering reading for eating and drinking out operators. Costs continue their inexorable climb at a time of political and economic uncertainty, demonstrating why support offered in the recent Budget, while welcome, didn’t go far enough. Two-fifths (40%) of businesses surveyed reported a hike in their business rates resulting in one-fifth cutting staff and almost one-tenth closing sites. This is clearly worrying. We need a continued package of support for businesses, including fundamental reform of the outdated system of property taxation.

“Costs continue their inexorable climb at a time of political and economic uncertainty, demonstrating why support offered in the recent Budget, while welcome, didn’t go far enough” It’s important members stay vocal and continue to bang the drum on the unfairness and disparity of the current regime and how it utterly undermines growth and investment. Put simply, this issue isn’t going away. October’s Hospitality Day in parliament, which saw the launch of our “Aim High” campaign promoting the sector’s significant contribution, was a great example of members uniting to build momentum on the case for reform. Let’s keep up the pressure. Amid the gloom, the results highlighted the continuing evolution of the eating and drinking out landscapes. Food sales have reached a new high-water mark, while room revenues continue to grow at a strong pace as more operators offer letting rooms. This shows a sector that continues to prove itself as diverse, resilient and adaptable in the face of the many challenges thrown its way. The report also gauges the latest industry sentiment and confidence ahead of the UK’s departure from the European Union in March 2019.

Migration mayhem Brexit continues to concern many businesses in the sector, with four in ten believing it will have a negative impact. Respondents said recruitment had already become more difficult, with one in five reporting EU nationals had already left their businesses as a direct result of the referendum decision. While we now have a welcome commitment to those EU workers


already in the country, our next focus is to ensure we have a future immigration policy which works for hospitality businesses that need to augment their UK workforces with overseas staff. Many Propel readers are putting considerable efforts into providing opportunities for UK workers. Three-quarters of our workforce is homegrown and we invest significant amounts into apprenticeship schemes to build the workforce of the future here in the UK. The reality is, though, hospitality businesses need to supplement their workforces with non-UK workers to keep pace with projected growth, particularly given the record employment rate. If there is no system in place to ensure employers can access labour following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, businesses will struggle and our guests will suffer through higher prices and falling service levels. We need to see a mutually beneficial migration policy established as part of trade deals following Brexit. This should go hand in hand with reforms to Tier 2 migrants coming to the UK to work. The government should seriously reconsider thresholds for all migration, otherwise hospitality businesses on our high streets will struggle to provide further jobs and investment in local communities.

Work just beginning We have a world-class hotel, hospitality and eating-out market in the UK but it is under significant pressure from mounting costs, a shortage of workers and economic uncertainty. We must not be overlooked in the UK’s departure from the EU otherwise there is a risk of tangible and long-term damage to a sector that employs more than three million people and generates much more than the notorious £350m a week to the public purse. As we approach the end of another busy year, it’s worth reflecting on our achievements. This year has seen the ALMR and BHA unite to form UKHospitality, establishing a powerful, unified voice to represent the entire hospitality sector and enhance our influence with government as well as securing better media coverage outlining the challenges our businesses face. Next year will undoubtedly bring with it a fresh swathe of challenges. Our work at UKHospitality is only just beginning to ensure government fully understands what the sector needs to continue its significant contribution to the UK’s economic and social well-being.

Kate Nicholls is chief executive of UKHospitality, the leading voice for the eating and drinking out sector

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The takeover of independent brewers by ‘big beer’ has provoked extreme reactions among certain craft beer fans. John Porter gets the views of industry experts closer to the action


y father-in-law, now in his late 80s, still looks at the Tesco store in Faversham, Kent, which occupies the site of the former Fremlin’s Brewery acquired by Whitbread more than 50 years ago, and calls down a colourful curse on those responsible for the loss of his favourite pint. Such disappearances are commonplace in commercial brewing, which has a history, broadly speaking, of mergers and takeovers. The Brewery History Society reports the number of UK breweries fell from 3,556 in 1915 to 117 in 1986. In the US, figures from the Brewers Association (BA) show there were 1,345 breweries in 1915 (five years before Prohibition) and 124 in 1986. The craft beer revolution has dramatically changed the trajectory of brewery numbers, with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) reporting the number of UK breweries passed 2,000 in 2017, while the BA recorded 6,372 US breweries in the same year. None of this means mergers and acquisition activity has disappeared. Key deals in the UK have included the acquisition of Sharps Brewery by Molson Coors in 2011 and the double sale of Meantime Brewery – to SABMiller in 2015 and Asahi the following year. Camden Town Brewery was sold to Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) at the end of 2015, while Carlsberg acquired London Fields Brewery in 2017, the same year Brixton Brewery sold a minority stake to Heineken. AB InBev has been particularly keen on craft beer acquisitions, with its takeover of Chicago craft pioneer Goose Island in 2011 followed by, among others, Elysian and Wicked Weed in the US and, in 2017, Pirate Life in Australia. The passion of beer-lovers has, if anything, become even more fervent in the decades since the shutters went up

‘‘These deals provoked not only outrage on social media from a vocal band of craft beer activists but, perhaps more significantly, de-listings’’

at Fremlin’s and one recourse today’s aficionados have that my father-in-law didn’t is an opportunity to take to social media to air their views. Ironically, social media has proved a double-edged sword for some craft brewers that have built a large following online. Self-styled “punk” brewer BrewDog’s decision to sell a 22% stake to US private equity investor TSG Consumer Partners in April 2017 prompted tweets such as “ooh, how very rebellious” and “if I were a BrewDog equity holder, I might think I’d been punked”. Subsequent deals have provoked similar reactions, notably Beavertown’s sale of a minority stake to Heineken in May this year and, to a lesser extent, the sale of fellow London craft brewer Fourpure to Kirin’s Australian subsidiary Lion in July. These deals provoked not only outrage on social media from a vocal band of craft beer activists but, perhaps more significantly, de-listings.

Independence Among operators taking such a decision with beer from both Beavertown and Fourpure was Hop Burns & Black, which operates craft beer shops and tasting rooms in Peckham and Deptford. However, the fact Beavertown made up 8% of the business’ beer revenue was no deterrent. Hop Burns & Black co-founder Jen Ferguson says: “From our standpoint as an independent business, it has always been imperative we support other independents. Even though Beavertown was one of our biggest suppliers, we dropped Camden Town once it sold to AB InBev and Brixton as well. We sold a lot of Brixton beer but decided to drop it when Heineken purchased a percentage. We had to show we weren’t hypocrites – we had also brewed a beer with Fourpure last year so it was a good contact.” The engagement of craft beer ▲ WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY



Hop Burns & Black founders Jen Ferguson and Glenn Williams. Their Peckham shop (left)

drinkers with the market meant a lot of Hop Burns & Black’s customers agreed with the decision. Ferguson says: “Craft beer drinkers are discerning and it’s not just about what’s in the can, they also care about how the beer is made and who made it. They like to know the money is going back into the community more than it going into Heineken or AB InBev’s coffers.” The diversity of London’s craft brewing scene means replacing Beavertown and Fourpure beers has been relatively straightforward. Ferguson says: “The market is always changing – we have up to 50 new products some weeks. Our customers migrated to local, independent alternatives. Brick Brewery and Gypsy Hill Brewery are our closest neighbours and that’s been a real silver lining. Kernel Table Beer, Brick Pale and Gipsy Hill Hepcat are now our biggest sellers, and they are all selling more than Beavertown did.” As with its suppliers, Hop Burns & Black actively engages with customers through social media. Ferguson says: “We’re talking to people on a daily and weekly basis and customer feedback is really important to us. It’s just as important for breweries to have that relationship and Beavertown bore the brunt of customer outrage on Twitter when the deal with Heineken went through. “People develop close relationships,

‘‘We prepared ourselves for the attention but the experience for us was very positive. People who commented on social media were mainly focused on our success in getting the business to a position where it attracted an investor and the opportunities it would bring us’’ – Brixton Brewery co-founder Jez Galaun 10

‘‘A lot of craft beer drinkers don’t want to return to the days when it was just a handful of companies dictating the beer scene. They love the fact there are 150 breweries in London alone and they can pick and choose’’ – Hop Burns & Black co-founder Jen Ferguson

almost kinships, with a brewery and that’s why they take it so personally when a brewery such as Beavertown sells out. They almost take it as a betrayal. A lot of craft beer drinkers don’t want to return to the days when it was just a handful of companies dictating the beer scene. They love the fact there are 150 breweries in London alone and they can pick and choose.”

Receiving end Given the seeming inevitability of takeovers and strategic investments in the craft beer sector, the challenge for breweries finding themselves on the receiving end of attention from the big players is to manage the process. Jez Galaun, one of four co-founders of Brixton Brewery, believes the business came through its tie-up with Heineken relatively unscathed. He says: “We prepared ourselves for the attention but the experience for us was very positive. People who commented on social media were mainly focused on our success in getting the business to a position where it attracted an investor and the opportunities it would bring us. “We put out an announcement ▲

Brixton Brewery co-founders Xochitl Benjamin, Mike Ross, Libby Galaun and Jez Galaun



focusing on why we made the decision, how we got to that point, and what it meant for us. We thought ‘let’s put it out there and we’ll answer any comments as they come in’. I think our trajectory was different to someone such as Camden Town. We were a small, family-run business and were really struggling to meet demand in Brixton. The investment by Heineken has allowed us to open a new brewery and stay true to what we set out to do, which is making really good, accessible beer with a sense of place.” Galaun acknowledges the loss of stockists such as Hop Burns & Black was disappointing, but adds: “We don’t take it personally. We know certain retailers have a strict policy on independence. We struggled to keep up with demand for our beer and that was holding the business back. Our priority was to try to make them more widely available, which is what the new brewery has enabled us to do.” Galaun also argues the undoubted importance of social media needs to be balanced against real relationships. He says: “We have always put the focus on our local market – Brixton and south London. We have very good relationships and loyal customers in the area. We’re still a pretty small brewery in the grand scheme of things – the four founders are still running the brewery every day – and I think that’s helped us maintain these relationships.”

Opportunities The advent of the craft beer community on social media has created opportunities for a new generation of commentators. One decision Galaun believes paid off for Brixton Brewery was an advance briefing on the Heineken investment to beer writer Matthew Curtis, who published an online article setting out reasons behind the deal. Curtis, UK editor of the Good Beer Hunting website, says: “Every situation


What do consumers associate with craft beer? • A beer with a unique flavour 55% • Not mass-produced 50% • A beer with high-quality ingredients 50% • Produced by an independent company 49% • A beer not owned by a big brewery 47% • Produced by a local company 40% • A beer with a traditional flavour 38% • A beer with traditional manufacturing processes 37% • Produced by a company that makes a relatively small amount of beer 35% • Produced by a company with a strong heritage for brewing beer 23% Source: CGA

‘‘Social media has allowed breweries to communicate deeper information and understanding but it has also helped create the fandom, a reactionary element that has been negative to these buyouts’’ – God Beer Hunting Editor, Matthew Curtis


when a brewery takes investment or sells out to a large corporation is unique to that brand, as well as how it’s perceived. Look at examples where fans revolted. Beavertown founder Logan Plant had gone on camera the year before in a keynote speech talking about the evils of ‘big beer’. Three months after that he was entertaining the idea he had to speak to Heineken because he wanted to grow his brand. “Equally, BrewDog’s strapline is ‘independence or death’, and it took a £213m investment for 22% of the company. That’s a significant share. It gives an equity company in San Francisco a seat at the table, and I’m certain that will influence decisions.” Curtis contrasts those situations with Fourpure, which was founded by brothers Dan and Tom Lowe in 2013. Curtis says: “What we saw was a relatively small reaction. The brothers had always played it down the line. They had previously built and sold a business to private equity and, when they sold their brewery, it wasn’t really a surprise.” Curtis believes larger craft brewers have created an environment on social media where the consumer is “almost weaponised” and the backlash comes when high-profile criticism of “big beer” is seen as hypocritical in light of later deals. He says: “Social media has allowed breweries to communicate deeper information and understanding but it has also helped create the fandom, a reactionary element that has been negative to these buyouts. It’s the responsibility of businesses to manage that effectively. Where there’s been a backlash, it has been self-inflicted for the most part. If young breweries don’t learn from the mistakes of those that have gone before them, it’s their own fault. All the evidence is out there.”

Feature ‘‘Our shareholders would be really upset if we just rolled over and sold to AB InBev. I think there would be a backlash’’ – David Bruce

New landscape Older industry hands view this new landscape with interest. David Bruce is no stranger to beer fandom. His Firkin brewpubs, and the Bruce’s Brewery beers that emerged from them, created a strong following from the first pub opening in 1979 to Bruce’s sale of a 12-strong chain to Midsummer Leisure in 1988. In the meantime, various takes on the slogan “buy me a Firkin beer” appeared on beermats, T-shirts and even graffiti on the Berlin Wall. Bruce is under little doubt as to how his loyal followers would have reacted if they had recourse to social media 30 years ago. He says: “I would probably have been lynched by my lovely customers for selling up!” As it was, the time needed to print and post the regular Firkin customer newsletter allowed for sober(ish) reflection. Bruce says: “I had run out of steam and people sympathised with that. I explained why I was doing it and I don’t think anyone ever said I’d made the wrong decision or I shouldn’t be doing it.” An ale trail in which customers received a commemorative tankard if they visited all the pubs before the sale meant he “went out in a blaze of glory”. Bruce says: “Is trolling the right word? People have certainly been very unkind and unpleasant. Beavertown and Camden Town have been incredibly successful and I think people became a bit obsessive about it. Is it really any of their business? The entrepreneurs are the ones who make the business work. “BrewDog is slightly different because it has always said it pathologically hates big breweries, even more than I do. OK, it went for a private equity company – I’m a tiny shareholder in Equity for Punks – but I think the company banged the drum about independence so much it created a hostage to fortune.” Bruce was also a shareholder in Seattlebased Elysian Brewing Company, which was sold to AB InBev in 2015. He says: “There wasn’t a consumer backlash, there had been other AB InBev takeovers with Goose Island, for example. The US is a more mature market for craft beer but also more battle-weary.” One business interest of Bruce’s is West Berkshire Brewery, a company he chairs. The business is funded by an EIS scheme, which Bruce has previously used at Capital Pub Company and City Pub Company. He says: “My policy is always ‘flog it or float it’. Talking to West Berkshire Brewery managing director Tom Lucas, we have 130 shareholders who have coughed up a million quid between them, and they’re in it for the long term. “Rather than selling up, if we get to the point where we need to provide liquidity for an existing shareholder or raise more value, we think we’d go on to AIM. Our shareholders would be really upset if we just rolled over and sold to AB InBev. I think there would be a backlash.” ▲ WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Feature Irrational Sussex-based Dark Star Brewery was acquired by Fuller’s in February. Dark Star managing director James Cuthbertson says: “I watched the Beavertown backlash with interest – some of it I winced at. I thought some people were irrational but that’s their opinion, and we’re not all going to share an opinion.” When the acquisition by Fuller’s was announced, Cuthbertson made himself available to Dark Star’s loyal customers. He says: “I made sure I was free to be contacted on social media, replying to everything – good, bad or indifferent. I also put my mobile number in the local CAMRA branch magazine. I had some odd texts at odd times Brewhouse & Kitchen, the UK’s of the night, often asking largest brewpub group, says whether their favourite beer he is being marketed at least would still be brewed, but one brewery a week for you accept you’re a big potential acquisition. the number of part of their lives and it’s He says: “Takeovers UK breweries not a nine to five job. and deals on the scale of “We’ve always been Beavertown and Fourpure in 2017 accessible, given people are much rarer than people recipes, invited them in to brew think and for every brewery that their favourite beers. You can’t just gets bought out or picks up equity pull the shutters up, and we don’t want to investment, there are probably 100 running either. If you dance, you dance all the time. hand-to-mouth on cash or going bust.” We were luckier than some in that we went Gumbrell says the social media storm with Fuller’s – I passionately feel they’re doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the good guys. They’ve been around a customers at the bar. He adds: “There long time and they’re independent. We was no backlash at the pubs or till. If spent months making sure it was the right anything, the craft drinkers I spoke to marriage, and I like to think we benefited were supportive but, like many things from that.” these days, people are fearful of being Cuthbertson points to the new ten-year trolled if they speak up on social media. lease signed on Dark Star’s brewery in Our Beavertown Gamma Ray sales are as Partridge Green as well as investment in buoyant as ever. a new canning line, a barrel-ageing room, “When it comes to the larger brewers and an extension to the brewery shop. He investing in the craft market, all the says: “Six months on, Fuller’s has already invested hundreds of thousands and we’ve ‘‘At the end of the day, got the best line-up of beers since we formed, so we’ve walked the talk.” good beer is good beer


Intense competition With competition in the beer market intense and consumers likely to be in cautious spending mode for some time, many in the industry expect further brewery consolidation and an increase in closures. Kris Gumbrell, chief executive of


and as long as that continues, everyone needs to calm down’’ – Brewhouse & Kitchen chief executive Kris Gumbrell


evidence I’ve seen is it’s helping those small, successful craft brewers focus more on their beer, innovation and added value and worry less about cash flow and distribution. That is better for a long-term sustainable craft business. “As someone who has run and built several small businesses it is really tough, and people make huge sacrifices at the front end – not just the owners and founders but also the early-stage team members, all of whom sacrifice pay and work all hours possible. Why should they be denied capitalising on their hard work at some point? At the end of the day, good beer is good beer and as long as that continues, everyone needs to calm down.” However, even where a brewery has a relatively small social media following, operators can still reap benefits. Ben Lockwood, procurement manager, beer and cider for Mitchells & Butlers, looks for active support for listings rather than simply the number of followers. He says: “We recently worked with Siren, London Brewing Co, Ilkley and Wooha in our Nicholson’s pubs and the content shared on social media has been fantastic. This helps bring listings to life and connect with drinkers in real time, with flexibility to have fun with what you post and how you interact.” Lockwood also points to CGA research that shows fewer than 50% of consumers associate craft beer with an independent company. He says: “I could see a backlash affecting sales at the niche end of the market, where opinions on independence are extremely strong. However, our sales of Camden and BrewDog, for instance, continue to go from strength to strength as these breweries activate and engage with drinkers in a variety of fun and engaging ways. “Breweries with recent investment are continually bringing new drinkers into the category, which more than offsets what they lose, if they lose any at all. We see them as important for offering guests an opportunity to enter the craft beer category and premiumise their beer choice.” None of this gets my father-in-law his pint of Fremlin’s back but with “retro” brands such as Truman and Watneys back on the bar thanks to craft revivalists, who knows? ■

Opinion “Severe cost headwinds, overcapacity, scarcity of skilled labour and digital interlopers have ramped up demands and pressures on staff at all levels”

Improving mental health in hospitality Professor Chris Edger looks at how companies in the sector can make their staff feel more valued, respected and loved while benefiting in the process


re we facing a mental health epidemic in the UK and, if we are, how should hospitality companies respond to this serious challenge? According to government research the UK workplace lost a record amount of hours in 2016 due to time off caused by stress, anxiety and depression. At a societal level there is certainly a growing narrative around mental health levels in general, with its prevalence highlighted and spoken about by several high-profile people. Shocking research has highlighted an increase in self-harming among teenagers – one-fifth of all 14-year-old girls currently self-harm – and a record number of suicides among males under 45. Whether the evidence around mental health issues is becoming a self-fulfilling narrative or is a serious by-product of the times in which we live – caused by a crippling combination of execrable celebrity and


addressing mental and well-being issues”. dystopian social media – the fact is many Although getting a handle on the agencies and politicians are beginning to true scale of mental health issues in highlight it as a serious social problem and the sector is difficult – given levels of something that is inevitably tipping into recording, disclosure and confidentiality the workplace. – it is reasonable to assume, given its Where does hospitality sit in terms workforce profile and drift towards hard of mental health and well-being? First, management and “lean” HR practices, hospitality is a youthful industry that that addressing well-being will become a relies on a great deal of younger labour more urgent priority in the future. – almost one-third (29%) are aged under So how can the hospitality industry 21 – and a group that has been identified improve the mental health and well-being as particularly susceptible to mental health of its employees? Back in the day, the and well-being issues. industry largely consisted of six or seven Second, this is a round-the-clock hospitality titans – Bass, Allied, Scottish & profession that places a high degree of Newcastle et al – that traced their roots stress on its youthful front-line service to their founding fathers and prided providers and middle managers to themselves on paternalistic “cradle to produce exceptional results despite grave” personnel policies and practices. frequently scarce resources and Grand institutions of the “beerage”, they comparatively poor rates of pay and looked after their employees. benefits. Towards the end, their philosophy Third, severe cost headwinds, was widely ridiculed by outsiders such as overcapacity, scarcity of skilled labour and financiers, analysts and corporate digital interlopers have ramped raiders for fostering inertia, up demands and pressures inflexibility and mediocrity – on staff at all levels in the but these companies were sector. Indeed, recent loved by their employees! research by Code of hospitality staff Those days – for good Careers found 90% are under 21, a group or bad – have gone. of hospitality staff identified as particularly Ownership structures, have experienced or product and brand witnessed abuse in the susceptible to mental portfolios, business workplace, concluding health and well-being models and philosophies the industry has a “long issues have changed. ▲ way to go in terms of




We cannot return to the past but what can we learn from it? It is my contention that to improve or address mental health and well-being, hospitality companies should focus on three things – care, control and culture.

Sincere care The first thing hospitality must do to counteract this growing problem is to make demonstrably greater effort towards increasing the welfare and happiness of its employees by exercising sincere care for their well-being. Why? Too many operators in this sector pay lip service to caring for their employees, declaring people are their greatest asset but exacting inhumane demands in terms of workload, attendance and productivity – especially in kitchens. This creates high levels of absenteeism and turnover caused by burnout and stress. Good operators should demonstrate sincere care for the well-being of their staff by enforcing humane work-life balance regimes through fair rostering, flexible work practices, reasonable time off and generous holiday provision. Benefits that increase employee physical fitness levels such as gym discounts and access to confidential counselling will further augment the feeling among employees that the organisation is genuinely concerned and interested in their well-being.

Personal control The second thing hospitality needs to do is substitute excessive micromanagement brought on by modern management techniques, with greater latitude for personal control and selfexpression among employees. Extreme managerialism that results in tight task monitoring and control and a lack of influence at the workplace increases


“Hospitality needs to substitute excessive micromanagement brought on by modern management techniques, with greater latitude for personal control and self-expression among employees” feelings of helplessness, stress and unhappiness. So what should enlightened operators do? Increasing levels of “task clarity” and letting people get on with it signals confidence in their workers’ abilities. Empowering staff to resolve customer problems without deferring to higher authorities grows levels of trust. Employees will feel happier they have higher levels of personal control over their circumstances and grateful the company respects their judgement and contributions.

Village culture The third thing hospitality companies need to do is propagate more of a village than a corporate-style culture. Some hospitality companies – once one gets beyond the vacuous rhetoric – are depressing places to work and are impersonal, hierarchical, detached and devoid of real meaning. Leadership – crushed by the challenges that confront them – hide in head office, trashing their service culture by imposing draconian short-term solutions. However, leaders don’t have to succumb to this approach. Take Simon Longbottom and his team at Stonegate Pub Company. They have created a village culture that has bound people together


in the most adverse circumstances to create a compelling tribal vision and purpose to restore the UK’s pub heritage and fashioning great progression and development opportunities at all levels (Albert’s Theory of Progression). Informal relationships and networks are strengthened through leadership visibility, recognition and celebration. People help one another out. It is a company people are proud of and love to work for. The result is a business that has seriously outperformed its competitive set! As in other sectors and the rest of society, hospitality is confronted by a serious mental health and well-being challenge. Companies that fail to react to this challenge will experience increased absenteeism, high staff turnover, declining service quality and severe reputational damage. By ramping up efforts to demonstrate and exercise sincere care through work-life balance policies, increasing levels of personal control and self-expression by empowering staff to rectify irksome problems, and creating a village culture with real tribal meaning, purpose, togetherness and progression opportunities, hospitality companies can make their people feel more valued, respected and loved. This, in turn, will enhance their feelings of happiness and well-being and go some way to improving mental health levels.

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

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Give me a London pub every time Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna tells Glynn Davis why the company continues to champion traditional boozers in the capital


he Boleyn Tavern in east London has a huge place in the hearts of West Ham fans, being situated close to the club’s former home Upton Park – and there was huge interest when it came on the market earlier this year. Once the Hammers moved to the Olympic Stadium and trade dropped, pub owners Greene King put it up for sale. Elton Mouna, managing director of Remarkable Pubs, regarded it as a perfect fit for his company’s growing portfolio of pubs in the capital – but he almost missed out. He says: “There was huge interest in

the Boleyn Tavern – and not only from pub companies. Only through winning a contracts race against a group that wished to convert it to a banqueting event venue were we able to secure the future of this historic majestic building as a pub for generations to come. It needs refurbishing and it may take a while to build the business but we take a long-term view, which is required for some of these pubs whereas large companies need an immediate return.” Remarkable was also able to buy the pub’s freehold thanks to it building ▲ WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Feature a war chest for acquisitions without needing to take on debt. These two factors reflect the patience and financial astuteness of the company’s chairman, Robert Thomas, who has gradually expanded the estate to 15 grand Victorian boozers. Mouna says: “I have nothing but admiration for Robert, who bought a single pub more than 30 years ago and, through shrewdness, doggedness and hard work, has built a business I now have the privilege of running.” The story began with the Prince George in Dalston, which Thomas spotted when cycling around what was then a rather “dodgy” area where he had bought a house after making money renovating iconic London double-decker buses and exporting them around the world. Pubs were a diversion but it worked out financially. Mouna says: “Robert just about had enough money for the freehold and, once he’d paid for the beer and staff, he found there was some money left over.” The profit gave Thomas an appetite to add more pubs to his portfolio. In the following 15 years he added six more pubs in areas that at the time were not particularly desirable – including The Shakespeare in Stoke Newington, and The Reliance and Barley Mow in east London – but which have since become rather fashionable (and increasingly expensive) parts of the capital. Mouna says: “Robert went into areas people hadn’t picked up on at the time. Today, we enter areas not everyone would go, including Newham where The Boleyn Tavern is.” Down-at-heel areas apart, Remarkable’s focus is also on finding traditional Victorian pubs and returning them to their former


Boleyn Tavern, east London

glory. Mouna says: “We have a knack of seeing that little something in a pub or area others don’t always spot. A once stunning but now slightly crumbling Victorian building that can be gently and sensitively returned to its former glory is something Robert does superbly.” That talent is reflected in the grand but dishevelled grade II-listed Salisbury Hotel in north London, which the company purchased in 2003. Working closely with English Heritage, Remarkable spent £350,000 on it in 18 months. Thomas says: “It was an act of stupidity or courage but once we reopened it we never looked back and it’s now an architectural gem that has become a tourist destination.” This method has become a template and equally inspirational work has been carried out on other properties including the George & Dragon in Acton and the perfectly formed Lord Tredegar in east London.

High benchmark

“I understand London, I love London, I have lived in London all my working life, and I have no interest in spreading the Remarkable business to some slower-paced quaint part of England”


Thomas has set a high benchmark and Mouna has continued to work at the same level since he joined the business in September 2015, which enabled Thomas to step back from day-to-day activities. Mouna says: “Our business model has served Remarkable Pubs well – long before my arrival – and I have no intention of changing it. I will make sure we evolve in a relevant way.” Remarkable did, however, consider taking on a pub outside the capital but that idea was soon knocked on the head. Mouna says: “We had a look around some country pubs a year ago but retreated back to London. All Remarkable pubs are within an eight-mile radius of my east London home. I understand London, I love ▲



*YouGov Beer & Cider Study 2018


London, I have lived in London all my working life, and I have no interest in spreading the Remarkable business to some slower-paced quaint part of England.” Mouna is also wary of the difficulty in recruiting employees. He says: “It’s tough in London but ten-times worse outside.” He says the issue is most pressing around chefs, who are essential in country pubs, while a move into such territory would most likely have turned the Remarkable model from its 70/30 wet/dry split to more like 50/50. Such a move would also change the successful business model the company employs whereby pub managers have control over the kitchen. Mouna says: “It’s quite an old model, with them paying us rent for the kitchen while they employ the staff and work out the menus. There can be a considerable food turnover that is all in their hands. It’s all their business.” Managers also have freedom to make decisions on drinks, choosing from a constantly changing list that includes beer from small brewers that supply individual pubs direct and set their own prices on those products determined by their customer base. Mouna says: “This is real ownership. We can see why large companies don’t do it this way but at 16 pubs we can do it. We’ll look at each individually priced product to get the right price for the local customer.” The model may be old-school but it’s working, says Mouna, who adds it gives the business an opportunity to recruit a “better calibre of people”. This model


is feeding through into the company’s performance. He adds: “We’re doing really well at the moment with growth in sales and profits. We’re in great shape and have a good team.” However, he acknowledges challenges remain because although people are still in love with the quintessential Victorian pub, this tends to be after 5pm. He says: “The pub environment doesn’t always fit the daytime. You’ll find people in Mare Street Market and the lobby of the Ace Hotel on their Apple Mac drinking a lot of coffee. You also have Grind, which does brilliant coffee from 7am through to alcoholic drinks until 11pm. You have to keep an eye on all of them. You can’t stop and stand still.”

Evening evolution Part of the business’ evolution is to focus on evening trade, with three-fifths (60%) of Remarkable’s pubs only open in the evening. There has also been recognition of the different dayparts customers prefer in certain areas. Mouna highlights The Swimmer At The Grafton Arms in north

“It’s not about money. (Founder Robert Thomas) wants to leave a legacy – for the area, his family and pubs in general. It’s about this achievement so selling is of no interest to him”


London, where some long-standing customers now have children. To cater for this, it recently introduced baby-changing facilities and highchairs and made the menu more child friendly. The Barley Mow in Shoreditch has also been adapted. The area was cool and cutting edge but things have softened of late – the week is more relaxed but at weekends it attracts a different demographic who travel from out of town for clubs in the area. This requires changes in music and furniture layouts as well as recognising the drinks focus will shift. While constantly focusing on tweaking the estate, Mouna says Remarkable is always on the lookout for the next pub. In November, the company secured its 16th site, in the east of the capital, in an offmarket deal. Mouna says: “At any given time there will be one pub we are seriously looking at. We have a one-in-20 strike rate. Due diligence is an important factor for buying a business but instinct is the biggest factor. We stick to what we know and we say ‘no’ to a lot.” What Mouna is also saying “no” to is selling the business, with Remarkable Pubs categorically not for sale – at any price! This attitude reflects the thoughts of Thomas, who isn’t ready to let go of the business, with more of a preference to build a legacy instead. Mouna says: “It’s not about money. Robert wants to leave a legacy – for the area, his family and pubs in general. It’s about this achievement so selling is of no interest to him.” ■

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Matter of LIFE or

DEATH? DEATH Food Alert operations director Mike Williams asks whether the foodservice industry is heading towards a crisis?


ontrol of food allergens is a hot topic, with recent media attention even eclipsing the coverage in 2014 when the Food Information Regulations were introduced in England. Despite this, many allergen sufferers may feel frustrated such an important subject has yet to receive the commitment it deserves from many food business operators, particularly when a simple mistake or miscommunication could be a matter of life or death. With food allergy awareness on the rise, is the foodservice industry heading towards a crisis? Here are some pointers on what food operators can do to help allergen sufferers, exploring some of the more innovative allergen controls on offer.

Young people


Those aged 16 to 24 are most at risk of suffering allergenic reactions when eating out. The average age of an allergenrelated fatality is 20 years. Ensuring such age groups feel don’t feel stigmatised by having allergens is essential. Some of our clients have adopted simple innovations such as bright, “trendy” signage that displays allergen controls, inviting customers to raise any concerns with a staff member. It’s simple but effective. Asking at every single order, whether at table or till, whether guests have any allergenic requests helps improve inclusiveness. It’s important no-one is isolated from the group, especially when peer pressure to fit in is at its highest.

Training your staff well is essential but, again, is nothing new. However, the way training is delivered, monitored and reinvented can have a significant impact on the quality of delivery of controls. Many businesses have gone down the line of using the e-learning module, which is free on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website and easy to use. The downside is it can become a box-ticking exercise to pay “lip service” to the delivery of allergen training. It is felt that, while helpful, this module may not fully and formally train staff to understand an allergen sufferer’s life. As such, how to reinvent training requires innovative thinking. Some food businesses are making use of the more detailed training courses that are readily available – for example, tutor-led Level 3 Allergen Management – to ensure all levels of staff rather than just management have a more detailed knowledge of allergens and how to manage them. The more innovative and inclusivethinking businesses are those that place their staff in the shoes of an allergen sufferer, for example asking them to try to

Information Operators should be aware of how to make information on food allergens available and ensure staff give clear and correct advice to customers. Although this isn’t new news, many food businesses are still failing to put the allergen sufferer front and centre of their operation. I think it’s time this became the case.


“Asking at every single order, whether at table or till, whether guests have any allergenic requests helps improve inclusiveness”



live without a particular allergen for three days or even a week. These businesses tend to have a team that really empathises with an allergen sufferer and recognises the importance of allergen control. There is no better way to engender understanding than by living the experience. When training staff it’s important to focus not only on front of house but also those preparing food. Understanding the risks of cross-contamination within the kitchen and the importance of clear communication with service staff is crucial.

Labelling The issue of food labelling is, of course, high on the agenda at present. While there has been significant noise about ensuring food that has been pre-packaged for direct sale by “larger” sandwich shop chains is all labelled, euphemistically the Natasha’s Law concept, this won’t solve the wider issue. Mistakes are still made by food manufacturers with regards to labelling, where product recall processes and procedures are perceived to be at their strongest. A quick look at the FSA newsfeed will reveal the number of recalls due to incorrect allergen labelling. Changing the law won’t necessarily make foods safer. Ivor Long, a food lawyer and partner with legal firm Keoghs, believes framing Natasha’s Law, which environment secretary Michael Gove has said he wants

“A quick look at the FSA newsfeed will reveal the number of recalls due to incorrect allergen labelling” to introduce in 2019 following a full review and consultation, may prove difficult. Long said: “I will be interested to see what is proposed. What the government won’t want to do is affect thousands of small sandwich shops by having a huge raft of additional legislation requiring them to provide, at significant cost, full labelling of all their products. You could say businesses that have, say, fewer than six outlets would be exempt – that way the large chains would still be captured. That would be one way of doing it.”

Menus A number of our clients have taken the detailed step of making allergenic food menus fully available. In effect, this is a shadow menu presented as standard with the full menu or on request and details the allergenic content of every food item on the menu. Additional options are specific allergen-sufferer menus, which identify those foods safe to eat for particular types of allergens such as gluten-free, milk-free

etc. This method won’t suit every food business but demonstrates how operators can put the allergen sufferer at the centre of their thinking and simplify their decision-making process.

Crime It’s important to remember failing to provide correct information is a crime. Recently, the owner and manager of a takeaway in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, were both jailed following the death of a young customer. All the recent cases, including those not associated with highprofile brands, are reminders of the need to take as much care as possible when dealing with allergenic ingredients. The focus on allergens has to remain high – it can’t start to slip away again. It is clear current legislation needs reviewing and the importance of food allergens management for food operators has never been higher. Whether we have reached a crisis point is questionable but with media attention on high alert and looking for the next story, it is essential all food operators take the protection of their customers seriously. ■

Mike Williams is operations director of safety consultancy and technology company Food Alert

TOPICS COVERED: ● Manager’s role in food allergens control ● Ingredient informa on from supplier to consumer ● Controls to prevent cross contamina on ● Managing ingredient control procedures Visit or call 020 7244 1918 to book your place WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Advertising Feature

Dining out is a journey of trust With new allergen-labelling laws on the horizon, NT Assure says operators will need to ensure the right mechanisms are in place


he recent trust crisis regarding the out-of-home food market and allergen communication has created a formidable management challenge for food brands. Leaders that respond first and tackle this problem will secure an advantage for themselves and their company over competitors. Global supply chains are complex and yet there is increasing scrutiny from the public, media, interest groups and regulatory authorities around a number of issues. These include food safety, food fraud, modern slavery, animal cruelty, adulteration (for example horse meat), false claims (origin, non-GMO, organic, sustainable), mislabelling and undeclared ingredients and allergens.

Allergen management in the supply chain

Provide accurate information on ingredients and allergens

When thinking about how allergens are handled in the supply chain, it is best to get expert advice from those who understand the known risks of producing allergenic and non-allergenic products in a factory. Dual use of equipment and production lines is common practice, with clean-downs and swab-testing used as management controls. How effective a supplier’s practices are is down to your own scrutiny and monitoring as well as the amount of risk you are willing to accept. All food operators should have a detailed allergen policy their suppliers have signed up to as standard.

Putting the consumer first and ensuring accurate, up-to-date access to food data such as allergen and ingredient information has become increasingly complex. There are multiple suppliers, brands, ingredients, recipes and sub-recipes that generate the master food data companies need to communicate via My Website, My App, My Menu, My Deliveroo, My Uber Eats etc. Maintaining this food data and its accuracy becomes a near impossible task without a dynamic “live” data source. Unreliable and inaccurate food data has to be a thing of the past so why are companies still relying on outdated data collection sources? Live data compared with static data can save lives and protect guests and an organisation’s reputation. When it comes to the safety of your food or the reputation of your company, live food data is the best and only way to go if severe allergen reactions or death are to be avoided. At NT Assure, we have helped big-brand clients with large portfolios provide 100% reliability of live food data for guests with our software Smart Supplier, Smart Chef and Smart Menu. Engaging with customers around allergen and dietary information using real-time technology to optimise the guest experience has become the way we work with clients. It saves time and money on expensive menu and allergen folder prints as well as solving additional challenges that create vulnerability when working with static data sources. Going forward, operators will need good partners to help them manage and communicate master food data and empower those with a condition to speak up and ask about allergies. With the likelihood that new ingredient declaration laws will come into force next year, now is the time to prepare and plan for change. ■

So what’s the best thing to do? Essentially, no matter the rules and regulations it depends on people with integrity “doing the right thing” when it comes to food. There is little doubt new ingredient-labelling laws will come into force next summer after the deaths in 2016 of allergy sufferers Megan Lee, 15 who ate takeaway food from the Royal Spice Takeaway, Ostwaldtwistle, Lancashire, and Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, who went into cardiac arrest after eating a Pret baguette. Natasha's inquest was followed by environment secretary Micheal Gove backing calls for "Natasha's law", which would require all foods to clearly label allergens. Operators will need to ensure mechanisms are in place – the “right” mindset, behaviours and processes to proactively manage their supply chains, ingredient selections and specifications, menu and dish creations, and kitchen and front-of-house service cycles to underpin a high-trust culture that creates safety and loyalty among guests. As food-risk experts, NT Assure has been helping clients manage allergens in supply chain and catering as well as other food safety issues for years. The only way to live with a food allergy is to observe a strict avoidance diet so it’s critical operators think about how food allergens are handled, how staff can be trained about allergens and how information is given to the guest. For the 1% to 2% of adults and 5% to 8% of children who suffer a food allergy in the UK, it’s a journey of trust to “dine out” with a food brand.


Get kitchen management and service cycles right Common failings in the bar, kitchen and during service range from cross contamination to gaps in training and poor communication between front and backof-house teams. You have to get processes and training right and embedded fully on how to take, prepare and serve an allergy sufferer’s order and ensure no contamination occurs in storage and preparation. Training should be part of an ongoing programme demonstrating a commitment to fostering a strong culture of excellence in food safety, including allergen management. At its heart, the value of protection must seek to guide each decision and behaviour at every level of the organisation. When staff fully live and breathe this, the guest experience improves and, most importantly, becomes safer.


To complete a 'Best Practice Allergen Review' or for more information about why Smart could be right for you email or call 0844 693 2234


a h o s y p i h C

Fish and chip shops could steal a march on calls to cut calories by reducing the size of chip portions, argues Glynn Davis


hen it comes to silly names, only hairdressers rival fish and chip shops. I have no idea why chippie owners have a predilection for puns resulting in names such as Contented Sole, Tasty Plaice, The Chipping Forecast, Oh My Cod and The Frying Squad. Spotting one of these outlets leads people to reach for their phone and splash photos across social media, which might explain why some owners have gone down the pun-laden route. However, a less amusing reason might have people diving for their phones in the near future. For as long as I can remember the portion of chips that chippies dole out have been enormous – far too much to be a sensible size for a regular meal. Visiting a chippie near my parents in Yorkshire recently, three adults and one child required only two standard-sized portions of chips and there were still some left over for my breakfast next day. But this could be about to change – not my taste for chips at breakfast but the fact we could be about to experience shrinking chip portions. The dry summer has hit this year’s potato crop, with serious talk of reducing portion sizes and/or raising prices. The price of a sack of potatoes has doubled in the past year – to £12 for 25kg – and is forecast to hit as much as £20 in the near future. This potential shrinking of portions would reverse the extreme sizes we have become accustomed to, which are based on an industry quirk. The last serious drought in 1976 resulted in the closure of many fish and chip shops as potato prices went through the roof – hitting the equivalent of £100 a sack. When they reopened, one tactic to lure customers back was to offer outsized chip portions. Such was its success, owners were reluctant to backtrack leaving us with the current outlandish quantities – between 12oz and 16oz – served up and down the country. To put this in context, the regular portion size at McDonald’s is 5oz. Chip shop owners haven’t wanted to listen to Andrew Crook, president of the


‘‘The sector has found it tough to convey a message that fish and chips are often less calorific than other takeaways such as pizza, Chinese and kebabs’’

‘‘The dry summer has hit this year’s potato crop, with serious talk of reducing portion sizes and/or raising prices’’


National Federation of Fish Friers, who has been calling for a cut in portion sizes for some time. His voice might be about to be heard because although fish and chip shops appear to be in a difficult situation, the rise in spud prices has arguably come at an opportune time. Public Health England is issuing guidelines as part of a move to tackle obesity and promote healthier eating. It is pushing for reduced calorific intake – whether from reformulated recipes or a reduction in portion sizes. It is making such a move across the board, with takeaways and ready meals in the firing line. For example, it wants restaurants to limit pies to 695 calories and pizzas to 928 calories. This could be a chance for the fish and chip shop industry to go on the front foot and reduce portion sizes ahead of any rule change. This would present a progressive face and potentially change the perception of the industry from one that is seen as pedalling unhealthy foodstuffs. Collectively, the sector has found it tough to convey a message that fish and chips are often less calorific than other takeaways such as pizza, Chinese and kebabs. The perception is of a particularly unhealthy meal, which has not been helped by chip portions of biblical proportions. With the right positioning on portion sizes, the traditional fish and chip shops could enjoy something of a renaissance as a slightly more healthy option. Perhaps they could become the takeaway sector’s new cod on the block! ■

Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

AdvertisingFeature Feature

Tennent’s Lager opens the UK’s biggest beer attraction on site of a “madman’s dream” Boost to beer tourism in Scotland with new visitor centre experience


ollowing a seven-figure investment, a new visitor centre in the East End of Glasgow is aiming to make Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery the leading beer destination in the UK. The Tennent’s Story experience, which opened on 22 November, is the biggest single investment the company has made in the brewery’s visitor experience, which now boasts an impressive three-floor development at the Duke Street site. The major development aims to become the UK’s biggest beer attraction, significantly boosting local and international visitor numbers to Glasgow’s East End. The Tennent’s Story will be a must-visit destination in Scotland and puts the country’s favourite beer at the heart of Glasgow tourism and the city’s ambitions for visitor growth by 2023. This new immersive experience traces the history of Scotland’s oldest brewery, from the 1500s to the present day. Building upon the existing tour and tasting experience, The Tennent’s Story will take visitors behind the scenes of the famous beer, covering everything from its origins, production, provenance and even how to pour the perfect pint.

A 'madman's dream'

Centred on the story of Hugh Tennent and the first brew of Tennent’s Lager in 1885, which was described by newspapers at the time as a “madman’s dream”, the visitor centre is home to artefacts gathered from the first days of brewing at Wellpark in 1556 through to today. Motion capture animations developed by Glasgow School of Art, new artwork from graffiti artist Conzo Throb, personal stories from generations of Tennent’s alumni and fascinating artefacts from days gone by, take visitors on a monumental and historic journey before setting off on the brewery tour.

The tour ends at the revamped tasting experience, which is home to the country’s latest Tennent’s Tank Lager installation – serving up brewery fresh pints of Tennent’s from impressive copper tanks filled with unpasteurised liquid straight from brewery floor only a few hundred meters away. Visitors to Scotland currently spend £1bn every year on food and drink, with beer tourism set to contribute to a further £1bn in growth by 2030 as outlined in Scotland’s Food Tourism Action Plan. Neighbouring Drygate Brewery, which also lives on the Wellpark site, play a vital part alongside The Tennent’s Story, the brewery tour and the Tennent’s Training Academy in making the east of the city a hub of activity and the ultimate beer destination.

Bigger and better

Alan McGarrie, group brand director for Tennent’s Lager, said: “The Tennent’s Story is at the heart of Glasgow’s history, and with this significant company investment at our home at Wellpark, we are bringing the story to life – bigger and better than we ever have before, as we showcase the brewery, the beer and the brand. “With an ever-growing interest in the provenance story of beer, and a subsequent rise in beer tourism, we want to give locals and visitors to the city a behind the scenes look at not just a working brewery, but the history of Scotland’s number one beer and the cultural icon that is Tennent’s Lager. “It has been an incredible experience to watch the transformation of the visitor centre over the last seven months, which will build upon Scotland’s best-loved brewery tour. We look forward to watching the impact and growth this will have for tourism not only in Glasgow, but in Scotland as a whole.” VisitScotland regional leadership director

Jim Clarkson said: “Visitors love the Tennent’s brand for the same wit and warmth of personality that they love in Glasgow itself. It’s a great fit for the tourism experience in the city, and I’m delighted at this investment, which will contribute to Glasgow’s ambitions for an additional one million visitors by 2023. “This is an exciting time for Scottish brewing with the growing global demand for variety and quality of beer greater than ever. Scottish beer appeals to almost a quarter of visitors to Scotland and this investment demonstrates a real commitment to further promoting Scotland’s brewing heritage. “Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it is integral to sustaining communities across Scotland by generating income, creating jobs and stimulating social change.” Cllr David McDonald, chair of Glasgow Life and deputy leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “If we are to achieve our target of attracting one million more tourists by 2023 then it’s crucial that we continue to tell Glasgow’s stories to the world and there are few better than The Tennent’s Story, which is almost as old as the city itself. “Our focus is on showcasing Glasgow as an outstanding global city; one that’s welcoming and vibrant with a rich cultural history, a flourishing food and drink sector and an unrivalled visitor experience. Tennent’s investment in this exciting new attraction strongly reflects our ambition and will undoubtedly boost Glasgow’s tourism economy in the coming years.” ■

The opening of the Tennent’s Story will see a programme of activity to be announced in the coming weeks, with the tour taking pre-bookings now via or on 0141 202 7145 WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


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Conference Overview



Jessica Mason rounds up highlights from the sector’s first conference to feature an all-female line-up of company leaders, an event launched by Propel and Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott

Ann Elliott, chief executive of marketing agency Elliotts and Women’s Entrepreneur Conference host


lliotts chief executive Ann Elliott opened the conference as host by describing how much she gained from the security of a corporate role and how fear of the unknown initially prevented her from moving on. She was at Whitbread for 18 years before leaving to starting her own business. Elliott told delegates: “I loved corporate life. I loved knowing what my salary was going to be, what my bonus was, the training, the development. I loved everything about it and used to ask friends of mine who

‘‘The feeling when I set up was pure exhilaration. The fact everything I earned and how I spent my time was now in my hands’’

had set up on their own how they did it? How did they step away from that security, comfort and knowledge they were always going to get a salary, bonus and share options? I really admired them for doing it.” Elliott said a friend recently reminded her that when it comes to making life-changing choices “when the time is right, the decision will be easy”. She added: “There came a time at Whitbread when I thought: ‘I don’t want to do this any more. I want to step off the corporate ladder. I want to be in charge of my life and my time and my earnings and if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it.’ “The feeling when I set up was pure exhilaration. The fact everything I earned and how I spent my time was now in my hands. That pure exhilaration has never ever left me. The feeling that I am accountable. Not a board, not my boss, not my colleagues, but me. That’s my definition of

being an entrepreneur.” Those thoughts led to a conversation with Propel on setting up the first Women’s Entrepreneurs Conference. Elliott said: “It might inspire

and help people to think: ‘One day, I’ll do that.’ There are no egos on stage, all the women speaking are very honest and transparent about all their business decisions.”

Sophie Bathgate, co-founder of steakhouse chain Sophie’s


ophie Bathgate, who co-founded steakhouse chain Sophie’s in 2002 with Rupert Power, described the lessons she has learned through expansion. She told delegates: “When things go off-track I find it’s a direct result of being disconnected from my emotions. It’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind. There’s so much noise – Instagram, Facebook, TripAdvisor – but this is where we miss the magic. Emotions are signposts.

“My uncomfortable feeling is doubt – but doubt is just fear in disguise. I read something recently that said 75% of all chief executives suffer from ‘Imposter Syndrome’, when individuals doubt their accomplishments and have an internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud. “Doubt can be creatively crippling unless we learn how to harness it. If I were to do anything differently businesswise it would be to treat uncomfortable emotions – specifically doubt – as a gift.

“I would treat it as a signpost. I would take time to step back and feel what I’m managing and pay attention to what I’m feeling. The quality of questions we ask ourselves dictates the quality of answers.”

‘‘The quality of questions we ask ourselves dictates the quality of answers’’ ▲ WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Conference Overview

Artizian founder and owner Alison Frith


ompanies need to look for the “why” in their business startups and find ways to do what they do best while giving reasons why they offer their particular service, Artizian founder and owner Alison Frith told delegates. Alluding to key learnings from marketer Simon Sinek, Frith cited the “Golden Circle”. She said: “Every single organisation on the planet knows what they do but few know why they do what they do. All the great companies show they started with the ‘why’ because they know people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it.” Frith described how startups need to work emotively. She said: “Whatever facts and stats are thrown at you, if it doesn’t feel right you won’t buy. Apple is a great example

and uses strong emotions to capture customers. That’s why some of the strongest brands and businesses are those that stemmed from a problem. People remember emotions and how they felt far more than words and features. “Three years into starting Artizian my father died of cancer. It made me stop and reflect. Like many, I ate subconsciously according to my mood. I thought: ‘What could be achieved by eating

‘‘Millennials, who are seeking food that is good for them and has a purpose, are now entering the workplace’’

consciously? What could be achieved if you could eat a food to reflect the mood you wanted to be in?’ Can you imagine if everyone did that?” This revelation led to the beginning of a new chapter for Frith. She said: “At Artizian we call it ‘intelligent eating’. It took until 2013 until the market was becoming receptive. Then we created that nutritionally balanced brand – ‘mood food’ – with all the essential ingredients to help people feel energised.” Frith reminded delegates times are changing and people have become more interested in their physical and mental health than in the past. She said this movement would grow and, since companies required a fit and healthy workforce, it was an area many companies should start addressing regarding food

they made available to staff. She said: “Millennials, who are seeking food that is good for them and has a purpose, are now entering the workplace. They will account for 50% of workers by 2020. We know at least 50% of what our customers eat is consumed while they are at work. Employers currently face more than two-fifths (42%) of their workforce reporting some form of illness that has an impact on their resilience. 42% – that’s huge.”

Caravan co-founder and creative director Laura Harper-Hinton


Jack & Alice co-founder Vanessa Hall


anessa Hall, chairman of Cubitt House and co-founder of wine bar and pantry concept Jack & Alice, highlighted the core values important to ensuring you don’t lose your way while running your business. She told delegates: “We have made mistakes. I would never say don’t listen to your guests but we expanded our menu because we listened to our guests and it wasn’t true to our simple, quality offer. We fell over ourselves trying to provide too much.

“You always need to ‘sensecheck’ back to the purpose of your brand – what’s its DNA? – and remember how it all hangs together. “If you have a niggle, don’t ignore it – there’s something important there. Choose your name carefully – it has to resonate well and depict what the brand is about. Write the values at the beginning. Stories are fundamental to long-term USP but always recruit with your values in mind, and never stop recruiting.”

aura Harper-Hinton, co-founder and creative director of Caravan, outlined why people are key to business success. She told delegates: “No matter what your concept is you’re going to need people to come on board, join your team and sell your vision to the world. When we first started we had a team of 15 at Exmouth Market. We now have a team of 350 people and we are growing by the day.” Harper-Hinton revealed the “People Recipe”, which is split into three segments and describes ways in which people are integral to running a successful business. She said: “One section is the ‘apple core’, making sure you’ve got a solid foundation. By this I mean your founders, stakeholders and shareholders because,

‘‘To seed, grow, nurture and harvest your business you need to make sure you are looking after yourself’’

without them, your journey is going to be a lot trickier. “The second section is the ‘vegetable patch’ – building, growing and nurturing your team. You want to make sure the team you’ve got on board are the right people and that you look after them because, ultimately, they are the ones who are going to go out and sell your dream to the world. “Lastly, the ‘harvest’ is you. To seed, grow, nurture and harvest your business you need to make sure you are looking after yourself because if you’re not doing that, you are not able to look after anybody else. “None of the journey we have been on would have been possible over the past eight years without the incredible people who have joined us along the way.” ▲ WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Conference Overview

BabaBoom founder Eve Bugler


ve Bugler, founder of kebab restaurant concept BabaBoom, outlined seven points to consider when running your own business. Why, why, why? Why you are in this business is important, especially when times are tough, Bugler told delegates. Subverting that with a few things to lighten the load and keep things engaging can really help. She added: “For me, it’s social mobility and adventure. This is a hard journey so let’s make it fun, let’s make it exciting.” Joy in the journey Bugler said: “I force myself to write a list of things I have learnt. They aren’t all-important life skills but they hold me in good stead. If you’re having a really bad day, try writing that list because it’s very therapeutic.”

Enough is Enough Bugler raised the importance of knowing your limits and not trying to do everything. She said: “That’s been a key learning. You can’t be great at everything and you’ll kill yourself if you try!”

Reality isn’t always real Bugler urged delegates not to compare their success with other businesses, especially when it came to projections. She said: “Don’t necessarily compare your projections to the reality because I think when you look at people’s crowdfunding and download the financial documents and look behind the scenes, those businesses that claim to be flying often aren’t. Never let yourself be pulled down by something that isn’t true.”

Identify your snipers Bugler told delegates that pinpointing what wounds you can be a good way to empower yourself while helping to anticipate and avoid the pitfalls. She said: “It is also worth pinpointing the things that really get you down. Honing in on these will upset you but managing them is crucial.” Do it your way Bugler described how she involves her love of marathons by running between BabaBoom venues and meetings. She added: “I think involving your passions in your own business makes it feel less like a job.”

‘‘We need to learn to hear the praise because there are enough doubters and enough people pulling us down’’

Embrace the compliment Bugler said women have a tendency to shrug off compliments and become self-deprecating. She said: “We need to learn to accept our compliments. We need to learn to hear the praise because there are enough doubters and enough people pulling us down. Just listen to the good stuff.”

Jane O’Riordan, co-founder of coffee, pizza and cycling chain The Dynamo


ane O’Riordan, group strategy director at Nando’s and cofounder of coffee, pizza and cycling chain The Dynamo, emphasised patience was paramount when growing a business. She told delegates: “I have been building restaurant brands for more than 20 years. I can tell you patience is really important.” O’Riordan revealed that in 1996 there were only two Nando’s restaurants in the UK, both in south west London, “doing £9,000 per week and losing money”. While conducting customer research in early 1997, O’Riordan asked regulars if the company should put in table service? Despite a 100% positive response, O’Riordan admitted the company couldn’t afford to so put in a “host” instead who would ask: “Have you had been to Nando’s before?” O’Riordan said: “A year later, having patiently educated our customers, I did the same survey asking all our regular customers if we should put in table service – 100% said ‘no’. Then we

‘‘Cycling is an endurance sport, so is hospitality. We’re in it for the long haul so doing it right is more important than going for scale’’

had a problem of keeping the talent. Good talent only stays with companies that grow. To combat people moving on they were invited to join a Nando’s Club – a club you aspired to be part of. This club formed the culture for what became Nando’s today. “I have no doubt if we had started to open five per year in 1997, then ten per year and ramped it up we would not have the brand we have today. The strength of that brand was made from lots of patience, trialling, testing and failing.” O’Riordan took those learnings when setting up her own business. She said: “In 2015, having spent 20 years as part of an investment team, I decided I would also have a go at being an entrepreneur while keeping my day job. With a few other people we started The Dynamo. “The purpose of The Dynamo was great coffee, great food and the love of outdoor activity – cycling. Understanding how you’re going to open, where to roll out and what pace is right for your brand is critical because we have all seen examples in our industry over the past couple of years of people who

have had explosive growth that hasn’t been well thought out. “Growing restaurants is one of those things that, once you have a strategy, you need to spend time and patience in putting that strategy together to make sure you align with your funding partners. You may know how you want to grow your business but, if your funding partners have got different expectations and a different end game, that’s not going to work. Making sure you’re on the same page makes for a much happier time. “Trial, test, fail, repeat, do it again. Get the brand right. Be patient in creating your strategy. Think about the strategy, get the right things and find the right alignment. Make sure you know what you’re doing and you’ll make decisions in the right way.” O’Riordan said bicycles and hospitality entrepreneurs have a lot in common. She said: “Cycling is an endurance sport, so is hospitality. We’re in it for the long haul so doing it right is more important than going for scale.” ▲



Conference Overview

Wahaca co-founder Thomasina Miers


ahaca co-founder Thomasina Miers revealed five points all would-be entrepreneurs should consider when setting up a business.

her Wahaca menu. She said: “I used that year to visit all the different parts of Mexico so I knew where the best of everything was served and how each place that got it right was popular with customers.”

Find out if there’s a market for your product Miers knew there was a market for her product after discovering Mexican cuisine on her travels. She said: “Mexico is a country with an incredible repertoire of food. It’s one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with 200 types of chilli, scores of varieties of corn, incredible wild herbs and greens, and soft and warm corn tortillas with a myriad of fillings. I quickly realised I was not the only one who loved this food but all we had in the UK were those hard-shell tacos sold in supermarkets.”

Believe you are different or much better than anything out there She said: “We had utter belief that what we were doing was different from anything out there. That belief is much more important than it might seem. If you’re on a mission, it can become almost evangelical. If you can convince your staff and you have absolute conviction you are doing something worthwhile, different and exciting, you and your team will go to any lengths to get the job done. We felt we were pioneers.”

Make sure you’re an expert in your market Miers undertook an extensive research trip before developing

Can you make money? Miers warned success wasn’t simply about having a brilliant offer but balancing that with

having an eye on the numbers. She said: “If you can’t pay yourself a wage, you will go bankrupt in the end. If you’re no good at numbers, you need to find yourself a business partner or team that is. If you want to have a business partner, make sure they complement your skills and don’t just replicate them.”

‘‘Things feel incredibly tough at times and if you haven’t got that passion for what you’re doing, quite frankly you’re not going to last the journey’’

Siam Eatery co-founder Christine Winton

Cheshire Cat Pubs & Bars co-founder Mary McLaughlin



ary McLaughlin, co-founder of Cheshire Cat Pubs & Bars, revealed how she makes rural pubs a destination in their own right by meeting specific needs within the community. She told delegates: “We need to work out what we are going to do to add more value to our customer experience.” McLaughlin explained how she and husband and co-founder Tim Bird have made their six pubs perfect places for locals, cyclists, dog owners, ramblers and petrol heads from further climes. She said: “We built a bike park at one pub but people also like walking their dogs. We sell dog beer and dog snacks and have plenty of dog bowls around the pub. For outside events we have also built a dog bar. We provide water and biscuits and put on a dog show. “We also print walks for ramblers.

‘‘We take on lost causes to show people the pub still has a lot of sustainability left in it – as a business and as a concept’’

Be passionate about what you’re doing Miers said: “Things feel incredibly tough at times and if you haven’t got that passion for what you’re doing, quite frankly you’re not going to last the journey. Only passion for what you’re doing and a real love will get you through.” She concluded: “If you come away from these five points and still feel raring to go, that’s a good sign. Do your research, feel confident and, at the end of the day, say ‘to hell with everyone else’, go on your journey and enjoy the ride.”

Rural activities are really important to us and it’s all about drawing the community into the pub. We wanted to widen the net further so created some car clubs – the Porsche, Pint & Pub Club and the Porsche, Prosecco & Pub Club, where people photograph their car outside the pub and receive a gift mug. Then we started the Goodfella’s Club for other vehicles to get involved. Now we have seasonal car meets, treasure hunts and drives.” McLaughlin’s company has taken on run-down venues and reinvigorated them by reviving those elements of pubs that people have enjoyed for centuries. She said: “We take on lost causes to show people the pub still has a lot of sustainability left in it – as a business and as a concept.”

he term “work-life balance” is one that fills many entrepreneurs with guilt, Christine Winton, co-founder of Siam Eatery, told delegates. She said: “The idea of a work-life balance means you are setting yourself up for certain failures because you think each should be equal. That in itself means you become ridden with guilt. “An entrepreneur’s mindset needs to change into thinking: ‘I am trying to overachieve here so I am willing to give it my all and yes, I’m going to have to put up with a lot of hard work at the beginning but it’s for my longer-term success.’ “The term should be changed to ‘work-life-fit’ because it’s a much more useful and healthy way to approach what you’re trying to do. If you’re filled with passion and devoted to what you do, you have to accept your work and life is going to become increasingly blurred.” ▲



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Conference Overview

Sally Jackson, owner of The Pink Pig Farm


ally Jackson, who owns The Pink Pig Farm, which features a shop and awardwinning cafe, listed the ten hardest lessons she has found while running her business. Back of the envelope Jackson said: “I have done a lot of ‘back of the envelope’ writing but it is research, research, research and not ideas that are most important when considering a path to success.” You don’t have to be Superwoman She said: “Beds can go unmade, sheets can go unwashed and the kids won’t die. Children are far more independent when they’re partially ignored. School shirts come as non-iron for a reason and your house can be a mess. Your husband may complain, but he can tidy it if he wants to.” Expect 10% less when you delegate Jackson said: “Delegate your

workload. Get it into your mind it’s not going to be perfect but it will be damn close. Give away the stuff you’re rubbish at.”

Life will get easier She said: “When you’re pulled in all directions, when you have children or elderly parents, you have to tailor your business to fit the time in your life. Things do get easier.”

Specialism is good She said: “We have specialised and halved what we were doing so everything has to link with what we are doing now.” Profit isn’t everything Jackson said: “If I were sensible I would be doing IT, developing amazingly simple programmes to sell to ignorant companies for millions of pounds – but, for me, that would be dull.” Criticism isn’t personal She said: “Replying to TripAdvisor is very cathartic but it’s still an arrow to the heart.” Jackson has decided to remove the option for Facebook reviews, adding: “We’ll put them back on but they’re off for now – and that’s okay.”

Confrontation is good Jackson told delegates: “This is tricky when running a business – confrontation is hard because we get all het up – but asking ‘how are we going to solve it together?’ is much less confrontational.”

‘‘Be proud of your achievements – it’s very easy to get caught up in the day to day without giving yourself due respect’’

Mowgli founder and chief executive Nisha Katona


lack of female entrepreneurs in business discourages other young women from starting up on their own, Mowgli founder and chief executive Nisha Katona told delegates. Katona, who has also written three cookbooks and hosts a YouTube channel, is a former child protection barrister who has spent the past four years growing Mowgli from one site to what will become eight by the end of the year. She said: “This year women chief executives made up 4.5% of the Fortune 500. Many would say: ‘If you want to stop being a minority, stop behaving like a minority.’ But we need to see women leaders because, in many ways, we are otherwise invisible. “We are poorly represented. One of the biggest reasons there are


‘‘It’s important to tell the journey, warts and all, because for all those potential female entrepreneurs – if they can’t see it, they can’t believe it’’

fewer female chief executives is we are not visible enough. We are not loud enough. We feel we will be accused of having hubris, ego, narcissism or, that most unforgivable and unfeminine trait, ambition.” Katona said she would attend business conferences a few years ago and find her presence misinterpreted as that of a part-time staffer rather than a delegate. She said: “I would go to conferences and there were so many male chief


Dare to be different She said: “Success comes from standing out, not fitting in. This means going out and seeing what others are doing and taking ideas but making them your own. Customers aren’t fools.” Be proud Jackson said: “Be proud of your achievements – it’s very easy to get caught up in the day to day without giving yourself due respect.”

executives – I was one of about five women. Someone tried to take my glass of wine off me thinking I was a waitress. “It’s important to tell the journey, warts and all, because for all those potential female entrepreneurs – if they can’t see it, they can’t believe it. It is a responsibility and a duty. We don’t even need to have a success story, just a story. People need to hear about it.” Katona revealed Mowgli only hires chefs who have never cooked a curry and then trains them herself. She said: “Building it in that way has given me complete control and made it scalable. We have a mantra at Mowgli that dictates everything we do: ‘grace, intelligence and graft’. We also have something called the ‘maternal management structure’. I insist on the word ‘love’ being used in head office. It is something we need to flow from head office across the establishment. It means we have seen very little staff turnover so having a business based on emotion seems to be working.”

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GBK uses Flyt to satisfy their customer’s appetite

Gourmet Burger Kitchen uses Flyt to provide their customers with a world class digital experience on their path to finding burger joy.

Developed in conjunction with GBK’s EPOS provider – Access Hospitality – everyone benefits from Flyt’s flexible and dynamic platform.

The Beginning With restaurants across the United Kingdom, GBK wanted to provide a cutting-edge App to strengthen their relationship with their customers. In 2014, they partnered with Flyt and Access and launched a robust, flexible, digital loyalty programme that would grow with them and support their future ambitions.

One platform. Universal possibilities.

In the four years they have worked together, GBK has used the flexibility enabled by Flyt to bridge the gap between the digital and the physical, and to offer their customers an array of services straight from the future.

Loyalty The loyalty programme features simple stamp cards that reward customers with burgers, milkshakes and sides for visits. This simple approach gamifies customers’ experiences and keeps them coming back. What’s more, it integrates seamlessly with Access’ cloudbased EPOS system (StockLink), allowing customers to receive loyalty stamps whenever they pay in-store or online at any of GBK’s nationwide restaurants.

Order & collect Customers can also use the App to order food and pick it up in store – and they can collect stamps for online orders in the same way they would for orders at the till. Flyt has integrated this service completely with the Access EPOS solution, minimising the impact of an online order on staff activities. Front-of-house need simply to accept the order on any POSLink EPOS terminal. The receipt is then automatically printed in the kitchen, prepared and assembled, and ready for pick-up at the customer’s chosen time.

Order at table Order at table is a future gazing solution that GBK has integrated into their App and restaurants. Where customers would normally queue and order at counter, they can now walk in, find a seat, and order from their phones; giving shorter waiting times and allowing staff to be more efficient. Plus, the barrier to ordering a second round of drinks or desserts is lowered. No walk back to the counter to stand in a queue – customers can let their phones do the work!

Integrated delivery GBK is also speeding up delivery. Thanks to Flyt’s integrated delivery solution, when a customer orders from a delivery partner (like Just Eat; Uber Eats), the order goes directly to the EPOS terminal, with all the information a delivery driver requires. Pickups are smoother, and staff spend less time keying in orders, minimising waiting times for everyone.

The future… Flyt is feeding GBK’s expansion into the virtual with four, seamlessly integrated, services and gives GBK the flexibility to adapt with their customers at the touch of a button.

No end of day work, such as keying all orders into the EPOS, is required.

Be part of the future of hospitality visit:


Casual dining still pulling in punters despite reports of a ‘crunch’ The segment has transformed the British high street but there may be trouble brewing, says NPD Group’s Dominic Allport


t is difficult to grow tired of great music, great places or great friends – we always want them to be part of our lives. Many would say the mark of a great product or service is you never grow tired of it so it makes sense for any business to be as good as it possibly can – to be a “great business” with the intangible ingredients that pull customers back again and again. Casual dining chains have transformed the look and feel of the British high street. Established brands have dropped anchor in every major town across the land and have become integral parts of the urban landscape. In bigger cities, especially London, smaller brands have set up shop too, tempting consumers with new cuisines presented in new ways. So many brands, so many choices. However, looking at Britain’s foodservices industry today there is clear evidence of challenges accompanied by media reports telling us how saturated and competitive the British casual dining sector has become. We have all read stories of operators overstretching themselves, of investors pursuing stellar returns over short time-frames, and of the insolvency procedures, administration and restructurings that have become increasingly commonplace.

Growth not crisis So has the “casual dining revolution” given way to the “casual dining crunch”? Is casual dining collapsing? Is there a crisis? The market data currently suggests the answer is no. Our latest figures show casual dining continues to grow in Britain. Many operators – especially newer,

‘‘Our latest figures show casual dining continues to grow in Britain. Many operators – especially newer, challenger brands – are continuing to focus on expansion’’

challenger brands – are continuing to focus on expansion. For the year ending September 2018, visits to British casual dining outlets were up almost 8%, equivalent to an extra 41 million visits compared with the previous 12 months. Casual dining now accounts for 5% of visits in Britain’s eat-out or out-ofhome (OOH) foodservice industry. While the overall OOH market suffered a decline of 48 million visits in the year to September 2018, casual dining chains grew visits by 34 million. Britons spent £6bn on casual dining in the year ending September 2018, about 11% of total OOH spend. During the same period, spending on casual dining restaurants grew four times faster than the total market. Casual dining restaurants remain one of the key growth stories in Britain’s OOH foodservice market, despite the highprofile closures, rescues and restructuring seen in the sector in recent months. But while the market is expanding, success isn’t guaranteed. Some of the newer brands are failing to set themselves apart from competitors, leaving consumers with the sense they are getting similar menus, similar venues and similar customer

experiences. But the biggest issue is the pressure on profit margins, with business rates, rent, food and labour all costing more in an oversupplied market.

New opportunities One way to address margin pressures is to seek lower-cost sites and there are signs the push to expand casual dining is now less inclined to focus on London, where the 2017 business rates revaluation has had a sharp impact on many operators. For the year ending September 2018, there were fewer than one million additional casual dining visits in the capital versus the previous year, compared with 22 million more in the south and 17 million in the Midlands and Wales.

YoY. change in casual dining visits (million), YE Sept 18 vs. YE Sep 17 22 17

1 South

Midlands The North and Wales & Scotland

1 London

The casual dining sector is also using a variety of strategies to expand. Delivery continues to grow strongly across the casual dining market (up 17% year-onyear), order ahead/click-and-collect visits are also up (27%), as are visits using ▲ WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Insight meal deals or promotion (up 19%). Casual dining restaurants are also benefiting from consumer recommendations, with visits driven by positive comments on a word-of-mouth basis, on social media, or via review sites up 49% year-on-year, more than two times faster than for the wider market. Some casual dining restaurants are trying to expand beyond dinner into other opportunities such as breakfast (up 16% year-on-year within the casual sector) and snacking (up 21%). The growth rate casual dining operators are enjoying with breakfast is 15 times greater than breakfast growth in the wider OOH market.

Families, young adults and millennials Casual dining has a strong following in the family segment. Family visits grew 10% for the year ending September 2018, more than twice as fast as family visits across the overall OOH market. Consumers are generally visiting casual dining restaurants because they want “something different” and are attracted by the “quality of the food”. Both motivators are more pronounced among casual dining customers than for the overall OOH market.

YoY. family visits to casual dining restaurants % growth, YE Sep 18 vs. YE Sept 17 10%


Total Out Of Home

Casual Dining

The continued growth of casual dining in Britain is good news for our foodservice industry. Operators can support further growth by building strong consumer awareness, maximising automation to reduce costs, maintaining prudent supply chain management, and driving off-peak visits through flexible pricing. But growth brings the risk of saturation and for that reason it is likely the casual dining boom will see further closures and rescues. Casual dining chains are most at risk from the “perfect storm” of oversupply, lack of differentiation and sharp exposure to inflation, particularly labour costs. A chain that deals with this by cutting prices to boost visits will be the one that is most at risk.

Strong foundations Young adults/millennials are also loyal fans of casual dining restaurants. Visits from 16 to 24-year-olds are up 23% yearon-year but only 3% among 25 to 34-yearolds. Visits by both groups to casual dining restaurants are still comfortably growing faster than with other OOH outlets such as quick service restaurants.

YoY. % change in visits, YE Sep 18 vs YE Sep 17 16-24 Year Old Adults


25-34 Year Old Adults




Total Out Of Home


Casual Dining restaurants

Given the intense competition in Britain’s casual dining sector and the heightened commercial risks, there is no better time for operators to scrutinise their business models. It’s difficult to envisage too many problems for a business built on a strong foundation of carefully controlled costs that offers great-quality, sharp differentiation and a memorable customer experience. There are many themes operators can work on. Based on NPD’s experience of working with foodservice industry clients, there is a widespread understanding of the importance of having good staff. Hiring the right people – and training them – is key to helping a business stand out from competition and increase consumer spending. How well does your front-of-house team know the dishes you serve, what the dishes are made of, where the ingredients come from and how the meals are prepared? How friendly are your staff? Do they have the confidence to pair food with wine, cocktails and beer? Can


‘‘Operators can support further growth by building strong consumer awareness, maximising automation to reduce costs, maintaining prudent supply chain management, and driving off-peak visits through flexible pricing’’ they persuade your customers to buy a dessert, order another bottle of wine or stay for a cocktail? How do they behave when they encounter repeat customers? Can they remember customer preferences and can they use that knowledge to engage with customers, perhaps by helping them move away from their “regular choice” and encouraging them to try a different option?

Year ahead Nobody in Britain’s foodservice industry welcomes news of a business facing difficulties. Looking at the coming year, the operators that will thrive will be the ones that work on their store estate, menu price engineering, promotions and new product development. Let’s look at these one by one. One of the problems in casual dining has been a tendency for some operators to scale up too quickly, with “quantity of sites” outweighing “quality of sites”. At NPD we believe this expansion will slow or even go into reverse. This process of rationalising or “right-sizing” the store estate will become more important and some operators will benefit from driving like-for-like sales rather than new-store sales. ▲


encouraging consumers to visit Menu price engineering your operation solely for always sounds like a promotional value. This will mouthful but it’s about have a detrimental effect the important issues year-on-year rise in on margins and doesn’t of preparation costs, visits to British casual benefit your long-term profitability and dining outlets up to brand health. popularity. Price Operators that fail to increases will be September 2018, keep up with changing necessary to offset equivalent to an consumer tastes and increases in cost so you extra 41 million develop their menus maintain profitability but visits to align with consumer it’s important to maintain demand risk becoming tired and customer satisfaction too – unfashionable. Any industry needs to people need to feel your menu develop new products – the foodservice always offers great value. world is no different. Is product Have you developed popular dishes development a continuous process for that also have a relatively low cost base your business or is it something you look for your business? Are you monitoring at only sporadically? Imagine a family eats which menu items are the most successful in your restaurant once a month. Will they and the least successful? Which items see exciting changes each time or the should you replace? You should also “same old thing”? check if there is a clear menu proposition Operators also need to look at their that addresses different dayparts. How delivery strategy. The ability of delivery well does your menu accommodate platforms to reduce barriers to entry has customers celebrating important events particularly helped small brands expand. or occasions? Are you offering a fun and Casual dining brands using aggregator healthy children’s menu? Focusing on platforms have grown delivery visits by menus can be particularly productive. 59% during the year to September 2018, The use of promotions is increasing more than three times faster than casual and can be an effective tool to drive dining delivery visits overall. But care footfall but avoid falling into the trap of is required because there’s no sense in offering a delivery service only to find it ‘‘Invest in an app that can cuts into your in-premise customer base. help with payment and Delivery certainly drives traffic but it can have a negative effect on margins if menu ordering. An app it requires third-party delivery services, is less expensive than where commission rates can be high. self-serve kiosks but is There are also risks and opportunities associated with “dark kitchens” likely to help increase supporting restaurants that want to extend the value of the average their reach without opening new premises. bill in a similar way’’ Should a casual dining brand look at these resources? Should they even consider




launching sub-brands that are only available via delivery?

YoY. % change in delivery visits, YE Sep 18 vs. YE Sep 17 59%

17% 7% Total Out Of Home

Casual Dining

Casual Dining Via Digital Delivery Platforms

Last but not least, there are opportunities in technology. Invest in an app that can help with payment and menu ordering. An app is less expensive than selfserve kiosks but is likely to help increase the value of the average bill in a similar way. Is there any truth to the idea of a “casual dining crunch”? The answer right now is no. Britain’s casual dining sector has been serving up all sorts of great products and should continue to do so for many years to come. But the foodservice industry faces challenges. Is this the right time for some operators to ensure their business is as strong as possible, that their operation has the same appeal as great music, great places or great friends, that it can pull the punters in – again and again? ■

Dominic Allport is insight director foodservice UK at NPD Group

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Advertising Feature

What can we expect from the Restaurant sector in 2019? HGEM founding director Sally Whelan looks at what operators need to do to stay ahead of the game


he year is (really rather quickly!) drawing to a close. So what better time to reflect on what’s happened in 2018 and, perhaps more importantly, anticipate what lies ahead for the industry and how restaurants can prepare? 2018 has been a challenging year to say the least for the restaurant sector. Many restaurant operators have had to cope with escalating property costs, combined with food inflation, which has seen some well-established brands such as CAU, Jamie’s Italian, Prezzo and Carluccio's run into difficulties. Meanwhile, the level of competition is unprecedented, with new concepts, business models and pop-ups appearing all the time, all looking to meet the


aspirations of a large and growing group of consumers – those who want to experiment, try something new and spend their money with brands that care about core issues such as sustainability and promoting local produce.

So, what can we expect in 2019? It’s fair to say many dining trends witnessed in 2018 will continue to gain momentum next year – including plantbased diets and healthy eating. According to a report from Mintel, 35% of people in the UK are now flexitarians. Flexitarians are people living healthy flexible lifestyles who, while predominantly vegetarian, don’t deprive themselves of meat when they fancy it. Restaurants, therefore must appeal to this growing market of guests who want to minimise their effect on the environment and keep healthy to stay ahead of the competition. Similarly, the combination of social influencers and documentaries talking about environmental and sustainability issues (the BBC’s Drowning in Plastic and David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, to name a couple) will continue to encourage restaurants to shift and adapt


their offering to become more sustainable and eco-friendly. The level of uncertainty surrounding Brexit will also continue to impact on operators who are already under pressure to find resources, partly due to the poor image the industry has historically projected about long unsociable hours for low pay. Leaving the EU next year could see many existing European workers being driven out of the UK. This, combined with new workers facing difficulty entering the UK to work, could leave operators finding themselves understaffed. I recently read an article in BBC Good Food, in which Waitrose's executive chef Jonathan Moore discussed the fact diners will soon be looking for four meals a day instead of three. Lifestyle changes now mean we are eating breakfast for dinner and dinner for lunch. Restaurants need to embrace this flexibility and maximise the opportunities a fourth meal could present. Although what this extra meal will be called, I don’t know! From Deliveroo to UberEats, if you live in a big city you can’t fail to notice the brightly coloured swarm of food delivery

Advertising Feature “Lifestyle changes now mean that we are eating breakfast for dinner and dinner for lunch. Restaurants need to embrace this flexiblity and maximise the opportunities that a fourth meal could present”

What can restaurants do to survive… and thrive? Operators that want to thrive in 2019 need to find that balance between the memorability of an experience and the efficiency of its delivery. Understanding what guests are saying about you is

absolutely critical if you want to make sure you’re at the top of your game and providing the experience they expect. I think we’ll see a lot more development with next-generation CRM systems, allowing restaurateurs to ensure they are proactively engaging with their guests and listening to their feedback. There’s a huge amount of data out there being collected – from guest feedback, mystery visits and guest reviews – and this really enables operators to track the guest journey and understand both the experience and levels of engagement at every stage. But it’s what they do with this information that determines whether they’re successful or not. If data is collected and used effectively, it will inevitably lead to an enhanced guest experience and ultimately increased revenue and guest loyalty. This year, at HGEM, we’ve seen an increase in operators using employee surveys to keep track of employee net promoter scores. Understanding how teams are feeling at different stages of their employment has helped our clients engage and motivate their teams and put them at the heart of a positive guest experience.

A final note… Christmas as always is a critical trading period for restaurants and this year even more so, but before the over-indulgence of Christmas is over, operators need to start thinking ahead to January and how they will cater for 2019 guests to get ahead of the competition. Those embarking on "Dry January" and "Veganuary" for example could be key to starting as they mean to go on as the new year begins. Give guests what they want, when they want it, and you can almost guarantee return business. ■

If you would like any advice on how prepare for 2019 and how our services could help your business to stay ahead of the trends please contact us today on 01225 470 999 or email WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY

*Data from analysts CGA

riders on the streets. Research that we carried out this year highlighted 48% of our mystery guests who currently use delivery apps would prefer to order online, directly from the restaurant itself. So, could 2019 be the year for restaurants to invest in their own delivery infrastructure and take control back from the delivery giants? Most recently we have all seen the news about allergies and the dreadful impact that incorrect or incomplete labelling of ingredients can have. I think 2019 will see dramatic changes to the way quick-service restaurants label their food, with a real focus on team members who are at the front line when it comes to dealing with allergy-related questions. The sector will have to take responsibility for ensuring their teams are trained, supported and confident in this area.


Multi-Club Overview

News from the floor Jessica Mason reveals highlights from the recent Propel Multi Club Conference

Yasmine Larizadeh, co-founder of Good Life Eatery


asmine Larizadeh talked about launching Good Life Eatery with Shirin Kouros in 2013. She told delegates the concept was borne from a passion for food and a belief the UK food scene lacked variety. The brand has since expanded to four sites. She told delegates: “While munching on my tuna and cucumber baguette, at that time the height of Pret’s offering, I decided something in London needed to change.” Larizadeh was born in the US and living in California changed her ideals when it came to food, taking interest in her early years in how food was grown, presented and tasted. Growing up in an Iranian household, where food was the focal point for family activities and gatherings, showed her a “beautiful way of eating” and encouraged her “wonderful relationship with food”. She said: “I had to muster the courage to tell my parents I wanted to quit the corporate world, even though I had only been in it for three months, and open a restaurant even though I had no experience in the field and no clue where to begin. “After a few days deliberation, my father called me and said his friend’s daughter, Shirin Kouros, had just finished

her culinary training in New York. We met and immediately clicked – the rest is history. “We took a trip to the States to see what was going on and what was lacking in the UK. We decided to embark on a restaurant training programme for six months. Then we worked our way through all the posts at a large Lebanese restaurant group, from washing dishes to shadowing the general manager for three weeks. That was probably the best decision we made. “We started looking for a first site and funded the whole thing ourselves. Everyone said we were mad to take an old

newsagents in Chelsea but they didn’t know we had sat in the Starbucks next door counting the customers coming in for more than a month and had fully scoped out the area. “A friend donated some old lamps from their garage, another friend offered plants for inside the store and we found the chairs and most of the table materials in a skip off the A40.” The pair opened a second Good Life Eatery in Marylebone in April 2015 and now have sites in Belgravia and St John’s Wood. Larizadeh revealed a fifth site would “open soon”.

“Everyone said we were mad to take an old newsagents in Chelsea but they didn’t know we had sat in the Starbucks next door counting the customers coming in for more than a month and had fully scoped out the area” ▲



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Multi-Club Overview

Andrew Ball, haysmacintyre partner


ndrew Ball revealed findings from the haysmacintyre benchmarking survey produced in association with Propel. More than 120 multi-site pub, restaurant and foodservice operators took part in the biggest benchmarking survey in the sector. Ball told delegates Ebitda as a percentage of turnover had risen 0.1% in the past year to 10.8% as operators began to find “innovative ways” to absorb additional costs. He said: “Ebitda as a percentage of turnover has held up – this was perhaps the most pleasing number of all for me. We’re not quite at the heady days of 2015 (13.4%), but at 10.8% we’re seeing a good level of turnover drop to the Ebitda line. People are starting to find innovative ways to absorb the additional costs of wages, rates and food costs.” Average wet-led turnover per site increased 9.4% to £1.19m in the past year, while dry-led venues saw a 9.7% fall to £1.21m. However, dry-led businesses saw an increase in gross profit margin (2.8% on food; 2.9% on drinks) during the year, while there was a decrease for wet-led (minus 1.3% food; minus 0.8% drinks). Ball said one reason for the figures could be dry-led businesses are “managing direct costs better”. Operators are targeting 12% turnover growth during the next year, taking into account site acquisitions as well as natural growth, compared with 11% last year. Like-for-like turnover growth was 4.7% this year, down from 5.0% in 2017, with venues outside London seeing a fall to 5.1% from 6.0%. However, the capital saw a 0.5% rise

during the period to 3.7%. Almost half (47%) of dry-led businesses have a delivery agreement in place, rising to more than four-fifths (82%) in London,

compared with 72% in the capital last year. The majority (92%) use Deliveroo, followed by UberEats (37%), Just Eat (11%), other suppliers (5%) and Amazon (3%). Ball said average commission paid to delivery providers was 24% of gross sales, compared with 27% last year, but was still a “big hit to your bottom line”. When asked what affect the delivery market had on turnover, almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents claimed a neutral or negative impact, while more than fourfifths (82%) said it had a neutral or negative affect on profit. Ball blamed cannibalisation of turnover, especially in central London, an inability to upsell and lesser sales of alcohol for the reported neutral affect on profit. The trend towards healthier eating has risen, with 89% of operators increasing the number of healthy options on their menu, compared with 71% in 2017. The number offering gluten-free options was 90%, followed by vegan (87%) and dairy-free (51%). Looking ahead, more than threequarters (77%) of respondents think Brexit will have a negative impact on their ability to recruit staff, while two-thirds (67%) think it will affect revenue.

“Ebitda as a percentage of turnover has held up – this was perhaps the most pleasing number of all for me. We’re not quite at the heady days of 2015 (13.4%), but at 10.8% we’re seeing a good level of turnover drop to the Ebitda line”

John Upton, former managing director of Leon and now board member of Motherclucker and Naked Deli


ohn Upton, former managing director of Leon, a member of the McDonald’s UK leadership team, and now board member of Motherclucker and Naked Deli, gave delegates key insights into how businesses might achieve sustainable growth. He said: “During the past 20 years or so I have worked for a variety of brands. I worked with McDonald’s UK from 2002 to 2015 – the company is currently in its 15th year of consecutive growth in the UK. It was worth £1.6bn in the early noughties and it’s now worth more than £4bn in the UK with roughly the same store count. What we have with McDonald’s UK is a sustained turnaround business.” Upton advised operators starting out to have a “clear customer purpose”. He said: “Live by a customer philosophy. I call this the ‘three Rs’ – stay ‘realistic’ and be critically honest about what customers truly think, good and bad; be ‘relevant’ and stay

“Some businesses should consider hiring outof-industry expertise because it’s important to embrace cohesive and diverse leadership”

in tune with what customers really need and want; and be ‘relentless’ and keep your focus on consistently delivering basic needs – day in, day out. “The important thing is to ask yourself some direct questions about your business and look at how honest you are about current business performance, especially regarding what customers are saying. Look at what your customers and employees are telling you about your relevance to them and ask if you actually know what your customers’ and employees’ needs are and if these basic needs are being met every day.” Upton also urged operators to have the courage to take “informed risks”. He added: “If you’re not performing to the level you want, you have to take some risk. Some businesses should consider hiring out-of-industry expertise because it’s important to embrace cohesive and diverse leadership – diverse perspectives could also add real value to the business.” ▲




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Multi-Club Overview

Daniel Davies, chief executive of Rock Point Leisure


aniel Davies, founder of CPL Training and chairman of the Institute of Licensing (IoL), told delegates a Propel study tour to Brooklyn, New York, helped inspire his project to breathe new life into his home town New Brighton. Davies launched Rock Point Leisure following CGA Group’s acquisition of 85% of CPL Online in March. Rock Point is the former name of the Merseyside seaside resort and once housed a tower higher than Blackpool’s, eight theatres and the world’s largest open-air swimming baths. All have gone and despite regrowth on the seafront dominated by large-scale operators, there has been “little ripple effect”. Davies plans to redevelop the town’s “main drag” – Victoria Road – and 11 surrounding streets into Victoria Quarter,

which will feature a mix of commercial and residential properties. He has bought a three-storey solicitors’ office, two former banks, the lease on a Punch pub, and a couple of restaurants, while he is “waiting to get confirmation on a supermarket” that will form a major part of the project and was inspired by a Propel study tour to New York. Davies said: “We looked around a lot of stuff there, particularly market concepts. People visit Liverpool but why would they come over the water to visit New Brighton? Well if people visit Manhattan, why would they visit Brooklyn? But they do and we’ve learnt there has to be a compelling reason.” Davies’ plans also include vinyl record store Rockpoint Records. He said: “We are

“This is a long-term commitment to the area. Once we’ve done this, we’d like to stick a tower back or some big attraction like that”

attracting a number of different concepts, mainly led by us to start with. Habibi Hookah House will be a shisha place and there will be a Californian concept, Oakland, which will have an MTV Unplugged-style area at the back where we will get some serious artists and DJs over from LA.” Davies is looking to create a calendar of live events that encourage collaboration. He said: “We are getting all the community involved. I’ve opened the solicitors as an office and drop-in centre. We’ve created an independent business forum and invite every resident to open days, taking as much expertise as we can from the local area.” Davies is also using his experience as chairman of the IoL. He said: “I have seen a lot of conflict between operators and regulators. I sat down with the chief executive of the local council, the heads of planning and licensing, police, Highways Agency and asked them to work with me on this project – and they’ve been brilliant. They’ve designated a whole area and given me two properties they can’t afford to maintain. This is a long-term commitment to the area. Once we’ve done this, we’d like to stick a tower back or some big attraction like that.”

Zonal marketing director Clive Consterdine


live Consterdine, marketing director of hospitality management solutions company Zonal, said despite people craving social interaction, their use of apps and technology continued to grow. He told delegates: “Consumers don’t just want to use technology at the table in restaurants, pubs and bars – they expect it.” Consterdine said the highest proportion of consumers who had used mobile apps to order or pay was seen in restaurants (45%), followed by pubs (30%), coffee shops (29%), bars (22%) and

“Whenever apps are used we find people are ordering more. They also believe if their order is taken on a tablet, their food will arrive quicker”

nightclubs (16%). He said the figures highlighted how, despite enjoying human interaction, evidence suggested convenience also appealed to many consumers. Consterdine said those pubs and restaurants that embraced technology would see a “halo effect on footfall”, reassuring customers the venue was efficient. He said: “Whenever apps are used we find people are ordering more. They also believe if their order is taken on a tablet, their food will arrive quicker.” ▲ WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Multi-Club Overview

James Nye, managing director of Anglian Country Inns


ames Nye, managing director of nine-strong Anglian Country Inns, revealed the company’s core values are linked to people and general happiness more than a desire to expand – with staff and customers at the heart of operations. He told delegates: “When explaining what you do, start by asking ‘why’ you do it? We run our business because we want to make people happy. We have a few core values – treat the people in your team like they are your family, treat your customers like your friends, stay focused and, most importantly, have fun. “To put it another way – ‘build the engine before the car’. I got that quote from Peter Borg-Neal (Oakman Inns and Restaurants founder and chief executive), who has been a good friend and helped me a lot over the years. It means as you grow you need that infrastructure to put the growth into. The paradoxical thing is you have all this structure and then need

the growth to support it. It’s a chicken and egg situation but it’s about balancing your growth with your central costs. We try to look after our staff and make them feel less like they’re doing a job, more that they’re part of our family.” Nye explained a recent renovation led the company to consider how people power could benefit all areas of the business – even funding. He said: “There was a 500-year-old barn and farmhouse with about four acres. The bank wouldn’t touch it because it was a huge development project and grade II-listed. “The original farmhouse had a small restaurant and 12 bedrooms, a family business that had been struggling. We

could see a big opportunity for more bedrooms in the area as well as weddings, events and earthy farmhouse dining. We were inspired by what Robert Hutson did with The Pig – that kind of laid-back luxury. “We went to Downing and within a short space of time we put the numbers together and could see how it would work. Downing became our principal funder for the project and put up half the money. It then sold that as a crowdfunding bond, while we put out our own mini-bond to customers and friends and raised about £400,000. “My dad was involved with a lot of the work on-site and we sold 40 weddings before the place was even finished – people fell in love with it. The barn looks brilliant but there’s enough technology in there to take it to the moon and back – AV, acoustic insulation, under-floor heating – yet it still looks and feels like a really old barn.”

“We have a few core values – treat the people in your team like they are your family, treat your customers like your friends, stay focused and, most importantly, have fun”

David Singleton, area vice-president EMEA/South Asia, Hard Rock International


avid Singleton, who is area vice-president EMEA/South Asia at Hard Rock International, told delegates the brand would continue its international journey to create “destinations surrounding live music and socialising over food and drink”. He said: “Hard Rock has seen 47 years of global growth and has evolved into one of the most exciting, sophisticated and energetic lifestyle brands in the world. We host 35,000 live music events per year – you might say music is very important to us! Sometimes it’s as simple as picking the single best location in the city, building a monument and operating it brilliantly.” Hard Rock is owned by the Seminole

tribe, who acquired the company from Rank in 2006 for $965m. Although the company remains based in South Florida it has a brand presence in 74 countries with 179 cafes and 24 hotels, while Singleton sees further expansion in other regions. He said:

“Sometimes it’s as simple as picking the single best location in the city, building a monument, and operating it brilliantly”

“There are opportunities in Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Africa – our merchandise and memorabilia collections are ever-expanding and in demand.” Hard Rock sells 14.7 million branded items per year but its point of difference began by accident. Singleton said: “Eric Clapton visited the Hard Rock Cafe in Hyde Park. He said he wanted the same table every time he visited so he had his guitar put above it to mark it as his. Following that moment the company began collecting band memorabilia – now 82,000 items are displayed across our venues.” ▲



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Multi-Club Overview

Gusto managing director Matt Snell


att Snell, managing director of 19-strong Gusto, told delegates the Italian restaurant chain had been saved by focusing on its “authenticity and narrative”. He said: “Just telling our guests we sold fresh food wasn’t the right message. We needed something more – some authenticity and narrative. It was the narrative we felt would differentiate us within a very crowded segment. “Gusto was borne from the Living Ventures phrase ‘a non-Italian Italian’. That’s a difficult thing to sell a guest – and it didn’t work for us at all. What we had strayed into as a business was a bogstandard Italian menu and we knew we had to think more authentically. We flew to Milan and started eating and I made a commitment to our business we would continue to do that. We have made trips to Bologna and Modena and we’ll go to

Naples and Verona early next year.” Following that first trip, Snell revealed Gusto took what it had learned back to the UK and put recipes in development. However, it wasn’t just the food that was adapted, it was the wording on the menu itself. Snell said: “We started to tell our stories specifically through our menu. For

“Gusto was borne from the Living Ventures phrase ‘a non-Italian Italian’. That’s a difficult thing to sell a guest – and it didn’t work for us at all”

instance, we have a Milanese saffron risotto topped with a five-hour slow-cooked, three-meat ragu. We put it on our menu and it immediately became a top-seller because we told our story through our menu descriptor. “We also looked at stalwarts of our menu, lasagne being a great example. It was a dish languishing at the middle to bottom of the menu in terms of best-selling main courses so we told a story of how much effort we go to in our kitchens. The old menu descriptor simply read ‘homemade lasagne’ but now reads ‘homemade lasagne made with our three-meat, five-hour slow-cooked ragu and finished in the pizza oven for a final kiss of flavour’. The lasagne is now the numberthree best-selling dish on our menu.”

Martin Dinkele, deputy managing director of Morar HPI


artin Dinkele, deputy managing director of Morar HPI, explained how net promoter scores (NPS) allow operators to measure their popularity and marketability through recommendations. An NPS is achieved by asking customers if they would recommend a brand to friends or family on a scale of zero to ten – zero being not at all and ten being a definite recommendation. Anyone answering zero to six becomes a “detractor”, seven to eight are “passives” and nine to ten “promoters”. Businesses calculate their NPS by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.

Dinkele told delegates the mean average NPS was above 20, while Mitchells & Butlers’ steakhouse brand Miller & Carter has an NPS of 46, Wagamama 43, Wahaca 41 and The Alchemist 31. While delving deeper into triggers for boosting NPS, Dinkele said happy staff had a positive effect on consumers. He said: “Guest satisfaction with the experience is strongly aligned with staff work satisfaction. Morar HPI conducted employee surveys for a number of restaurant chains – site staff and head office – to dig deeper into what drives a high NPS. We found happiness attracts happiness.” In terms of the experience, however, one factor trumps all others – food quality – specifically flavour, quality of ingredients

and freshness. Dinkele said: “The implication is to focus on food excellence first – experience, decor, atmosphere, vegan options – and everything else follows. Operators can manipulate perceptions of quality in so many ways. A weightier cup or heavier cutlery can make a person think their food and drink is much better quality and of a higher value.”

“The implication is to focus on food excellence first – experience, decor, atmosphere, vegan options – and everything else follows”



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Multi-Club Overview

Carluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones


arluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones revealed how the company had overcome many challenges this year, blaming rapid expansion within the casual dining scene as one reason it entered a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which saw the group exit up to 30 loss-making sites from its 103-strong UK business. He told delegates: “2018 has been a very tough year. We went from being a rapidly expanding casual dining brand to suddenly being in a business that had an existential moment. We were literally three weeks away from going bust. “We have a fantastic flagship in Garrick Street in London’s West End and we do about £8,000 to £10,000 per day. We opened in Ilkley, Yorkshire, and took £8,000 in the first week. That summed up for us we had taken the brand too far into too many marginal sites on this dash for growth. “Many restaurateurs boast about the Ebitda their restaurants make but I always take off Ebitda as money each year that should be reinvested in the company for maintenance capex.

“If you don’t do that, you are floating your Ebitda by a big margin. The best way for me to describe that within Carluccio’s is we were spending maintenance capex within the business about half our depreciation number. What that means is your estate is eroding and denuding by that number every year and that in itself was starting to come back and bite the business.” The other issue, Jones said, was Carluccio’s hadn’t evolved at the same pace as its competitors. He added: “We weren’t alone. Of very single casual dining brand that had over-extended during the same timeline – nearly all of them were facing the same difficulties we were. What got us through our CVA was a very robust plan

– we reviewed everything. “Our focus now is on recruiting, training and developing great teams including 75% promotion from within; lower team turnover because it’s currently too high; and developing an ‘employer brand’ based on our Famiglia and operations excellence. “We intend to regain our leadership on fresh food – have focaccia made from scratch every day and fresh pasta is also being tested. We will have our focus on consistency and aim to enhance and evolve the deli. We will end the year with 75 restaurants – all profitable and sustainable. We are aiming for 60 sites to be refurbished out of 75 as 2019 marks our 20th anniversary.”

“We will end the year with 75 restaurants – all profitable and sustainable. We are aiming for 60 sites to be refurbished out of 75 as 2019 marks our 20th anniversary”

Christie & Co managing director of pubs and restaurants Neil Morgan


hristie & Co managing director of pubs and restaurants Neil Morgan told delegates more pubs were being sought by would-be restaurateurs due to increased competition, premiums and prices in the restaurant sector. He said: “The number of restaurants in 2001 was 5,455 – by 2017 there were 7,990. Wagamama, Five Guys, Nando’s and The Ivy Collection are among the winners on the high street but unsustainable rents have proved too much for some big names. We have seen Jamie’s Italian, Carluccio’s and CAU go to company voluntary arrangements, while Prezzo was forced

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to close 100 sites, Byron had to shut 20 venues and Gourmet Burger Kitchen said goodbye to 17 restaurants. “As restaurant numbers rose, competition for sites led to high premiums and price growth. Investors and operators in restaurants are looking at pubs rather than restaurants. The buildings offer more character and have more external trade space and individuality.” However, Morgan added: “More than

three-quarters (79%) of freehold pubs remain pubs after completion, while 21% undergo a conversion to alternative use. Managed houses are still performing and the trading fundamentals for wellinvested, well-operated managed houses are excellent. Margins have suffered but top-line growth has more than made up for this.” Morgan said the number of franchise pubs in the UK was “approaching 1,000”, showing it had become a proven format. He said supply and demand issues had led to an “unsustainable restaurant model that required aggressive roll-outs to generate sufficient returns”.

“Investors and operators in restaurants are looking at pubs rather than restaurants. The buildings offer more character and have more external trade space and individuality”

PROPEL QUARTERLY RL R LY WINTER WIN IN INT NT TER ER 2018 201 2 20 01 0 18 www w ww ww w w pr prop ope o pe p elho lh ho h ossp spi piitta p tal a allit itty ity y cco om

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

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Advertising Feature

Planning ahead to prevent labour shortages post-Brexit European nationals provide an essential labour pool for a wide range of roles in the hospitality sector. With free movement from Europe ending post-Brexit, a shortage of labour is a real concern for operators. The EU Settlement Scheme does give a clear indication of the ongoing rights of EU nationals to work in the UK and there is scope to plan ahead. The EU Settlement Scheme This effectively allows for the ongoing free movement of EU nationals up to the end of the implementation period in December 2020. Prior to this, EU nationals will be able to continue to enter the UK to live and work. Employers can continue to check rights to work by copying their European passport or ID card. The Settlement Scheme will provide a process for EU nationals to register with the UK Government, for either: O settled status (indefinite leave to remain) - those who have completed 5 years residence in the UK will be able to apply O pre-settled status (limited leave to remain) - for those with less than 5 years residence Both give the right to live in the UK, work, study and access public funds and services.

Deadline for registration The scheme is voluntary until 30 June 2021. Employees may register earlier but cannot be required to do so. If not registered by the June deadline they will be considered over-stayers and no longer be able to work legally in the UK. Employers should be aware of this deadline as they could face a civil penalty if they employ a European national without settled or pre-settled status after June 2021.

2. Ensure all HR records and right to work checks for all employees are up to date. 3. Communicate with employees as the scheme is rolled out and in the run up to 1 July 2021 to ensure they have information about the new process. 4. Ensure employees provide evidence of having registered on the scheme. Update HR records accordingly. 5. Offer to support employees with the application process. 6. Undertake a full audit of status documentation before 30 June 2021 to ensure that all employees continue to be in lawful employment.

How can employees prepare? An online application process will be accessible through smartphones via an app, which will read chips in biometric documents such as passports. Those applying will only need to prove their identity and residence in the UK and declare they have no criminal convictions. It is encouraging that the Home Office has emphasised that they are looking to grant applications, rather than refuse them, so if the process is followed correctly there is every opportunity to retain EU staff. Q

How can employers prepare? Employers do not need to do anything immediately but are advised to prepare for 1 July 2021 when the scheme becomes mandatory. Steps that can be taken now: 1. Understand which employees will need to apply under the new application route, including the family members of EU nationals.


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Conference Overview

Martin Cooper picks out some of the highlights from the Bar and Nightclub Conference, organised by UKHospitality and Propel, which celebrates the best of the late-night sector

Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive and chair of the Mayor’s NightTime Commission


KHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls opened the conference by talking about her role as chair of the Mayor’s Night-Time Commission, which is looking to put London mayor Sadiq Khan’s vision for a 24hour city into practice. She told delegates: “This means we can put the late-night economy at the heart of London and, crucially, give us a good launch pad when we take it to other cities and we’re having similar conversations in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Nottingham about how we’ve got a city that works at night. UKHospitality also wants to highlight the sector as a great place to invest and for people to grow a career.”



Conference Overview

Leading licensing barrister Sarah Clover

The Bar & Nightclub Conference


eading licensing barrister Sarah Clover provided a personal perspective on the key legal issues and developments bar and nightclub operators face. She told delegates a culture had built up in licensing hearings for crime statistics to be presented in a way that “clouded the real data”. Clover said: “The way statistics are used and fed into graphs is not always accurate or relevant – for example, the landlord of a pub in question having a heart attack, which was recorded as an incident against the premises! I have also seen a statistic used of a gentleman sitting on a barstool in a pub who suddenly realised he’d been scammed on social media! These are real examples and things like this can and do end up in bar graphs and pie charts used to try to get a premises to lose its licence. Police and councillors would benefit from some enhanced training around these topics to make sure things like this are not perpetuated.” Talking about cumulative impact zones, she said: “It’s not a blame game. Cumulative impact zones were introduced so local authorities and police could say ‘enough is enough, we’re going to close the fort and no-one else can come in unless they can prove they are not going to add to this cumulative impact’. This has switched the burden of proof to the applicant. Authorities will say something like ‘an applicant has to be exceptional to come into our zone’. However, future cumulative impact zones are going to have to be judged on ‘facts’ and those facts will have to be transparent to prove why a zone should be created. They will also have to review their cumulative impact assessments every three years. This may make life a little bit easier.”

Novus chief executive Toby Smith


hief executive Toby Smith told delegates that London bar and restaurant operator Novus was “continuing to evolve away from the late-night scene”. He told the conference the company was achieving “substantially better returns” on its core businesses than it did within the late-night sector, where there had been a “higher degree of volatility in trading terms”. In October, the company put the lease of its Tiger Tiger nightclub in Haymarket up for sale for the first time in 20 years. The 1,500-capacity venue spans six rooms consisting of a restaurant, three bars, a lounge and a main club area. Novus has about ten sites on the market, Smith said, including its Tiger Tiger venues in Cardiff and Leeds. It has since agreed to sell three Tiger Tiger sites – in Manchester,

Newcastle and Portsmouth – to the Deltic Group. In the summer, Novus sold 15 sites to Stonegate as it “continues to switch its strategy to focus on the Balls Brothers brand, development of craft beer and pizza format Tank & Paddle and the Late Night London website”. The debut Tank & Paddle – in Minster Court in the City of London – had been achieving

‘‘The company is achieving substantially better returns on its core businesses than it did within the late-night sector’’

between £4,000 and £5,000 in lunchtime food sales, Smith said, with like-for-like sales up 15% in the company’s most recent quarter. Across Tank & Paddle’s three sites, like-for-like sales had been up 31% during the same period, with the venues selling about 2,270 pizzas and 4,500 pints of Meantime tank beer a week. Smith also told delegates Novus’ ten-strong Balls Brothers business, which has partnered with meat supplier Ginger Pig, had seen 13% like-for-like sales growth in the most recent quarter. Meanwhile, he said the Late Night London website had become a “fully fledged bookings and listings site featuring hundreds of events”, with plans to “take the offering regionally”. Smith reported 50% of visits to the website were converted into bookings. ▲ WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Conference Overview

Karl Chessell, who heads CGA’s retailer business unit


arl Chessell, who heads CGA’s retailer business unit, talked delegates through data from his company’s late-night sector survey. He told delegates the sector currently makes up 10% of the total UK on-trade market while in terms of sales, almost one-fifth (19%) of drinks are bought in the late-night market so the sector was “punching well above its weight”. In terms of the breakdown of CGA’s list of late-night venues, high-street pubs make up three-fifths (60%) of the market followed by late-night bars (14%), nightclubs (12%), student bars (7%), cocktail bars (5%) and themed venues (2%). He said it had ‘‘The thing with the not been “all late-night sector good news” in the sector, with is people look at 517 sites closing what their friends during the past year, a fall of or similar people 4.2%, to leave the to them are doing current UK total and that influences at 11,767 outlets. The figures were their choice of “broadly in line” where to go’’ with CGA’s expectations. Chessell said managed nightclubs (up 0.3% in the past 12 months) were faring better than non-managed, which had “borne the brunt of closures”, falling 7.3% during the same period. Geographically, almost one-quarter (23%) of closures take place in small towns compared with large towns (19%) and cities (11%). For the first time, CGA asked consumers who they “blamed” for the decline in nightclubs, with more than half (52%) blaming

councils followed by central government (50%) and local residents (48%), with the latter figure showing consumers were “well aware of issues such as the agent of change principle”. The numbers of people going out late had been “steady”, he said, with 62% of consumers going out as often or more than they did last year, while more than four-fifths (84%) expect to go out the same amount or more in a year from now. Although the survey found an over-riding view that past generations “had it better” in terms of “having fun on a night out”, more than four-fifths (82%) of respondents are satisfied or feel positively regarding the quality of bars and clubs in the UK, which was a “really healthy view of the sector”, he told delegates. The survey found competition is “fierce” in the category, with the majority (90%) of late-night venues having a licensed premises within 1km. Chessell said despite the competition, pubs featured as part a late night out, with one-third (33%) of respondents going to a pub first and then a different type of venue later compared with 30% remaining in the same venue. The survey found a rise in restaurants as a preferred late-night destination, with one-third (33%) of respondents preferring restaurants compared with 30% the previous year, 19% in 2016 and 13% in 2015. Chessell said this “blurring” of categories had led to a decline in nightclubs as people’s preferred late-night destination, from 18% in 2015 to 12% in 2018, although the figure stayed flat from the previous year. Offering a chink of light for nightclub

operators to attract consumers, he said almost three-fifths (58%) of respondents who rarely or never go to a nightclub were open to the idea of being re-engaged. Chessell said: “If the offer is right and the choice is right, they will come and use your venue.” Regarding decision-making for what people look for in a late night out, the most popular answer was atmosphere (90%), followed by value for money (83%), ease of travel (81%) and drinks (80%). All categories were down compared with last year apart from food (68%), which was up 2%. Chessell revealed almost half (45%) of late-night consumers upload images or videos of their nights out to social media, an increase of 10% from 2017. He said: “The thing with the late-night sector is people look at what their friends or similar people to them are doing and that influences their choice of where to go. Given 78% of people choose a nightclub at least a day before they go out, social media plays a key part in influencing the customer journey from sofa to dance floor.” He added that club-goers were prepared to pay more for “special events” such as a big-name DJ, celebrity appearance or live band. Another driver in the consumer quest for experiential leisure is drinks, Chessell told delegates, with three-quarters (75%) liking to try a new drink on a night out and having an experience they associate with that brand. Chessell said: “This will have a halo effect on the rest of the on-trade and off-trade so this is a really important area where suppliers can work with operators.”

House of Song founder and managing director Alan Lorrimer


lan Lorrimer, founder and managing director of House of Song, talked about operating London’s only two venues that offer non-stop, late-night music based exclusively on an audience-requested repertoire. Lorrimer explained both venues – Piano Works in Farringdon and Studio88 off Leicester Square – are in listed basements and feature a central stage with ‘‘A group of 400 a six-piece band like-minded consisting of two grand pianos, people requesting two guitars, songs from the a horn player soundtrack of their and drums. Customers fill in lives and singing their name and communally is song request on a napkin, a wonderful, which the band uplifting plays, with music transmitted experience’’ through almost 90 speakers. Lorrimer, whose industry experience includes 33 years as a restaurateur and 14 as a club owner, told delegates: “The atmosphere in creating a group of 400 like-minded people, requesting songs from the soundtrack of their lives and singing communally is a

wonderful, uplifting experience that people really seem to like and we have seen consistent growth during the past three years.” Lorrimer said he had built his businesses by using a model entitled the “hurdle race”. He said: “Never start your race without knowing what the finish line looks like. The first hurdle is the ‘concept’, which is about the target market – what is new about the target market, what do they want today, what is different today and how do we create something that is authentic and credible and has a loyalty that can be built for that customer? “The second hurdle is ‘funding’. I’ve always set up EIS funds and have always achieved a return on investment of two to three times. The third hurdle is ‘acquisition’, which is one of the hardest things we have to do. We have to get the site ready for the concept but above all the fixed costs – the rent and rates – have to be payable at a level of about 15%, no more. “The next hurdle is ‘fit-out’, ensuring the environment is credible for the target market. So many times I’ve seen a design team devise something with no regard to the team who are going to work within it. The next hurdle, ‘pre-opening’, is where the social media comes in to build a head of steam, then ‘opening’ is followed by ‘adaptation’. I’ve seen so many

brands come over from the US and get it wrong for the English market. You have about three months to get it right – it has to be done quickly to adapt to what the target market is telling you. If they don’t like it, take it off or change it. “The biggest hurdle of all is ‘break even’. Nobody goes bust from spending too much on the fit-out or marketing, they go bust from trading loss. If you can’t cover your costs, you run out of cash. The cliché is the top line is vanity, the bottom line is sanity but cash is always king. Next we come to ‘profit’, which is again about the finishing line, make sure you achieve what you wanted at the start as quickly as possible.” Lorrimer co-presented with House of Song operations director Tristan Moffat, who told delegates 85% of business at Piano Works and Studio88 was pre-booked. He said: “This means we can allocate staff and space to maximise spend. Our venues are 400-capacity and we turn over our capacity three times on our key Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with an average spend per head of £30 net of VAT. We’re not in the business of selling Michelin-starred food and 20-minute cocktails, we serve great-value food and drinks quickly with personality-driven and friendly service.” ▲



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Conference Overview

Andrew Stones, managing director of cocktail bar brand Be At One


ndrew Stones, managing director of cocktail bar brand Be At One, which was acquired by Stonegate Pub Company in July, told delegates his mission is to “have the best bars by being the best host”. He said: “I am at my happiest watching our guests and bar teams having a great time. When I talk about service in Be At One I describe it as hosting a party in your own home. I walked into a casual dining restaurant the other week and, after not being acknowledged for 15 minutes, I walked out. That’s why casual dining’s not great.” Stones commissions research from CGA and others and places great importance on the findings. He said: “More than half (55%) of guests come to Be At One after being recommended by a friend or colleague. I’m proud of that, and that number has been pretty consistent across the five years we’ve held our guest survey. One-third (33%) of our guests are ‘satisfied’, while 62% are ‘very satisfied’ about their experience.” Stones said the brand uses the “four walls theory”, which focuses on what goes on within its venues, especially training. He said: “We recruit personality and train skill. We have a fantastic training programme for our bartenders and, with the acquisition by Stonegate, our management-training programme will improve as well. We are a simple business – we work on five – 60 – 30. We want to acknowledge our guests in five seconds, all our cocktails can be made in 60 seconds, and the customer gets their change in 30 seconds. Our guests acknowledge that and it helps us to grow as a business.”

Broad appeal Stones said Be At One also prided itself on the atmosphere in its bars. He said: “That doesn’t happen by chance. We train our managers on how to create an atmosphere while on-shift. We let our bartenders be themselves, we listen to our guests and act on their feedback. It’s also about the right music, lighting and temperature and getting the room to smell nice. If you walk in a venue and it doesn’t smell great, you walk out again.” Stones said rather than targeting younger groups, Be At One looked to have a much broader appeal. He said: “We look at what’s important to people over 55 just as much as those who are 18 to 34. We look at different times of the day and parts of the week and focus on those things to make sure we get them right.”

Be At One is going to be around in ten, 20, 30, 40 years’ time and we are going to continue to grow under the ownership of Stonegate’

Be At One offers 101 cocktails but also operates a development bar in Soho – a “second concept nobody knows about” – with a lab downstairs that allows the company to distil its own spirits. Stones said: “That allows us to come up with some really interesting cocktails without relying on brands feeding them to us. That innovation has been critical.” Be At One, founded by Steve Locke, Rhys Oldfield and Leigh Miller in 1998, has grown to 33 sites. Regarding the brand’s future

following the Stonegate acquisition, Stones said: “The future is really bright for Be At One. Finding sites has been a challenge for us while growing but since the acquisition that’s changing. I planned to open six bars next year but that’s now going to be at least 12. “I have different challenges to deal with – accelerating the growth programme and recruiting faster and harder than we’ve ever done – but Be At One is going to be around in ten, 20, 30, 40 years’ time and we are going to continue to grow under the ownership of Stonegate. The company respects Be At One and it’s a business it plans to scale up. My job is about ensuring that happens. We’ve got separate boards, we’re keeping our office in Putney and I still have the same team I had prior to the founders leaving. Nothing is going to fundamentally change. We’ve had discussions around investment plans and we’ll invest a little bit more in some of our sites but everything I’ve asked for so far has been signed off. I couldn’t ask for more.” WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY


Conference Overview

Inception Group founder Charlie Gilkes


nception Group founder Charlie Gilkes shared the company’s nine-year journey in opening some of the most innovative venues in central and south west London, including Maggie’s, Bunga Bunga, Mr Fogg’s and Cahoots. Gilkes founded the company with Duncan Stirling in 2009 and it now has an annual turnover of more than £20m with six core brands and 11 sites due to open in 2019, all in London. Gilkes told delegates how the company had grown since its first site, speakeasy concept Barts, which opened in 2009 after Gilkes and Stirling spotted a residents’ bar within a “non-descript apartment building” in Chelsea and turned a “disadvantage into an advantage” within a £30,000 budget. He said: “When you don’t have a lot of money you have to use a lot of creativity and imagination and Barts has had like-for-like growth in each of the years it has traded.” Staying in Chelsea, Inception launched Maggie’s – named after Thatcher – which still plays 1980s music and the former prime minister’s speeches in the toilets, alongside kitsch cocktails and waitresses on roller-skates.

Learning curve The next concept was Disco, which opened in Soho but was the group’s first failure. Gilkes said: “We quickly realised we needed to change. We worked the hardest we’d ever worked to create a Tube-based bar concept, Cahoots, which was open seven days a week rather than Disco’s nightclub hours. The experience was one of our greatest learning curves.” Gilkes also told delegates about Squirrel, a healthy eating concept launched in South Kensington two years ago that sits outside Inception Group and which he and Stirling run with their wives. He said: “With healthy food I always felt like I was being dragged to the doctor and I wanted to do something a bit more fun. We’re now doing a couple of Deliveroo kitchens with this as well. It’s profitable – just – I have certainly learned selling vodka has better margins than avocados. Our dressings have a real following and this is something we might consider branching out and selling as a separate item in the future.” Gilkes moved on to Inception’s third concept, Bunga Bunga, which launched in Battersea before expanding to Covent Garden last year. He said: “It took us five years to find the right site for the second Bunga Bunga.

‘‘We’re trying to build a collection rather than a chain so by going to one Mr Fogg’s, you want to go to another’’

We’ve got a stage with a full house band. It’s a lot more show-based and refined. Even during the hot summer we were full, which isn’t bad for a basement site.” Mr Fogg’s was Inception’s first foray into the West End and has been the concept that has shown the most potential for growth. There are currently five sites in London with the concept branching out to a “female version” – Mrs Fogg’s – which has opened in Broadgate as the group’s first City of London site. The concept is based around Jules Verne’s novel Around The World In Eighty Days and the debut site in Mayfair has become the “largest contributor of profit to the whole group” despite only being a “backstreet pub”. Gilkes said: “Because of the travel theme, it’s such an open-ended concept we can do so

much around different nationalities. Cocktails are key to the brand – Mr Fogg’s is our most product-focused brand – and we work really hard with an executive bar manager across the brand to make sure we deliver that product. We’re trying to build a collection rather than a chain so by going to one Mr Fogg’s, you want to go to another.” Regarding the group’s future challenges, Gilkes said: “Recruitment is the main one. It’s terrifying how few people are applying for jobs. We now have someone in the business heading up talent so we can nurture people and work on retention. We’ve also got to get our team to adapt to growth. We’ve never grown at this rate before – from opening one venue a year, we’re opening four this year – while we need to maintain our existing estate. It’s easy to get distracted by our nice, shiny new venues and neglect the old ones. There are also licensing pressures with all the developing in London. When we opened Bunga Bunga there were no residents anywhere near it, now we’ve got lots of residents down the road, who aren’t very happy that we’re there. Competition is also fierce in London, we’re not just competing with London operators, we’re competing with people from all around the world who want a flagship site in London. However, the tide is turning and we’re seeing premiums coming down.”





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Conference Overview

Simon Potts, managing director of bar and restaurant brand The Alchemist


imon Potts, managing director of award-winning bar and restaurant brand The Alchemist, told delegates the concept’s ethos focuses on being “engaging and theatrical in what we do”. He said: “The business has always had a sense of theatre about it but it’s a facet we’ve developed into something much more coherent. You’re looking to create something more than the food and drinks, we want people to feel involved in an experience. We’re selling a night out to people that gives them that sense of theatre. We’ve dialled it down to two words – “theatre serve” – which inform every decision we make in the business.” ‘‘We’re signing Potts, who 20-year leases, joined the company as pumping huge managing amount's of capex director when Palatine Private into these venues, Equity so we want to make supported a buyout of The sure we’re putting from some roots down in Alchemist Living Ventures the communities’’ in 2015, has helped the brand grow to 13 sites, aided by the concept’s versatility. He said: “The Alchemist does a lot of things under one roof. As well as being centred around the bar experience, we’ve grown the food-side over the past few years so now 50% of activity comes from the table. It can be a full-on restaurant experience where customers can book their table online and hire a host so they can have a three-course meal and be looked after top-to-toe until moving into the bar. We’ll never lose sight of the fact we’re a

bar-led business, but having a complementary food offering beside it has been a significant part of the growth we’ve seen, particularly in the past three years.” However, it’s not all about the late-night experience as the brand does “as many covers at lunchtime as we do in the evening”. Potts added: “It’s a part of the business that has kept us fairly agile and interesting.” He said average site turnover was £60,000 a week, with “big, pumping” venues going from 8am through to 2am or 3am and “pretty busy in all dayparts”. Potts said the business was “built for social media”, which helps the brand expand to new markets. He said: “We have a very visual drinks offer, which translates nicely to social media. What’s really valuable with it as a marketing tool is it allows you to share your message in new territories before you get there. When we open in a new place there is already a sense of expectation, it helps us to break down barriers.” However, as The Alchemist expands, Potts said it was important it wasn’t just another “roll-out brand”. He said: “We’re signing 20-year leases, pumping huge amounts of capex into these venues, so we want to make sure we’re putting some roots down in the communities.” One main focus for expansion is London. Potts said: “We started as a regional city business and we won’t stop looking in those areas, with plenty of plans to go up to Scotland and potential for overseas, but before we do that we’re coming hard into the capital. We’ve been trading really well at our Bevis Marks site near Liverpool Street and it’s been in double-digit compound growth for the past three years.” The latest opening was in St Martin’s Lane,

the “heart of theatre land”, in November, while another site will open in Old Street in March 2019 as a collaboration with shared office space provider WeWork. Potts told delegates The Alchemist would look to “diversify its offer” as it had lost a “little bit of ground in the very late-night space”. He added: “Although we’ve done really well in the breakfast, afternoon and early evening dayparts, a lot of other people are doing brilliant things in the late-night cocktail space and that’s cut a little bit into our activity in a number of venues.” One move has been Aether, a new concept that launched in Liverpool in September. He said: “This concept will hopefully pull some of that market share back. It’s still very much a cocktail bar but focuses on some trends we’re starting to buy more into. Essentially it’s a tiki bar and is very rum-led and vogue. It has our sense of theatre but done in a different way, with each drink telling its own story, the pace of the venue is very different to the other Alchemists, it’s a much smaller venue and the bartenders are a little bit more involved in the service of those drinks and the story that sits behind it. “It’s not something we’re looking to roll out at the moment – it will take a little time to work out how we could do that at scale – but we’ve seen it done brilliantly in the past. Revolution Bars Group is probably the best example – a fantastic late-night venue that was partnered with Revolucion de Cuba across the country – and they sit really nicely and complement one another. “It’s a bit different to the restaurant industry, where if you’re creating a sub-brand out of the original brand you’re directly competing. In bars, you’re hoping to add into the circuit.”

Panel discussion


ate Nicholls talked to Tokyo Industries founder Aaron Mellor; Richard Hamlin of First Merchant; Peter Marks of Deltic Group; Tom Kidd, of Adventure Bars; and Lord Smith about the trading and regulatory landscape in the late-night market. Marks said the late-night sector had suffered far too much “reputational damage”, most of which was “utter rubbish”. He said: “We have to fight hard to push away councils and police who are bullying operators, especially independents, who then give up.” Lord Smith said the biggest challenge late-night operators faced was the fact younger people – the target audience for many night-time venues – were drinking less alcohol. Mellor highlighted one solution, which was to move towards experiential events. He said: “It’s almost like we’re moving into an imagination economy, where we’re creating a great time by putting on something completely different. Rather than just going to see a DJ or band you’re putting on something a lot more immersive, something that’s more like a theatre that changes every week and you’re


Aaron Mellor

Richard Hamlin

Peter Marks

not really sure what you’re going to experience when you get there but you go away with a lot of Instagrammable memories you can share with your friends.” Kidd added: “I think the ‘death of alcohol’ has been slightly overstated. Where we’re trading in London people are still having big nights out.” Hamlin said: “What we’re seeing from our clients in the sector is people are demanding more from that ‘going large’. They want greater choice – and I think that’s a good thing.” Talking about the challenge for the UK’s music venues Mellor said: “Councils and the government need to understand that without these music venues we’re losing one of Britain’s greatest exports. I’ve just been to Berlin and seen some incredibly creative, cutting-edge things we wouldn’t be allowed to get away with in the


Tom Kidd

Lord Smith

UK. They’re creating 24-hour cities while in the UK we just get flak for the bad parts.” Lord Smith added: “Although London is a 24-hour city, it hasn’t got a 24-hour licence culture yet. If you go out at 3am it is difficult to find somewhere to walk in and have a drink unless you know your way round. I think the appointment of the night tsar will be a force for good.” Marks ended the discussion on a positive note: “I can sense a sea change where people are starting to think our sector is alright. Perhaps it’s because of the problems retail has had with online and out of town, leaving only two other answers – leisure and residential. If we can work out how to live side by side – yes, it’s as obvious as zoning – we should be OK.” Lord Smith added: “We’re the only sector that is investing in high streets and we need to speak more about that.”

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Making hospitality sexy It’s time to market our industry more effectively to get young people to see the sector as a career choice, says James Hacon


rexit is looming, recruitment is challenging – and it’s going to get worse. We need to get better at promoting hospitality as a career to attract more young people. Twitter fans will have read or been part of the growing conversation in recent weeks. A considerable hospitality community is using the platform to debate and discuss industry issues. There are several key opinions on how we can make a difference to how our beloved industry is perceived. Many lean on the idea government needs to do something but I’m not convinced this is a government priority. While I understand the sector’s outcry about hospitality being labelled “low skilled” – with the government’s continued use of the phrase when speaking about our sector not helping – my feeling is we should be doing far more to help ourselves.

Speaking at schools is not the answer Many people seemed infatuated with speaking at schools to promote the virtues of hospitality from a young age. This strategy is riddled with holes. Firstly, you assume schools are giving active career guidance

– several friends are secondary school teachers and they tell me this isn’t always the case. There are limited slots available for outside speakers to visit schools, with much of this time taken by universities. When industry speakers come in, it’s often to cover a specific subject such as business studies that may only be attended by a small group of high achievers. The less easy pill to swallow is many teachers don’t want to encourage a career in hospitality. It’s not a career they know much about but the perception is of low skill and low wages, as is traditionally the case. They are actively encouraged to get students into university and it is a KPI for many sixth forms. What doesn’t help, of course, is a lack of cookery, customer service or vocational hospitality training at schools. If we want to start adding value at school age that doesn’t necessarily mean actively promoting hospitality in schools. What it can be is actively championing better access to vocational training options at years 10 and 11 and

“We should be co-ordinating sector-wide campaigns with respected influencers to shine the light on brilliant careers in our sector and create our own influencers from some of the fantastic young talent working in our businesses”

at sixth forms, as well as working with apprenticeship providers to offer engaging and attractive apprenticeships. We should also encourage government to bring back kitchens at schools and get them to teach life skills that include cookery.

Influencing the influencers We should actively target and educate teachers through campaigning, as they will have a massive influence. Given many who enter our sector aren’t academic highachievers, it seems obvious they are going to be particularly influenced by a teacher so we need to work with them. Speak to any teenager and most will spend hours watching their favourite YouTuber and awaiting the latest Instagram story from a social influencer. We should be co-ordinating sector-wide campaigns with respected influencers to shine the light on brilliant careers in our sector and create our own influencers from some of the fantastic young talent working in our businesses. Let’s stop putting 30-something business owners forward as the sector’s cover guys and girls – they are ancient to a teen. We need teenagers or those in their early 20s who are vibrant and communicative.

Looking further up the funnel After leaving university, only half of all UK graduates work in a field that relates to their degree. According to research published in the Daily Telegraph in 2014, 96% had switched careers by the time they turned 24 – eye-opening statistics you’ll agree. What it does highlight is we have an opportunity to influence students right ▲ WINTER 2018 PROPEL QUARTERLY



96% of UK graduates had switched careers by the time they turned 24

through their university career. Many of the best people I know started working in the sector while studying for a degree in a completely different area. Our sector is brimming with college and university-age students. Does your business have proper mechanisms and strategies in place to encourage these people to stay and turn it into a career? In businesses I’ve been involved with, time and again I’ve watched bright, inspired people who love their job go off to pursue a career after university in another field, only to return later. Others have told me they would have stayed if they’d known there were bigger opportunities on offer. We often overrely on site-level managers to recognise and harness talented people. In my experience, the weekend-working students are seen merely as extra help. They might not receive proper one-to-ones or communication about career paths and may be left believing the only career in our sector is front of house with progression stopping at general manager. The opportunity is there to actively engage with students on a wider business level. Let them understand the opportunities and career pathways available. Offer graduate training schemes, conversion training or post-graduate level qualification sponsorship for hospitalityrelated courses.

Build an employer brand that inspires the young I’ve had two students opt to spend some time at Think Hospitality during the past few months. One was 14 and on work experience from school, the other at sixth form. I asked them to review some of our sector’s biggest employers and most well-


“Our sector tends to include many people who like to express themselves but they are often stuffed into regimented uniforms” known brands on how they promote careers. The students suggested the promotions were way off the mark and “boring”. Here are some tips based on their feedback on what employers can do to improve this: Have a website: It’s amazing out of the brands we looked at how many had no careers section on their website. An equal amount included one but it was hard to find. Invest in promoting your business as a great place to work. You should also include why hospitality is a great career, not only your business – you are selling the sector first, your business second. Use more video: “We want to see what we’ll be doing in our jobs, we want to see people like us and hear from them.” This is a must – teenagers don’t like to read – even the informational sections should be turned into videos, as well as case studies. Look beyond your own website: “I’ve searched these companies on YouTube and Instagram and only see ads, nothing about working with them.” Think beyond your own website, look at social channels too. One challenge was companies used their corporate identity for careers and the teenagers didn’t understand. Your brand name needs to lead. The uniforms are boring: “I always wonder why restaurants don’t let their staff wear things they like instead of black. I like to express myself and feel I wouldn’t be


allowed to if I worked in hospitality.” This is fascinating as our sector tends to include many people who like to express themselves but they are often stuffed into regimented uniforms. Giving team members ways to express themselves seems a good option. One large casual dining brand did this to great effect a few years ago. Why does everyone have tattoos? “All the cool brands feature staff with tattoos on their photos, I don’t want a tattoo.” In contrast to the last point, it feels like many have gone down the route of using more “alternative” team members in employer branding. It’s important to have a good range of people to avoid putting others off. Trial shifts for them, not you: “I’d like to see whether it’s something I’d like to do and be good at.” The idea of being able to give a career a go is interesting and both students were nervous about whether they could carry out certain tasks. Simple things such as carrying plates or chopping vegetables were things they’d never done before. We talked to them about trial shifts and open days but both students thought it would be great to try things in real life before being interviewed. This plays into the love of experiences among generations Y and Z. It is an interesting concept to use off periods for potential staff to “give it a go”.

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

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Marketing leadership Business leaders and marketers need to maximise the effectiveness of resources and ensure the team’s focus is on core business issues, argues Ian Dunstall


arketing in the hospitality sector has always been a challenging, albeit rewarding role. Business leaders and operations are often critical judges of marketing’s effectiveness and performance. Marketing teams frequently feel undervalued for the hard task they perform and in hospitality the “relationship” of the guest experience is delivered by front-line operations so, unlike other industry sectors, the marketing department can feel less in control of the brand performance. It’s a long-term dilemma I have constantly tried to influence in my roles both as marketing leader and consultant. Therefore, I found it hugely instructive to recently read The 12 Powers Of A Marketing Leader by Thomas Barta and Patrick Barwise in which I learned similar


marketing and performance challenges exist in many other sectors, not just hospitality.

The challenge of marketing credibility is universal The book relates to a survey that identified more than half of business leaders don’t think marketing and business strategies are aligned. Too often the credibility of marketing’s performance was challenged by the executive teams. At worst, they were a cost centre to be controlled. In hospitality, marketing is too important a topic to be simply allocated to the marketing department. If marketing involves identifying and satisfying customer needs profitably, it’s a role rightfully adopted by the chief executive, the leadership team and the operators, as well as marketing.


Marketing is additionally challenged because it’s something of a dark art – it involves forecasting trends and consequences. Operators and financiers like dealing with the hard facts and certainty marketers often can’t guarantee. In hospitality the real customer insight is received by operations, which delivers the guest experience and is at the front line to observe and listen to every guest reaction. However, as well as identifying the “In hospitality, challenges the book marketing is too also offers many recommendations important a topic to on how to be simply allocated enhance the to the marketing potential of marketing department” leadership. ▲

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Opinion Understanding the true role and value of marketing

The 'four walls' customer experience

Marketing involves such a breadth of activity and specialism, I think the meaning and purpose of the word “marketing” often becomes diluted. Put simply, marketing is the process of profitably meeting customer needs better than your competition. The “three Cs” of marketing strategy is to identify a market position the “customer” wants and the “company” or brand can satisfy in a superior way (more distinctive and differentiated) to the “competitors”. The first role of marketing is therefore the strategic challenge of identifying the target consumer and working out how to position the brand to be distinctive and preferable to them. The next task is to develop the brand equity to maximise this positive distinction. This involves defining what the brand stands for and, as importantly, what the brand avoids. In hospitality this will include all aspects of the “four walls” customer experience – product, service, environment and communication. An important role is to be the “brand guardian” to keep the organisation focused on its “true north of departments get distracted from focusing distinctiveness”. on the key issues? Some of the consistent Brands need constant evolution to challenges I observe include: keep them fresh and relevant to the The complexity of delivering changes guest and retain positive distinction to the marketing calendar: Marketers from competitors. This requires ongoing often become the “change activity product development to enhance the managers” that devote a disproportionate guest experience and management of the time to the complex processes involved pricing strategy to optimise sales, volume in updating menus, seasonal promotions and profit opportunity. etc. The challenge is to identify the Marketers need to ensure extent these updated offers they continually track brand add tangible benefit to the performance to validate business and guests. “The current the relevance and Overdependence challenges to business on tactical activity effectiveness of their and brand performance at the expense of brand’s positioning in the market. defining strategic are extreme. Marketing Importantly, they direction: Tactical is critical to maximising responsiveness must continually the potential for listen to guests can be effective through research in the short term future growth and and feedback to to manage top-line brand business understand how well sales but I often see success” the brand is performing marketers being tasked and how it can continually by the business to chase improve. marginal initiatives that Then there is the important distract from the delivery of more challenge of developing an ongoing strategic development projects. relationship with guests. This includes The growth and complexity of digital the whole cycle from creating brand marketing: It’s an expanding science that awareness, encouraging brand trial, absorbs time and energy to keep updated. adoption and, ideally, loyalty and Overfocus on new guest acquisition advocacy, where guests become fans of rather than core guest loyalty: Every the brand and recommend it to others. business needs new guests to grow and The challenges of communication replace the natural churn of existing users. have intensified with each digital and However, acquiring is expensive compared social media innovation, creating more with the opportunity to tie in the loyalty of opportunities and demands to develop current guests. the brand relationship with guests.

Common challenges to marketing departments’ effectiveness Marketing is a fundamental element to a business’ success so why do marketing


How to increase a marketing team’s effectiveness In The 12 Powers Of A Marketing Leader, the authors make some valuable observations on how to improve marketing effectiveness. Stand-out points include:


Ensuring marketing focuses on the big issues that matter to both customer and company leadership ● Speaking the real language of customer needs and avoiding marketing jargon ● Ensuring a strategic balance between pricing, strategy and product development as well as tactical communication and promotional needs ● Staying focused on sales and bottomline profit rather than managing the marketing cost centre ● Expressing marketing performance through clear and tangible data to provide results the business can understand and measure ● Balancing insight between future studies and the reality of listening to guests ● Treating the discretionary marketing budget as an investment that achieves the most meaningful customer connections and business returns The current challenges to business and brand performance are extreme. Marketing is critical to maximising the potential for future growth and brand business success. Business leaders and marketers need to identify how to maximise the effectiveness of the available marketing resources and ensure the team’s focus is on core business issues, avoiding dilution with excessive focus on tactical or low-value activities. ■ ●

Ian Dunstall is a consultant in brand strategy, insight and development. Previous roles at Mitchells & Butlers included director of marketing and director of concept development. In his career he has supported more than 40 brands with their positioning and development

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