Jo and I attended the BII Annual Lunch at the Grosvenor House, Park Lane this week where we enjoyed a delicious lunch, caught up with friends and colleagues, met some new contacts and enjoyed the very entertaining Kev Orkian! The guest speaker was Minister for pubs, Brandon Lewis MP.
For the first time, guests were provided with iPads to aid networking and enable users to give feedback to the organisers throughout the event.
We were also given the exclusive on a national consumer campaign being launched to celebrate Britain’s passion for pubs and drive a positive message about this great British institution. Titled ‘It’s Better Down the Pub’, pub goers are being encouraged to share their experiences and highlight why they love pubs, via a dedicated website – It’sbetterdownthepub.com.
The lunch also celebrated the success of BII Licensee of the Year winners, Kelly and Ashley McCarthy of Ye Olde Sun Inn, Colton. The Yorkshire licensees have won a total of 10 national and regional awards, since they took over the country pub in 2004, so were definitely worthy winners. Congratulations to them!
Posted by Emily in General
We have received a number of briefs over the last few weeks which have centred around: “What should I be doing and expecting from the time and effort we spend on social media?” And: “How can I make sure that I am maximising everything we do from a digital and social media perspective?” I have picked up a real sense of frustration in a number of areas.
1. Are they doing the right thing?
Most managing directors know that they need to be doing (and are doing) something but the scope and range of social media seems to be growing exponentially as does the resource needed to fuel it. They are having to work across so many more communication points than even just a year ago. They are unsure if they are sending out the right (engaging) messages at the right time in the right medium to the right people and not sure how they should be integrating all their work in this area for best effect.
2. What benefit are they receiving for their investment?
Many are irritated that they can’t say, really, what benefit they are getting from social media. There is a sense that their efforts must be working because footfall is growing but measuring its commercial impact is proving challenging. They are finding it difficult to compare ROI for their revenue spend here versus revenue spend in other areas (refurbishments/training/customer service initiatives).
Their marketing teams are measuring their own success in terms of Facebook comments, likes and shares, virality of their Facebook posts, their number of Twitter followers, the percentage of retweets, the number of blog visits, page views, time on site and bounce rates and their email open and click through rates. They are very valid and important but the operators I meet want to inextricably link these facts with footfall, sales and profit growth. They don’t want objectives simply measured by social media performance improvements (nice as they might be) but by real hard commercial deliverables.
There is a tendency to quote Henry Ford: “I know half my advertising works but I’m just not sure which half.” Simply replace the word ‘advertising’ with the words “social media”. As ever operators want to know which bits of their marketing is (or isn’t) working.
3. How should they resource it?
One of the key questions behind social media activity is one of resource. Should they do it all in house? If so who should do it – a central resource or people at site level who are closer to customers? If the latter, how do they maintain some sort of control to prevent all manner of potential mistakes of which poor spelling is the least of their worries. If they outsource it, how do they make sure the team doing it on a daily basis, really understand their business?
4. What’s real?
There is a myriad of agencies out there all – many brilliant and many not so brilliant. Some understand the detail of our sector and how to drive covers but many don’t. Loads of them are simply fluffy. They talk about increasing fans, improving customer engagement and identifying brand ambassadors as though speaking in an impressive new language. They aren’t. The operators I meet want real deliverables. They see digital and social media campaigns as a means of achieving commercial success and not an end in themselves. They want agencies who understand this reality. I see the awesome opportunities that operators have with ‘new media’ every day. Whilst the technology might be daunting- the fundamentals aren’t. It’s all about how they communicate with their customers in a way, which makes them want to come into their business in the first place, to return and to recommend.
Posted by Emily in General
Having just returned from a 4 day trip to Berlin, I can honestly say I have never been to a city with such an exciting food and drink scene. In certain areas there wasn’t a single bar, café or restaurant within a 15 minute walk circumference that I would not happily go in. The city is quite simply bursting with hip concepts and trendy hot-spots.
The first thing you notice about Berlin is the fantastic street art.
Which is translated into some fantastic street food.
The city has a thriving café scene.
With a huge Turkish influence (the best kebabs ever!)
And of course, you need a beer to go with your kebab!
All in all, a fantastic city for food and drink – I cannot recommend a visit enough.
Posted by Emily in General
Wednesday’s ALMR Spring Conference, held at BAFTA, presented a great opportunity to catch up with old contacts, meet some new ones, hear from industry moguls and understand the latest innovations set to influence the licensed trade.
The day started well with Justin Urquhart-Stewart’s whistle-stop tour of the world economy suggesting that things are already looking up. The green shoots are there in terms of consumer spend and confidence; business optimism just has some catching up to do.
Alison Dolan of Sky identified the untapped potential of Wi-Fi. One in three Wi-Fi users selects a venue because of access and over 35 per cent are repeat visitors. With Wi-Fi allowing operators to capture information about their guests, enabling targeted marketing, operators must think of Wi-Fi far less as a service they provide customers and much more as an opportunity to drive their business.
Paul Madden of Mitchells & Butlers explained how Harvester had created the first Apple Passbook campaign, offering customers a £5 gift card when they spent £30 using the ‘wallet’ app. Targeting families only, the campaign generated 29.5k page visits, 16k offers issued and 690 offers redeemed, at a conversion rate of 54 per cent and a redemption rate of 4.3 per cent. With the campaign costing the equivalent of 25 per cent discount per customer, similar digital wallet campaigns are sure to follow.
Karen Forrester of TGI Friday’s was as inspiring as ever. Whenever I hear her speak, I always want to work in one of her restaurants! Karen’s approach to exceeding customer expectations starts with team engagement, including training, reviews and recognition. When a team is engaged they deliver an amazing guest experience, leading to business and estate growth. Spending double on training and recognition than advertising is, therefore, worth every penny in Karen’s opinion.
James McDonald at Barclaycard provided useful insight on the future of contactless payments. It is already opening new markets thanks to its speed and convenience, with more than 25 million transactions in 2012! Perhaps unsurprisingly, coffee shops and fast food outlets are the biggest adopters of contactless to date but, with new form factors continuing to emerge, including wrist bands and ultimately mobile phones, adoption across the hospitality industry is set to increase.
The conference concluded with outgoing Chief Executive Nick Bish receiving rapturous applause in recognition of all his work to create one voice for the industry.
Posted by Emily in General
At Wednesday’s ALMR conference there was a session in the programme entitled “Dragon’s Lair – How to Unlock the Funding You Need”. Chaired by Peter Hansen from Sapient Corporate Finance, the panel included 3 operators – Charlie McVeigh of Draft House, Alex Reilley of Loungers and Steve Richards of Novus; plus three experts from the world of banking and Private Equity funding – Luke Johnson of Risk Capital Partners, Crispin Tweddell of Piper and Mike Delay of Barclays.
For Charlie, he knew Draft House had ‘legs’, but being a capital-intensive business needed funding. The positive experience he had through Luke Johnson was plain to see; it is clear that Private Equity funding is not just about the money, but also about the depth of knowledge, advice and experience at Johnson’s disposal. There is a difference between a bank simply lending funds; a PE company invests both money and time in providing that support, experience and insight, albeit without interfering, allowing operators like Charlie to simply do what they are good at – operating a fantastic growing business.
Crispin Tweddell is the investor behind the incredible growth and success of Reilley’s Loungers. He said that around 90% of businesses are simply not backable – but there is cash out there for the right business. A successful business must have the right people operating it, to ensure that success.
Johnson agreed with this – management is important, and he likes to see motivated people with a great business formula,an operation which is growing and where value will be generated and he can see a return. That return is something he acknowledges they must be patient for; he doesn’t look for a ‘quick flip’. Interestingly, Tweddell and Johnson disagreed on their philosophy when they first look at investing in a business. Tweddell will look ahead and consider who, in maybe 4-5 years, may be an option to sell to; Johnson on the other hand feels that it is insulting to the business to talk about a future sale at the outset. His focus is purely on next year’s budget and the operation of the business.
The freehold vs. leasehold debate arose throughout the session. Leaseholds play far more of a role today than say five years ago, while leasehold properties allow the operator to simply worry about operating, not also about being a property company. Retail has always worked using this methodology – the vast majority of shops on high streets or retail parks are leasehold, and at the end of the day a pub, bar or restaurant operation is also a form of retail, so why should it not work for the hospitality trade too? Certainly the financiers, including Barclays, are not at all adverse to a business built on operating from leasehold premises – they help businesses to grow without the hefty cost and overhead of freeholds.
Overall, the key message was that PE is about growing businesses, not just taking a stake. It is about creating a business with ambition, and preparing to think ahead and go through the gear changes to get there.
Posted by Emily in General
How can 3 or 4 simple ingredients taste so good? The perfect pizza is a thing of beauty, from the pizzaiolo spinning the dough in the air, the mesmerising flames of a wood burning oven and the simplicity and quality of the toppings. Making the perfect pizza is by no means easy, but there has been an influx of operators in London striving for that perfection.
Two of the most notable operators already are Pizza East, part of the ever popular Soho House Group and Franco Manca, backed by former Pizza Express chief executive David Page. Amongst a whole host of other operators, Jamie Oliver’s Union Jacks must also be mentioned as despite labelling them as flats, let’s face it, they are pizzas!
Since my move to London, Franca Manca has always been my pizzeria of choice. The consistency of service and quality is always perfect. I have never yet been let down by a Franca Manca pizza despite having high expectations every time I visit and with pizzas ranging from £4.50 to £6.95 they are fantastic value.
The time came though that I had to try somewhere new, somewhere to benchmark against my beloved Franco Manca. After much deliberation I found that Santa Maria, a pizzeria in Ealing Broadway, often referred to as serving the best pizza in London, had recently opened a sister restaurant, Sacro Cuore in Kensal Rise. A perfect opportunity – so off we went with similarly high expectations and I am glad to say we were by no means disappointed.
Sacro Cuore is located on a typical sub-urban London high street. There is none of the glitz and glamour of Covent Garden or the endless swarms of Shoreitch’s hipsters, but a typical melting pot of sub-urban London. As such, attracting people to come to Sacro Cuore is a different ball game as the food, service and value all have to be that little bit special.
The interior is simple, slightly rustic and sufficiently ‘on trend’ that it would quite happily fit into either Covent Garden or Shoreditch. The wood burning oven steals the show, blasting out gusts of hot air and tantalising smells alike. The menu is simple with a small selection of traditional Italian starters, a variety of pizzas and a selective wine menu – again rather ‘on trend’.
The service was also traditionally Italian – slightly chaotic and fast paced but always with a smile – it reminded me somewhat of Princi. Our waitress for the evening spoke in broken English which made it all the more entertaining as you weren’t quite sure what you would but served, but you knew it would taste good.
The burrata to start was soft, creamy and rich, served with a simple side salad and we chose the garlic mozzarella focaccia to go with it, which was equally as delicious. For mains we shared a Margherita Parmigiana (with Neapolitan salami, fried aubergines, Parmesan and fresh basil) and a Salsiccia & Friarielli (Neapolitan sausage, friarielle wild broccoli and chilli flakes) both of which were sublime. The toppings were what made Sacro Cuore really stand out for me, the freshness and quality of the ingredients could be tasted with every mouthful.
The key to the perfect pizza for me though in is in the dough. The crust on the pizza was fantastic, crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. My only complaint was that in the middle the dough was a little bit too thin meaning the base went soggy; but this can be forgiven.
Despite being very tempted by the Nutella Pizza for desert, we felt having a pizza for starter, main and then dessert was rather unnecessary and therefore settled for the Oddono’s gelato. Boy am I glad we chose this and you can see why it is described as ‘multi award winning Italian gelato’.
The Pistachio gelato was the best ice cream, gelato, sorbet or granita that I have ever tasted. It was so rich and creamy that it was more like a praline grenache than gelato – I would happily return again just for this. In total, the bill for two, including a carafe of wine came to £51 which is great value. Overall, would I return again – yes most definitely. Where will I go for my next pizza – Franco Manca. For me the pizza base at Franco Manca is slightly better and at nearly 30% cheaper per pizza they are a steal!
So are gourmet pizzas going to be one of the big trends of 2013? It certainly looks like they could be as more and more operators vie for a slice of the action. Keep your eyes peeled for Homeslice, Pizza Pilgrims and PizzaLuxe whilst eating out or Firezza if you fancy a slice at home, rumoured to be in talks with Luke Johnson who certainly knows a thing or two about pizza!
Posted by Oliver in General
I am very lucky to meet some incredibly inspirational people in my job- some of them clients, some not.
A few weeks ago I had a coffee with Kris Engskov from Starbucks in one his coffee shops in central London. When we walked in, he said ‘hello’ to every member of staff by name. They all knew him too and were relaxed when he spoke to them – they patently didn’t feel they had to stand to attention. The manager was very keen to introduce Kris to a new recruit and the two of them sat with Kris and I for at least ten minutes whilst the manager allowed his new member of staff to talk and ask questions of Kris. His intense emotional intelligence and his ability to sincerely communicate with others really did impress me… and would have meant a lot to those working there.
I used to work with Mike Johnson years ago when I was marketing director of Pizza Hut and he was an operations director there. He is now chairman at Peyton & Byrne after setting off on a ‘plural’ career change a few years back focussing on companies where he can really influence growth and turn around. He has had some stunning jobs in the last few years – talk to him about accompanying the British Olympian team back from Beijing post the 2008 Olympics! It’s a while since we met and we caught up over breakfast in Pauls in Covent Garden (which was on flying form). He just has the most amazing ability to get to grips with the key issues which are inhibiting profit growth in businesses and to sort them out. A truly inspirational business leader.
Paul Flaum at Whitbread isn’t a client though I have known him for ages and have always been impressed by his drive, determination, integrity and people management skills. I just loved his approach to NPS scores, one I hadn’t heard before, which is delivering sustainable and long term results. Paul similarly has a very clear and single minded approach to driving like-for-like growth in ‘far from young businesses’ and has had real success with his brands. Worth visiting the new look Beefeater in that context too.
I just love Lynne D’Arcy at Trust Inns. She is bright, articulate, calm and very engaging. Her ability to inspire loyalty and command respect is truly awesome. It’s a company which stays very much under the radar and just gets on doing what it does well – an approach which is very typical of Lynne herself. She also has a very wicked sense of humour and is great company – always.
Another person I enjoyed seeing recently was Peter Marks at Luminar. We met at The Swan in Salford, near Newport Pagnall (their ox cheek and ale pie with spring onion mash pie is to die for). No one particularly likes being described as an industry veteran (or is that just me?) but Peter knows the late night market like the back of his hand. His stories about his appearance on ‘Back to the Floor’ are very entertaining but it says a lot about the man that he was prepared to do it in the first place. I would have absolute confidence in a Luminar led by him. His battle with Kingston upon Thames is one for everyone in our industry to not only watch but to support too (look out particularly for the impact of stolen mobile phones on crime statistics).
So a great few weeks meeting people who have two things in common- an overwhelming belief that success is the result of hiring great people and endless emotional intelligence to make the most of these people.
Posted by Emily in General
Try searching for ‘pub’ on Google and this is what you will find:
‘A place of business where alcoholic beverages are sold and drunk.’
‘Pubs are non-membership bars serving all sorts of alcoholic beverages.’
‘An establishment for the sale of beer and other drinks, and sometimes also food, to be consumed on the premises’
These definitions are inexplicably dated. In my eyes, even going back a few decades, a pub has always been more than an establishment that sells alcohol; it has been a focal point of our society and often referred to as one of the things that makes Great Britain so great.
We are entering a new period where pubs are morphing into all-day destinations. Whilst drinking in pubs is still commonplace, pubs are diversifying what they offer more and more. Providing a drinking hole is no longer enough to attract customers – they want choice, personalisation, quality, value and a unique experience.
Three of my locals, all within a stone’s throw of each other, are perfect examples of how pubs are doing things a little bit differently.
Great pubs serve great beer The Lamb Brewery, Chiswick
Serving great beer can most definitely be a competitive advantage. There are over 800 breweries now in the UK, with approximately 80 new breweries being born each year. Leading the new revolution probably has to be Brew Dog, but more and more independent brewers are popping up every week, with the re-birth of The Lamb Brewery in Chiswick being one.
The brewery was originally established back in the 19th century, but only since the end of 2012 has this really been celebrated. The moment you walk through the door you are greeted with the vast copper-clad tanks where the beer is brewed. Admittedly, they take up a fair amount of space that could be used for seating, but on the other hand they act as a major draw to the public.
The Lamb Brewery has 7 of their own brews on tap, from American Pale Ales, fruit beer, wheat beer and dark stout along with a selection of over 50 bottled beers from around the world. Craft beer and independent breweries are contentiously growing in popularity, especially at the younger end of the market, and with this trend likely to continue more and more pubs are likely to start brewing their own beer or teaming up local brewers to provide a competitive advantage.
Great pubs serve great food The Old Pack Horse, Chiswick
The term ‘Gastro Pub’ quite rightly replaced ‘Pub Grub’ a decade or so ago, but the term ‘Gastro Pub’ is now starting to seem dated as well. ‘Pub Grub’ and to a lesser extent ‘Gastro Pub’ food is still typically associated with hearty British dishes, whilst in reality, pubs are now serving excellent food from all corners of the world. From small Spanish tapas plates to smokey American flavours, great food is becoming increasingly important.
The Old Pack Horse in Chiswick serves authentic, fresh and delicious Thai food in a modern yet traditional pub environment. The Thai staff are knowledgeable, friendly and have that synonymous buzz you only find in South-East Asia. The lines between ‘pub’, ‘restaurant’ and ‘café’ have become increasingly blurred – consumers expect to be able to have great food, great beer and great coffee all under one roof.
Great pubs need a great atmosphere The George IV, Chiswick
Pubs are often described in terms of their atmosphere; a nice quiet local or a buzzing night out. We can recreate great beer and great food at home, but what we can’t do is recreate the atmosphere of a pub in our living room. Whilst it is true, the younger generation are replacing the pub with drinking at home, pubs need to focus on providing a great atmosphere if they want to attract back this generation.
The George IV has live comedy two nights a week and live music every Saturday night. The comedy is a huge success – last Saturday night the comedy was at capacity. A great atmosphere and special themed evenings bring in people who maybe wouldn’t otherwise come to the pub; it gives people an ulterior reason to visit.
There are endless ways that pubs are starting to attract customers and provide more than just a place where alcohol is sold. Movie and popcorn nights, table tennis tables or exceptional cocktails are some other ways that are gaining popularity – the cocktail market alone has grown by 26% in the last year.
What is evident is that the definition of a pub on Google is simply wrong. The idea that a pub is simply a place to sit and drink alcohol has changed. Food, beer, atmosphere and entertainment are going to become more and more important as the market gets more and more competitive. Make your pub stand out from the crowd – give people a reason to visit and a reason to recommend.
Posted by Emily in General
“We want to see a bunch of exciting and innovative pub and bar concepts when we are next in London- can you show us around?’ – that was the request from one of our lovely clients a few weeks ago. Where to take them became a real challenge as our team threw out suggestion after suggestion.
We had 12 of them to guide around London including their Board directors, Marketing Director and Ops Director – the night after The Publican Awards. So a bit of a challenge in more ways than one. The first, and easiest, decision was to hire a coach as directing this group was going to be a bit like herding cats and I didn’t want to lose any of my precious party on the underground. That would bring a new meaning to the phrase ‘we lost that client’
Our first stop was my old favourite, the Parcel Yard in Kings Cross where Elton Mouna, PR guru at Fullers (a fantastic and generous person) told us about the awesome history of the building and gave the team a quiz which stretched us all a bit. We were shown front of house, back of house, upstairs and downstairs- a superb full on tour.
Next stop was The Lowlander in Covent Garden where the manager, Rich, served us beer (well most of us hadn’t had one for at least 8 hours) and coffee talking at the same time about his range of 150 + beers. I know it isn’t a new concept but it’s unique in its range and is still going strong- bumped into Jim McQueen there too which was a great pleasure
The Yummy pub co pub, Somers Town Coffee House near Euston was next and Anthony and Tim (joint founders) pulled out all the stops in terms of food and drink. They spent a huge amount of time talking about their pubs and how they generate covers- it was a real lesson in creativity and innovation. I love their idea of cinema room where mums come in the morning with their children to watch films and chat. They just seem to be prepared to give everything a go
Ed Martin was exceptionally kind at the next stop, The Jugged Hare in Chiswell Street and spent time taking the party round the pub – again front and back of house. I think this is just a brilliant pub and I use their private meeting room quite a bit for events. The service is never less than fantastic and the food just great
Our next stop was The Thirsty Bear from The Robot Pub Group which really did push the boat out in terms of using IT to best effect in cutting down labour (to around 16%) but delighting the customer at the same time. Their income from the juke box, where songs are ordered by the customer on ipads on the tables, can exceed £400 a week. Again the manager, Mark, spent a lot of time with us and was absolutely brilliant
We stopped off at a BrewDog pub on the way around – difficult to see, at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon, what made it so successful but I suspect the range and strength of beers has a lot to do with it. Again the manager was really great and spent time (unplanned) with the group
Finally to The Phoenix in Victoria via The Phoenix in Chelsea to meet Ed Turner who took us all through the Geronimo way with pubs. He was superb and rounded off an absolutely brilliant day
Any ideas on where I should take the group next?
Posted by Emily in General
The 2013 Peach Marketing Seminar was held at the Wellcome Conference Centre, a stone’s throw away from Euston Station. The sell-out event focused on all things mobile, social and local.
Peter Martin kicked off proceedings by describing the market as “flat, fickle and fierce” and highlighted both increased consumer promiscuity and the plethora of choice available as the major contributing factors. Thank goodness then for the seven industry experts who were willing to impart their wisdom!
The days key messages suggested marketers need to,
1. Utilise the power of social media and make sure they dominate mobile spaces.
Duncan Robertson from Beds and Bars suggested digital and mobile channels are the most effective way to reach the new ‘Millennial’ market. Duncan gave examples of his brand’s efforts to reach customers online and emphasised the need to create narratives around your product and encourage people to share their experiences (both positive and negative) through social media.
2. Get street wise (literally) on local marketing
Mark McCulloch from Spectacular Marketing believes that it’s the “small big things” that often make the difference. Local marketing starts with certifying that your offer is captivating enough to ensure customers return and then radiates out. Mark suggested it’s all about hitting the right customer with the right message / offering at the right time.
3. Make sure their brand is understood and appreciated by both their staff and customers
Andrew Stothert from Brand Vista suggested brand building has changed out of all recognition. This said however some things don’t change; Andrew argued it’s the brutal truths that lead to brands standing out and made the comparison between these brutal truths and the little squiggly things you find under rocks. Andrew argued it’s what you do after uncovering these squiggly little things, even if it scares the hell out of you.
Andrew Stothert also emphasised the importance of a collective company vision and quoted Thomas Jefferson “Vision without action is hallucination”. Andrew gave the examples of Gala Bingo and Madam Tussauds as companies with great brand alignment and suggested that effective brand alignment can potentially be responsible for delighted customers, productive colleagues and rewarded shareholders.
Posted by Emily in General