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Fri 24th Apr 2015 - Friday Opinion
Friday Opinion:
Subjects: Guiding principles of brand development, dubious craft beer statistics, and thinking outside the box
Authors: Chris Edger and Tony Hughes, Martyn Cornell, Ann Elliott


Guiding principles on the brand journey to greatness, by Chris Edger and Tony Hughes

The explosion of food service concepts, causing a rapacious "race for space" over the past few years, heralds a golden age for the industry. With consumer economic confidence rising, discretionary spend on the increase and the propensity to eat out trending upwards, long-established companies and new start-ups are pumping money into, or raising capital for the purposes of, rolling out a plethora of new brands. However this bull run, while increasing consumer choice and covering every conceivable occasion, also ramps up costs for operators through spiralling rents and accelerating labour rates caused by the war for scarce talent. During the next economic correction, there will be a clear-out of weak brands, which will be exposed as whimsical fads, while the strong will continue to prosper and grow. But what are the main characteristics and attributes of sustainable food service brands?
Researching our forthcoming book Building Sustainable Brands – Creating, Evolving and Reviving!, we reviewed what had been written on brands to date, finding most definitions, such as the great advertising man David Ogilvy’s "the intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging and price, its history, its reputation and the way its advertised", had more of an FMCG-based emphasis on goods rather than a hospitality-based emphasis on service. Other commentators talked about successful brands needing strong differentiation for competitive advantage purposes, combined with a "strong personality" that create deep-seated, trust-based relationships with customers. But what are the ten "must do’s" for building sustainable food service brands? Based on our insight derived from both serial authorship on multi-site operations and creating/developing some of the UK's most acclaimed pub restaurant brands, we believe them to be as follows:
1 Find the gap: Successful food service brands find an unfulfilled customer need, a "white market space" that has scalable potential
2 Co-opt experts: Brand originators must decide whether or not they want their product to be "world-class or third-class". Assembling an advisory team (design, marketing, menu development, supply chain, property and so on) is essential in order to leverage the tacit knowledge of renowned experts who can accelerate the brand to world-class status.
3 Build the bridge: Due attention must be paid in the initial phases to both the functional (what it does) and emotional (what it stands for) elements of the brand. A pithy bridge statement of both elements will act as the compass of the brand on the journey forward.
4 Create meaning: Out of this bridge statement should come a "signature purpose" or clear articulation of what you want the brand to be famous for. This must resonate with both employees and customers.
5 Detail the retail: In tandem with the above, successful food service brands designed from a greenfield start must follow the principle of "one prototype and three trials", to work on essential elements such as operating procedures, space planning and customer touches/moments of truth.
6 Invest in believers: Right from the get-go, brands should concentrate their efforts on attraction rather than recruitment. That is to say, the employment brand should be sufficiently attuned to attracting staff at all levels who fit the brand ethos, coupled with spontaneous recognition systems and sparkling development programmes. Your staff must exemplify and be raving advocates for the brand.
7 Less haste, more speed: Successful brands have patient roll-out plans that place an emphasis upon site quality rather than quantity. System growth is important for brand recognition, but poor, opportunistic site choices will waste management time and cause untold reputational damage on social media. In addition, food service brands in roll-out would be well advised to split out core business personnel from designated roll-out teams to prevent like-for-like slippage.
8 Retain your signature purpose: The needs that customers had when brands were founded are likely to exist in perpetuity, even if the means of addressing them subtly change over time. Deviating from the original bridge statement or signature purpose of the brand will end – in almost all cases – in commercial suicide. At times, guardians and stewards of the brand will have to ignore some of the "suits"; especially "unhelpful" accountants, because as Albert Einstein is supposed to have observed, "not everything that can be counted counts!"
9 Focus on covers growth: The one controllable for everyone at unit level is "number of meals sold", "plates" or "cover turnover". Successful food service brands (the brand having been set up and designed correctly) will focus unit teams on the one number that counts, namely, number of meals served.
10 Let your customers innovate: Successful food service brands, in addition to being fast followers, are exceptionally good at listening to their customers, with the best brands constantly questioning what they should continue, stop or start doing to satisfy their customers’ needs.

 Great food service brands owe their sustainability to a number of key factors. Many of the brands currently in flight today lack a number of the attributes listed above and, being built on shaky foundations coupled with delusional roll-out expectations, will fail. Investors beware!
 Professor Chris Edger teaches multi-site managers at Birmingham City University, while Tony Hughes is the former managing director of restaurants at Mitchells & Butlers and currently a non-executive director at the Restaurant Group

Eight per cent of British craft brewers have PhDs and other dubious statistics by Martyn Cornell

I have a new book out, A Craft Beer Road Trip Around Britain, with snapshots of 40 of Britain’s top small breweries from Scotland to the South West. Putting it together was quite fun, but hard work: getting craft beer brewers to co-operate in supplying information about themselves and their beers turns out to be like trying to herd cats, and my deepest sympathy goes to anyone who has had to put together one of those 666 beers to try-before-you’re-dragged-off-to-Hell-style compilations.

Still, at the end I found I had ended up with a big enough stack of information about a sample of craft brewers in Britain to pull out some interesting, if ultimately probably dubious, statistics. If we take the 40 brewers I interviewed for the book as typical (and I’m sure we can’t), we can draw the following conclusions about the British craft brewing industry:

Eight per cent of British craft brewers have a PhD
Probably the dodgiest stat of the lot; but it’s a fact that at least three of the 40 brewers in the book, James Davies of Alechemy in Livingston, Scotland (PhD, yeast genetics), Gaz Matthews of Mad Hatter in Liverpool (PhD, criminology) and Stuart Lascelles of East London Brewing Company (PhD, chemistry) are entitled to call themselves “Doctor”.

35 per cent of British craft brewers wear black T-shirts/polo shirts with their brewery’s logo on them
If the uniform of the 19th century brewer was a white apron and a red stockinette cap, as sported by Mr Bung in the Victorian Happy Families card game, and the uniform of the 20th century brewer was a white labcoat with pens in the top pocket, worn over a dark suit, then the uniform of the 21st century brewer is a black T-shirt, jeans and industrial boots – possibly, if the woman from Health and Safety is visiting, coupled with a hi-vis jacket and goggles.

48 per cent of British craft brewers sport a beard
The least surprising stat: while the craft brewers of Britain don’t normally go for the “big enough to hide several small birds and a couple of squirrels” face-bushes preferred by their American rivals, the bearded brewer has become almost a cliché, and almost half the brewers in the book had clearly not recently passed a razor over their chins.

35 per cent of British craft breweries have an address that begins with “Unit” followed by a number
Is it surprising that out of every 20 small breweries in the country, at least seven will be on an industrial estate? Probably not …

12 per cent of British craft breweries have an address that includes the word “Farm”
It’s on the face of it not that surprising, either, that out of 40 craft breweries, five should be based on farms, since farms today often have unused buildings – dairies, for example – that can be cheaply and easily adapted to provide a home for a small brewing set-up, while there are likely to be few neighbours in the immediate vicinity to annoy. And, after all, back in the 19th century thousands of farms had their own breweries, where they made beer for the farmer, his family and the farm workers. Indeed, quite a few commercial breweries began as farm breweries that expanded into supplying local pubs: Arkells of Swindon, to name one survivor of that tradition. On the other hand if you scale that five-out-of-40 up across the whole craft brewing sector today, that suggests more than 150 farms have breweries on them: I could not be bothered to go through the breweries section of the Good Beer Guide to check, but than sounds dubious to me.

Eight per cent of British craft breweries are based in railway arches – and not only in East and South East London:
Tickety Brew of Stalybridge, for example, is underneath the arches, too. The seminal role played by Network Rail in helping Britain’s craft brewing boom by supplying homes to small breweries to thrive in really should be chronicled. Mind, this is another probably dodgy statistic to draw from my book, since again it implies an improbably large number of railway arch brewer nationally, around a hundred.

Five per cent of British craft brewers have artistic graffiti all over the interior walls of the brewery
All right, I’m sure this really is one you cannot scale up from my small sample of 40 brewers, but at least two, BrewDog in Scotland and Tiny Rebel in Wales have brought in graffiti artists to liven up the inside of their otherwise boring boxes.

45 per cent of British craft brewers use Cascade hops in at least one of their beers
The only surprise here is that the number seems positively too low: the beer writers Jessica Boak and Roy Bailey have pointed out how incredibly influential Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from California has been on the craft brewing scene in the UK in the past 15 years, so the fact that so many brewers in Britain use the hop found in SNPA should startle no one. At least Cascade has one British parent, Fuggles – does anyone make a beer with both Cascade AND Fuggles in it? Hmmm …
30 per cent of British craft brewers use Maris Otter barley
Fifty years old this year, and still popular, despite being more expensive than other varieties, Maris Otter is perhaps THE craft beer barley: though many bigger brewers won’t and don’t use it, and some suggest its popularity is more down to the fact that it has a great marketing story to tell for any brewer using it.

40 per cent of British craft brewers have a home brewing background
Again that seems ostensibly too small, when only another 20% of those I surveyed had an actual brewing industry background: did the other 40% just fling themselves into the business with no experience of wetting malt at all? Well, some people do, actually, such as Otley, where the founders’ background was in running pubs.

Anyway, there we are: the typical British craft brewer is bearded, wears a black T-shirt, is based on an industrial estate, and brews at least one beer with Maris Otter barley and Cascade hops. Is there anyone who fits that description: Well, apart from the industrial estate, yes there is: step up, please, the bearded, black-T-shirted Andy Paterson, brewer at Dark Star Brewing in Sussex of Hophead, made with Maris Otter and Cascades. You, sir, are Mr Craft Brewer 2015!
Martyn Cornell is managing editor of Propel Info

Out of the box thinking by Ann Elliott

In the last few weeks I have had meetings with Graham White, Jon Yantin and John Nugent, all managing wildly different businesses, but all behaving in much the same way: forget conventional wisdom, put customers first, and think outside the box.
Graham White is the chief executive for the Blackstone owned Chiswick Park Enjoy-Work in West London (, having previously been the ops director for Center Parcs and having leading the opening of the Woburn site for that business. Chiswick Park has a lot in common with Center Parcs in terms of how it looks, the emphasis on "guest satisfaction" and the innovation and creativity demonstrated by the team. This is not just any ordinary office block park. This office block provides coffee shops, shops, bicycle hire, outdoor concerts, a beach and deck chairs, a gym, a hairdressers, a post and parcel service, inter-company sports leagues, two dance studios and an on-line concierge service, among a host of other offers.
Graham wants to make the working environment as nice as possible for his "guests" and help them "do stuff "while they are at work, so they have less to do when they are at home. He does not see any limit to what he can do, and takes his inspiration from those who work on the park. This is such a refreshing approach, and one that helps him maximise occupancy on the site. Worth having a look at.
Jon Yantin is the commercial director of The One Group. It says on the company's website: “The One Group is a global leader in the hospitality industry and the creator of the international restaurant brand STK. In addition to developing and operating upscale, high-energy restaurants and lounges, The One Group provides a signature turn-key food and beverage service – One Hospitality – for hotels, casinos, and other high-end locations across the globe.” What this means is that this group can run all non-bedroom operations in any hotel.
For ages I have wondered why casual dining operators cannot launch their brands in hotels. The latter tend to rely on celebrity chefs to develop new concepts for them, which often fail. I suspect this is because casual dining operators are wary of offering breakfast (though this is probably less the case nowadays), of providing room service, of having to offer banqueting and of potentially being involved in other FM services.
The One Group saw the gap in the market, developed a brand (able to be accessed externally not just through the hotel) and offered a complete F&B service. Some hotels may baulk at having an external brand in their hotel and losing 100% of the revenue and profit, but incremental covers (from those resident and non-resident customers who want branded restaurants) seem to more than compensate – along with, no doubt, healthy profit splits. Contract caterers, too, could have moved into this market but have not developed robust enough branded restaurant offers to be credible. I really do admire the entrepreneurship demonstrated by The One Group in the ME hotel in the Strand in London.
Another fantastic entrepreneur is John Nugent, whom I met this week. He is the chief executive of Green & Fortune, based at the Kings Cross arts hub in North London, Kings Place. He operates all the non-office space in Kings Place, including a restaurant, a coffee shop, conference spaces and private dining areas. Nugent saw the opportunity when he met the developer years ago and has worked with him over the past eight years or so to really build an amazing business. He has never limited his horizons or thought, "that can’t be done", and now has a team of 100, including seven sales people. His vision has been extraordinary
So: three people who have been really inspirational in refusing to accept the norm, have challenged convention and developed awe-inspiring businesses as a result: all worth taking to.
Ann Elliott is chief executive of the sector public relations and marketing firm Elliotts

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