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Fri 26th May 2017 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: The third sector and the pub industry – making progress, established breweries and the craft competition, and an inspiring trio
Authors: Rooney Anand, Glynn Davis and Ann Elliott

The third sector and the pub industry – making progress by Rooney Anand

The pub is an iconic, centuries-old British institution. It has evolved through the years to meet the constantly changing demands of its customers and, in modern times, the regulatory environment in which it operates. However, despite all these changes, the local pub still holds a special place in our hearts, where families, friends and communities come together in cities, towns and villages across the country. It provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere to socialise and share experiences, over a meal, a pint, a glass of wine or increasingly a coffee. 

Given the role pubs play in communities, it is not surprising raising money for charity to support them is what pubs do every single day. The most recent survey by PubAid highlighted the industry raises more than £100m every year for both local and national charities, the equivalent to £2,742 on average per pub. 

The Institute of Fundraising reports the UK’s hospitality sector, which directly and indirectly accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP, contributes about 4% of total corporate giving. By contrast, the retail and financial services sectors, which directly and indirectly account for 11% and 8% of GDP respectively, each contribute about 23%. Going forward, there’s a great opportunity for all publicans and pub companies to increase the contribution our industry makes. Quite simply it is the right thing to do. It happens to be good for business too. Charitable fund-raising helps to further embed pubs into the hearts of the communities they serve.

We are ideally placed to bring interested people and organisations together, given our importance to communities and the interactions with the millions of customers we serve every week, to address local needs and contribute to national charities. 

Up and down the country, pub managers and licensees are making their facilities available, donating themselves, encouraging collaboration among their customers and providing a local hub for activities and giving. Like many of the major pub operators, Greene King is a big supporter of Pub is The Hub. Our funding goes towards its community services fund to help rural pubs offer new services for the benefit of their communities such as opening a library or a butcher’s shop. 

All the major operators have also worked to create national partnerships with charities to help provide sustainable funding over the longer term. Greene King began working with Macmillan as one of its key partners in 2012. Every family in the UK is in some way touched by cancer. Sadly an estimated 2.5 million people are living with cancer, which is projected to rise to four million by 2030. I’m proud to say the hard-working team members at Greene King and our customers have so far raised an incredible £3m. Not only has every one of our pubs raised funds, but in so doing, my colleagues and their customers have developed an understanding of Macmillan’s work and the practical support it provides. 

This partnership succeeds because Greene King and Macmillan have worked hard to appreciate each other’s organisation and culture to ensure our work together is as effective as possible. This includes creating meaningful connections between our people so Macmillan better understands us, and we better understand them. 

Each of our pubs raises money for Macmillan through local events as well as centrally organised initiatives such as the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, a good example of our pubs pulling together locally to raise more than £200,000 in the context of the national partnership. We also recently launched our first company-wide initiative, “Miles for Macmillan”, where our 44,000 team members and guests are walking, cycling, running and swimming enough miles to reach the moon and raising lots of money as they do it. And critically, they are having fun doing it.

Looking ahead, we hope to introduce a volunteering programme for our colleagues who want to offer practical support in their local community for people living with cancer. We will also be implementing the “Macmillan at Work” scheme, a programme to support colleagues who have cancer across a number of pubs as well as our head offices. Macmillan research shows of 750,000 people of working-age living with cancer in the UK, 47% feel they have no choice but to leave work or change their role after diagnosis, despite the fact that work is so important in restoring normality and routine. This scheme will provide training and resources to line managers and our HR team to ensure they feel confident and equipped to provide the right level of support. This is the next step in our partnership with Macmillan. It reflects our ambition to embed their support across our organisation and to raise money in support of their broader activities.

In the current climate, charities are depending on corporate support more than ever to meet the needs of those who urgently require their help. Our industry is well placed to contribute particularly at a time of continuing pressure on public finances. The experience of Greene King is embedding the Macmillan partnership across our organisation not only helps raise money, but also increases the awareness our team members have of the vital work they undertake and helps them to feel even more motivated to be part of a company that is trying to make a contribution to the community, as well as serve customers and make money.

Working with the third sector is an increasingly important dimension of the pub industry and is important to retaining the exceptional talent we need, as well as contributing to the well-being of the communities in which we operate. Working with the third sector is the right thing to do and the industry is proud to be making progress in an area so important to us and the communities we serve.
Rooney Anand is chief executive of the UK’s leading brewer and retailer Greene King 

Established breweries and the craft competition by Glynn Davis

Regional brewer Charles Wells’ recent sale of its brewery and beer brands business to Marston’s came out of the blue but it should not have been too much of a surprise. It is undoubtedly a ramification of the difficulty many brewers of a certain scale (and vintage) are having competing in a world that is massively enamoured with craft beer from smaller, more contemporary brewers.

Charles Wells was formed in 1876. But heritage and pedigree count for little in the present market where consumers have an appetite for alternative narratives to that of simple tradition and they demand bold flavours. Navigating this tough environment is keeping many mid-tier regional brewers up at night and Charles Wells’ decision to flog off all its beer production capabilities (and beer brands) and leave it as just a pub company will not be the last instance of this happening in the market place.

That it intends to set up a new small brewery in the near future is telling as this will give it the opportunity to start from scratch with new beers and undoubtedly contemporary branding and an updated story to tell that better chimes with younger customers. 

Possibly the purest European example of where large incumbent brewers are finding it tough to compete with the precocious young upstarts is in Denmark – and Copenhagen specifically. I returned to the city recently after a three-year gap to again investigate how the craft scene is changing in this beer-drinking nation.

My return visit was prompted by a desire to visit the Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen that involves the renowned Mikkeller brewery inviting the world’s best brewers to present a series of unique beers. While you are likely to find 3 Floyds, Cigar City, Stillwater, Omnipollo, Cloudwater and The Kernel dispensing beers, you will not find Carlsberg.

Carlsberg and Mikkeller arguably sit at opposite ends of the beer spectrum. While Carlsberg is all about producing a small number of big branded beers that are designed for mainstream tastes, Mikkeller produces a constant stream of one-off, frequently challenging brews. And while the former spends hundreds of millions of krona on advertising, the latter enjoys a mountain of free publicity from the beer media and Mikkeller fans on social media.

And while Carlsberg has to maintain its capital-intensive brewing infrastructure, Mikkeller owns only a small brewpub (Warpigs) for its own production while the vast majority of its beers are brewed by other people under contract around the world. It is these partnerships with other brewers and this asset-light model that enables a constant stream of new beers to be produced. 

Although Carlsberg, not surprisingly, dominates the market in Copenhagen, both in the bars and supermarkets, there is no doubt Mikkeller and a growing number of new craft brewers are starting to build a presence in the city. Certainly since my earlier visit the Mikkeller empire has grown and other craft beer-focused venues such as To Øl’s BRUS brewpub have popped up.

It would take a revolution for the craft brewers in Copenhagen to take over from Carlsberg but there is no doubt their uprising is being felt. The big brewer undoubtedly recognises the newcomers are contributing to a changing mindset of beer drinking that is not necessarily hitting it in the pocket right now but raises long-term issues. Like all large brewers, Carlsberg is mulling over how best to react to this threat. The answer for some is to acquire craft beer brands – this is certainly happening in the US. For Carlsberg this is a non-starter when it comes to Mikkeller because I reckon it would probably be hard to find such diametrically-opposed business mentalities.

Back in the UK, Carlsberg has been talking about buying a UK craft brewer. Just who would be up for taking the bags of krona from the Danish giant? I can tell you who it’s unlikely to be – any of the mid-tier breweries of the Charles Wells vintage. This is despite the fact some of them would probably be very keen to do a deal at an equally keen price.

Of course there are intelligent ways for established brewers to deal with the rise of craft, and consumers’ changing tastes in the beer styles they drink, rather than simply waiting for a wealthy suitor to come along. The likes of Fuller’s, St Austell, and Elgood’s are among those who have been working hard on this challenge, and with some success it’s fair to say. Although others would probably take the Charles Wells route it is unlikely these three will be doing so. Famous last words!
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

An inspiring trio by Ann Elliott

Three places I have seen recently have totally inspired me with their innovation, vision and passion. 

Firstly, the Lister Arms and the Lister Barn in Malham in North Yorkshire, which are both owned by Thwaites. The pub itself is absolutely delightful and fantastically positioned in the middle of one of the most beautiful places in England. The design perfectly fits this country pub, it’s not too shabby, not too gastro and not too twee. On the night we were there it was rammed with walkers, caravanners, dogs, locals and tourists. 

There was a friendly jostle for tables and we almost ate hand by jowl with a couple on a romantic weekend away – not quite what they had anticipated I expect but everyone was so friendly, welcoming and warm it really didn’t matter. There was a huge selection of draught beer and a menu that only the most curmudgeonly could fail to choose from. The food presentation, on large boards and plates, was exceptional, which was a bit of a challenge when six of us were on a table for four. It was a great night and a perfect example of a pub company and its manager working brilliantly together to create such a great experience and memory for its customers.

Thwaites has also bought a property down the road (an old retail outlet I think) and converted that into eight self-contained bedrooms and a communal dining room. There is a hosepipe at the front to hose down dogs, a boot rack for walking boots, torches for the walk back from the pub, a drying room for wet clothes, umbrellas, fresh milk in the sitting room – the list goes on. They have literally thought of everything to make the perfect stay and each bedroom is beautifully designed. I think it’s great vision from Thwaites.

Secondly, there’s Casita Andina in Soho. Anyone who knows Martin Morales cannot help but be impressed by his energy, vision, passion and commitment. All of these attributes find their way into this superb restaurant with amazingly friendly team members and food to die for. I loved the food and almost managed to eat my way through the menu. Each dish is lovingly created, has a superb blend of tastes and is joyfully presented. Martin is incredibly generous too with his time and support for those in the sector. This place is just Martin to a tee. I loved it and I am in awe of the man. I can’t wait to see what he does next but I know whatever he does, it will be totally true to him as a person. He is an inspiration to every entrepreneur setting up.

And finally, there’s the Half Moon in Herne Hill – a fantastic Fuller’s pub. It’s one of those pubs that has been around forever. I have Wikipedia to thank for the following: “The Half Moon is a grade II-listed public house at 10 Half Moon Lane, Herne Hill, London. It is one of only 270 pubs on the Campaign for Real Ale’s national inventory of historic pub interiors, was frequented by the poet and writer Dylan Thomas, and has been a noteworthy live music venue for more than 40 years, hosting three gigs by U2 in 1980. The Half Moon is listed by Southwark Council as an Asset of Community Value.” They say it started life as a pub in 1760.

This was not an easy pub for Fuller’s to take on – lots of interest in its development and lots of local opinion on what should be done to it. It has not comprised on quality or attention to detail and has literally brought the pub back to life. I loved the workshop, the design of the bedrooms, the dining area, the open kitchen, the snug – in fact there was not one bit of the pub I didn’t really love and admire. The service was friendly and efficient, the ambience was stunning and the food was a joy. 

It has done a fantastic job and, as with the Lister and Casita Andina, the passion and commitment of Fuller’s (and its team) to make it work shines through. And that’s what makes working in this sector so very special.
Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliotts, the leading integrated marketing agency in the hospitality and leisure sector – www.elliottsagency.com 

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