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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 15th Dec 2017 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Bruce and the next-generation brewpubs, Uber and reputation management, alcohol policy and the ‘public health’ succubus, and exciting and animating talent through recognition
Authors: Glynn Davis, Mark Stretton, Paul Chase, and Chris Edger and Tony Hughes

Bruce and the next-generation brewpubs by Glynn Davis

Brewpubs are widely seen as a US invention because they are a major feature of the beer landscape on that side of the Atlantic. However, the phenomenon was ignited in the UK by British entrepreneur David Bruce, who founded the Firkin chain.

In 1979, he launched the Goose & Firkin brewpub in Southwark, south London. Three years later he was guest speaker at the American Homebrewers Association conference in Boulder, Colorado, where he wowed the audience with his tales of running pubs with breweries attached. This was revolutionary stuff for those attending who had not considered such a vertically integrated approach.

His speech sparked lots of thinking across the pond but little action (legislation hadn’t exactly helped such dreams) until Bruce returned to the US in 1988 after building the Firkin business into a modest-sized chain and sold it on. He had a few million pounds in his pocket and used some of this as seed investment in US brewpub pioneers – some no doubt inspired by his presentation some years before.

Bruce put money into the first US brewpub chain – run by Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver – in its infant stages and helped it grow to seven units before its employees bought the business. Bruce was also a founding investor in Brooklyn Brewery and Elysian Brewing Company in Seattle, which were also taking a brewpub/taproom approach in their early days.

Most US brewpubs involve selling the vast majority of a brewery’s beer on the premises with few sales through other channels. This exclusive aspect to the beer partly contributes to why these brewpubs are serious destinations in their own right. The typically great food also adds to the appeal. This is just as well because they are often located in the middle of nowhere.

The experience Bruce gained from his forays in the US is being fed into his latest project back in the UK. He is chairman of West Berkshire Brewery and the driving force behind what he describes as a cathedral of brewing, which he hopes – like the US brewpubs – will draw in people from the surrounding area. 

The new £6m brewery is not quite in the middle of nowhere but, for the UK, it is definitely out in the sticks – nestled in Berkshire countryside surrounded by grazing cows. However, the entrepreneurial Bruce knows there are 20 million people less than a two-hour drive away. These are big numbers, but then the whole project is about thinking big as he is building a brewpub/taproom on a scale never seen before in the UK.

The 38,000 square foot building houses a smart bar and restaurant area catering for 200 people with direct views into the brewhouse through enormous plates of glass, as well as the green fields. The brewing kit itself has capacity to produce roughly ten-times the output of West Berkshire Brewery’s previous equipment. The facility also has a dual canning and bottling line that can handle all packaging types, which will help the company’s plan to bottle and can for other brewers.

Brewery tours are very much part of the experience and Bruce told me 500 people visited during a recent Thursday to Saturday period, and that’s without the marketing side fully up and running. Once the brewery is fully functioning the plan is to have West Berkshire Brewery on the tourist trail and for coach parties to make up a major part of business.

This might be a world away from the Goose & Firkin in gritty south London but, just as Bruce recognised the potential for a return to beer being brewed on-site in pubs in the 1980s, he is calling the start of a trend for breweries to be major tourist attractions offering a full immersive experience.

This is a world away from merely pandering to beer geeks – Bruce knows we all like beer really – it just has to be presented in the right way to appeal to the mainstream market. For authenticity, the first Firkin had cobbled-together brewing kit, sawdust on the floor, and crisps as the only food. Bruce’s new place requires state-of-the-art brewing kit, expensive floor tiles and Josper-grilled steak. Progress indeed for Bruce – and the rest of us too.

Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

Uber and reputation management by Mark Stretton

Uber is a globally iconic exemplar for how disruptive and revolutionary technology can drive the proverbial coach and horses through an industry. It is also fast becoming the poster child for the havoc mesmerising growth can wreak on a company itself.

In the case of the ride-hailing app, an inadequate and immature infrastructure that seemingly remained in the Neolithic period meant that while the app was scaling stratospherically, the kind of processes, policies and systems most mature businesses have in place as a matter of course were simply missing. It has left the business and the brand horribly exposed in the face of a number of issues.

Long before the current focus on harassment in the workplace Uber was the subject of a number of stories pertaining to a troubling culture, mainly in its home market, the US. It has also seen fallout from controversy surrounding the gig economy and workers’ rights. It then lost its private operator licence in the UK capital when Transport for London (TfL) said Uber was not “fit and proper” amid safety concerns (although the company is appealing the decision). 

Most recently the concealment of a data breach emerged, reportedly affecting 57 million users and drivers. A sense of crisis around Uber’s basic governance pervades. As a consequence, the board is having to signal change, fast. 

Earlier this year Travis Kalanick, the maverick visionary and driving force behind Uber, conceded he was no longer the right person to lead the company. Dara Khosrowshahi, the highly regarded chief executive of Expedia – a client of Fleet Street Communications for a number of years – was parachuted in to take the helm.

Khosrowshahi has demonstrated a deft touch in handling the issues so far, responding quickly and succinctly. He quickly distanced himself and the company from its initial, and wholly ill-conceived, combative stance to the TfL decision, publishing an open letter to Londoners via Twitter in which he apologised for the mistakes the company had made.

Importantly, he promised change. He wrote: “We won’t be perfect but we will listen to you; we will look to be long-term partners with the cities we serve; and we will run our business with humility, integrity and passion.” He then assured Londoners the company was fully committed to making “things right and keeping this great global city moving safely”. The full letter is well worth a read.

Uber is an extraordinary and amazing global success story that, like Airbnb or Facebook, demonstrates the power and scale of the digital economy. It is also a timely reminder – an extreme example – of the existential threat a business that cannot evidence adequate maturity as an organisation faces – be it as an employer that can safeguard its own people or as a global citizen that cares about its impact.

Ultimately, businesses must be able to credibly and meaningfully communicate that they care as much about people, their communities and their purpose as they do about profit, scale and shareholders. Because the best businesses, and the best leaders, know these two sets of values are intrinsically and inextricably linked.

Mark Stretton is managing director of Fleet Street Communications

Alcohol policy and the ‘public health’ succubus by Paul Chase

There is no doubt the neo-temperance health lobby’s victory over minimum unit pricing will embolden them to campaign even harder for other measures designed to take the retail sale of alcohol down the tobacco route. During the coming year, we can expect the following:

– Implementation of minimum unit pricing in Scotland with the price set initially at 50p per unit (they’re consulting on the level as I write)

– Legislation to introduce minimum pricing in Wales (the process has begun already)

– Further agitation to introduce it in England (probably not this side of Brexit)

Further action to raise duty on higher-strength products (the UK government has already committed to introduce higher duty levels on high-strength cider regardless of its method of production but I suspect it won’t stop with cider)

Long-term neo-temperance can be expected to campaign for: 

– Tighter controls on alcohol advertising because they mistakenly believe advertising drives market volume not brand or category volume

– Calls to end alcohol producers’ sponsorship of football and other sports

– Health warnings on labels and beer fonts such as “alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer”

– Graphic photographs depicting alcohol-related health problems

– Plain packaging in the name of “save the children”

– Agitation for a ‘health’ licensing objective. The UK government has ruled this out in its response to the House of Lords review of the Licensing Act 2003 but health authorities will continue trying to smuggle in health objections to licensing applications disguised as public safety or crime and disorder objections

Public funding and sock puppets
The collusion between the organisations of neo-temperance and Public Health England (PHE) will continue. The most blatant example of this collusion was the way in which PHE and the Institute of Alcohol Studies, whose members and fellow travellers packed the so-called independent Guidelines Development Group, pressured the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group to massage the figures to produce the new “low-risk” drinking guidelines of 14 units of alcohol per week.

The relentless scaremongering of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK (ARUK) will continue. These organisations have now merged because Alcohol Concern has found feasting in the public funding meadow has become more difficult. ARUK, of course, relies on legacy funding from investments made when it inherited money from winding up of the Licensees Compensation Scheme, which was a licensed trade levy established in 1904 to compensate licensees whose premises were closed because the authorities decreed there were too many licensed premises in their area.

Alcohol Focus Scotland and Balance Northeast continue to be a pair of taxpayer-funded sock-puppet charities and they will also continue with their relentless anti-alcohol campaigning. However, the daddy of them all is PHE. This organisation is not a charity but an executive agency of the Department of Health that enjoys organisational autonomy from government. In other words, a quango. PHE says it exists to “protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities”. I don’t know about you but I always thought most of that was done by the NHS – but no! In April 2013, PHE was set up and lists as it its major achievements the campaigns it has run over alcohol misuse, supporting the introduction of a sugar tax and fighting the obesity “epidemic”. Its goals and world view on beverage alcohol are identical to those of the neo-temperance lobby, as witnessed by its presiding over the “low-risk” guidelines fiasco.

What does PHE cost the taxpayer and how many people does it employ? Its funding from the taxpayer is more than £4bn a year and it employs 5,500 people! About £3.3bn of this money is distributed to local councils, which are meant to shoulder the main burden of promoting public health and wellbeing in their areas, a job they should never have been given in the first place. Stick to emptying the bins guys! It seems to me most of PHE’s expenditure is a monumental waste of money. In terms of the money it retains for its own activities, its main role is to spend government money lobbying for policy change from government. If it was closed, would we miss it? We never needed it before 2013 but now it is apparently indispensable. 

Closing PHE and taking back control of that £4bn a year would enable us to put nearly £77m a week into the NHS. I think someone should get that painted on the side of a bus!

Paul Chase is a director of CPL Training and a leading commentator on alcohol and health policy

Exciting and animating talent through recognition by Chris Edger and Tony Hughes

The sixth key moment of truth in our cycle of employment practices is exciting staff through reward, recognition and praise; making people feel joyful their contributions are highly valued rather than feeling exasperated that their efforts are being overlooked or taken for granted. Inspirational leaders pay great attention to this area. What do they do?    

Incentivise great service: We have already made the point that excellent service companies have equitable and transparent reward systems where – in relative terms at the very least – individuals feel they are remunerated fairly for the work they do. But how should incentives be applied to reinforce and animate the correct behaviours? The first thing to say is “what gets measured, gets managed but what gets rewarded gets done”. With regards to service organisations, incentives targeted at rewarding staff for excellent customer service are more likely to result in outstanding customer experiences. Sector-leading hospitality organisations, for instance, will tie a proportion of their team incentives to customer satisfaction ratings and ensure – where tipping for service occurs – the “tronque” (tips pool) is spread evenly throughout the front-of-house and back-of-house teams to stimulate a “one team” mentality. Secondly, service-led incentives that work are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related) and paid immediately rather than held back for irritating, complex “qualifying” or “hurdle rate” reasons.

Reward skills acquisition: In addition to incentivising service, great service companies frequently link pay rises and increments to skills and knowledge acquisition. Why? Firstly, to encourage staff to value learning. Second, to build a solid platform of capability within their organisation. Third – and most importantly – to give their people a sense of aspiration and achievement.

Provide ‘skin in the game’: Promoting a sense of equity around rates of pay, incentivising service behaviours, and rewarding skills attainment will ensure organisations have a happier, more productive ship. Levels of commitment, however, will also be boosted if – in addition to these mechanisms – staff have an actual share in the ownership of the business, giving them a deep-rooted, vested interest in its success. Where “skin in the game” programmes work particularly well, however, is usually at store management or franchisee owner level, where pivotal players are granted a piece of the action. 

Celebrate success: Alongside “individualistic” mechanisms of reward and recognition, “collective” occasions that bring the “tribe” together to celebrate successes and achievements also energise and excite. These celebrations can take place in small daily gatherings (buzz or shift meetings) or at larger set-piece events that create powerful, enduring memories. The enduring symbols of these celebratory occasions – photos and videos that can be uploaded on to social media – ensure such moments are captured forever, giving participants evocative artefacts they can show their colleagues, family and friends and reflect on fondly long after the event. 

Catch people doing it right: All the recognition mechanisms we’ve described so far are fairly well signposted and planned but one of the most powerful means of recognising people involves the element of surprise. We have seen this working best in situations where managers make it their mission to “catch people doing it right”, spontaneously recognising great behaviour. 

The opening case study in our book captured the moment when Tony Hughes saw this in action at TGI Friday’s earlier in his career…

“Fred said: ‘Come on, lets catch somebody doing something right!’ so we go through the TGI’s kitchen and walk past a nice Mexican chap who is making guacamole with the menu out, the recipe book out and all the correct ingredients, well turned out in a pristine uniform. So Fred calls an all-store meeting. All the staff gather and Fred says: ‘This guy is a backbone of this organisation and we are guilty of taking him for granted – we need to say thank you! Hosea, we all want you to know how much we appreciate you and the quality of your work. Consistent high performance is often taken for granted and the spectacular one-offs acclaimed by the crowd but, to the team, the true heroes are hidden heroes who go about their work in a consistent, dependable and predictable manner, unselfishly working for the benefit of others. These are truly our most valuable players.’ Fred then produced an MVP (most valuable person) medal and pinned it on Hosea’s chest in military fashion, shook his hand and hugged him to huge applause and cheering from all the restaurant staff – many of whom had been moved to tears.”

This story is emotionally charged – a (planned) spontaneous act of heart-warming recognition that moves people to shed tears of joy. Why? Firstly because the recipient deserves the accolade. He is widely acknowledged among his peers as being how Fred describes him – a “hidden hero” – somebody who uncomplainingly and professionally goes about his daily routine. Second, Fred’s act of spontaneous generosity, which enlivened a day of humdrum normality, shows the company cares about somebody’s contribution when usually it would be ignored or taken for granted. Third, what Fred has done is the diametric opposite of what many managers do, namely fulfilling an audit and checking role to “catch people out” in order to “correct” behaviours.

In summary, inspirational leaders animate the right behaviours through exciting reward and recognition mechanisms. Recognition and praise releases the brain chemical dopamine, a neurotransmitter that causes feelings of pleasure and joy. Having received the “hit” as a reward for certain behaviours, humans will seek “chemical repetition” by repeating the same behaviours. 

Scientists have estimated a five-to-one praise-criticism ratio optimises human dopamine releases – so leaders should praise their charges five times more than criticise them to shape positive behaviours. Inspirational leaders who actively incentivise service behaviours, reward skills acquisition, give key operators “skin in the game”, ensure their people celebrate success together, and spontaneously “catch people doing it right” are more likely – in addition to the interventions we highlight elsewhere in our book – to create super-performing teams.

This article was extracted from Chris Edger and Tony Hughes’ book “Inspirational Leadership – How to Mobilise Super-performance through eMOTION”. Professor Chris Edger is a multiple author on retail leadership and Tony Hughes is a luminary of the European foodservice scene

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