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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 16th Mar 2018 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Delivery land-grab still in full swing, protect the powerless, and the hardest job in the world
Authors: Glynn Davis, Ann Elliott and Octavius Black

Delivery land-grab still in full swing by Glynn Davis

One of the differentiating factors of Just Eat compared with its rivals Deliveroo, UberEats and Amazon is it has a true virtual model. It simply acts as an online market place linking hungry customers with their local takeaway operators. It certainly doesn’t dirty its hands (and diminish its margins) by handling the actual deliveries. 

It did trial it some years ago – no doubt prodded by the incursions of Deliveroo and Uber – but decided there was no money in it and abandoned the experiment. Its former chief executive David Buttress was adamant the company wasn’t going to go down that route in the UK as there were “plenty of other opportunities for the business”.

He has been proved correct if we look at the state of the business – it has continued to produce more than 40% year-on-year revenue growth and processes eight of the 25 takeaways ordered by its average customer a year. This has contributed to the company earning a market capitalisation of more than £5bn.

As well as the lack of profitability generated when handling the whole delivery infrastructure, Buttress also recognised that the best service is inevitably offered by organisations which employ their own drivers rather than farming it out to a third party. Service was certainly an issue in a recent survey carried out by Propel and Piper. Among the 2,000 customers surveyed, UberEats was rated 6.67 out of ten, Deliveroo 5.75 and Amazon a lowly 5.20. None of these scores are exactly ringing endorsements.

Therefore, against this backdrop it was something of a surprise when Just Eat announced it would invest as much as £50m in its own delivery service. Less of a surprise was the fact the City was spooked by the news. It knocked more than £700m off the Just Eat valuation as it considered the company’s thinking behind the move and its implications.

The move does rather suggest the company recognises it has to react to the growing might of its rivals. Deliveroo raised further funds at the end of last year as it builds its capability and invests in its interesting Editions kitchens business. It is a similar situation at Uber, where the company’s new chief executive has expressed his full support for the UberEats division and given the go-ahead for a roll-out of the service to 100 new cities – including 40 in the UK. 

These moves highlight how the temperature is continuing to rise in the food delivery sector. As much as operators dislike having a third party suck margin out of their businesses within an already tough trading environment, it seems there might ultimately be no choice but to engage with delivery. It’s a painful reality that consumer trends are dictating there will be few parts of the market able to remain disengaged from the home delivery phenomenon. 

One consolation might be that with Just Eat entering the fray – and looking to take share from its rivals with a competing full-service delivery offer – some of the high charges typically demanded by Deliveroo and UberEats could ease. Despite taking as much as 30% of the order value in many cases, none of them are exactly rolling in profitability. Regardless of the apparent fragility of the model, the land-grab is still in full swing.

Just Eat entering this ultra-competitive part of the market is certainly puzzling – unless it knows something we don’t. There are genuine concerns over the 40% growth it has enjoyed that, most importantly, its investors have come to expect. Their confidence has driven it to the £5bn valuation based on a pretty high multiple of earnings.

One thing we can be sure of is food delivery looks set to be one of the most exciting parts of the leisure and hospitality industry, even though it’s the consumer that continues to be sole beneficiary.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends 

Protect the powerless by Ann Elliott

It is dispiriting and disappointing to read about CVAs and site closures in our sector. I feel sorry for those team members who are losing their jobs and having to find new ones with everything that entails. 

I feel for the general managers and BDMs who may have just taken their first step on the managerial ladder and are now worrying about where, and what, they do next. It’s not easy for those who are left either – are they next in line? Morale suffers and it becomes much harder to recruit great people. It’s a vicious circle.

I also feel for those who launched those brands with optimism, positivity and enthusiasm. It’s an amazing feeling to start a brand and see it fly. To see sales climb week-on-week, to see consumers and team members really happy, and to feel all that hard work and determination has paid off is simply brilliant. It’s what we all live for so it’s hard if it all comes crashing down.

Suppliers will also suffer, particularly if the distressed company constitutes a high percentage of its sales or it is owed money by the “old” business. The supplier, in turn, could go under with a subsequent loss of jobs, money and opportunities. 

When a business has to close – or shutter sites – it can be devastating from a personal and business perspective. It has significant ramifications for all involved. Potentially, everyone who feels the impact of these decisions will be slightly more anxious in the future about some of the career and business decisions they make. Losing a job, your investment or money (if you are a supplier) can be distressing in the long and short term. It’s a horrible feeling.

But do those businesses going through CVAs deserve what has happened to them? Should they have taken action earlier to get their brand in order? Are they to blame? Is poor management to blame?

Of course experts will say they saw it coming and no doubt many did. I didn’t. The Brexit vote was a surprise to me and, although I’m no economist, it does seem to have led to a raft of unexpected negative outcomes for this sector. Some cost increases were foreseen and planned for but a number (for example, food price increases) probably couldn’t have been predicted. 

Certainly some of the blame for the current situation seems to lie in the rapid over-expansion of sites at a time of static consumer expenditure. Let’s face it, that’s a management call. Growth is king, though. Investors and shareholders want to see sales, Ebitda and ROI growth – from existing sites and new site expansion. Standing still hasn’t been an option.

There are brands everyone knows that have continued to expand and perform well in these tricky market conditions – Pret, Nando’s, McDonalds, Greggs, Wagamama, Living Ventures, Arc Inspirations, NWTC – we could all name them. They seem to expand and grow regardless of what is happening around them. At the same time, new brands continue to appear in the market led by enthusiastic, brilliant entrepreneurs who also feel they can buck the trend and make a difference. There is still hope.

I pray no-one else has to face the nightmare of losing their business, money, teams, and hopes and dreams this year. Those who are thriving today say success comes from starting a brand you truly believe in, keeping your original values alive, evolving with your customer’s needs and recruiting people you believe in, listening to them and training them well. They nurture their brands and respect their heritage and roots. Staying on track is vital because it’s really hard to get back on track if you fall off.

I’m in no position to judge or blame anyone for business failure – it’s all easy with hindsight. It’s the people who are powerless in these situations I feel for – and these are the people we need to protect and care about if we can.
Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliotts, the leading integrated marketing agency in the hospitality and leisure sector – Follow her on Twitter: @elliottsagency

The hardest job in the world by Octavius Black

Navigating a busy room with a tower of glassware?  Endless tetris with guest bookings? Manoeuvring hundreds of beer barrels? Embark on a career in the hospitality sector and you’ll face tough challenges. However, there’s one task many people find thorniest of all – being a manager.

More than two-thirds (68%) of leaders have admitted they don’t like managing people. Many see it as a bolt-on for a free moment so it’s hardly surprising their management style is often seen as ineffective by their bosses and teams.

Yet good management transforms productivity. One restaurant chain found the quality of its management correlated with the number of customer return visits and improved employee retention figures. Managers are worth investing in – investment in a St Patrick’s Day promotion has a half-life of a few weeks, an investment in good management keeps paying dividends.

Mind Gym’s partnership with Greene King, supporting its Winning Ways programme, has helped transform the capability of 500 of its managers across all areas of the business – from pubs and support centres to breweries and depots.

In the same way small details such as a clean table or welcoming smile matter to customers, the everyday actions matter in management too. At Greene King, managers are discovering how daily interactions such as descriptive feedback, clear goals and career progression count. It’s not about spending more time being a manager but using the time you do have in ways that work.

Winning Ways’ 90-minute workshops have offered minimal disruption to a busy working week but have provided maximum impact. The Greene King team delivered one of the sessions that focused on the “art of storytelling”, which proved a big hit, especially with area managers who have to inspire their team of general managers at monthly meetings. 

We all know the best communicators are the ones who engage with their audience at a personal level, but this is a tough ask when there is so much information to deliver. 

The training has helped to transform meetings and allowed area managers to step away from the lectern and PowerPoint presentations and deliver a more relatable, authentic session where the audience is experiencing information as opposed to simply consuming it. Managers grow in stature and confidence, while everyone who joins Greene King has a clear development path. 

Hospitality depends on people and how people turn up at work depends on their manager. One day every business in hospitality will invest in building top-class managers. 
Octavius Black is chief executive of management training company Mind Gym

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