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Fri 20th Dec 2019 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: What a year, past glories, how to win, and more than face value
Authors: Kate Nicholls, Glynn Davis, Ann Elliott and Nicole Goodwin 

What a year by Kate Nicholls

What a year it has been – 2019 will be remembered for many things, from the highs of the rugby and cricket to lows of unprecedented economic turbulence and, above all, the Brexit saga. 

We have had to navigate an unexpected and challenging landscape so it has never been more important to speak with one clear, loud, united voice. This time last year I wrote a Friday Opinion about the impact of UKHospitality’s creation on our sector’s relationship with government and the work we were doing to help politicians and the media understand our economic, social and cultural contribution. Creating a single, united voice representing the whole sector has not only given us a seat at the table but also ensured our voice has been listened to – and we have seen real and meaningful action in response. 

This year has been transformational as hospitality joined the five other major industrial sectors in briefings with the prime minister and chancellor. We have had ten meetings with Number 10; 75 ministerial meetings pressing for the change we need to thrive; taken part in 52 government working groups including tourism and food and drink councils to shape the political environment in which we operate; given evidence to 11 select committees and all-party groups on issues as diverse as business rates, tourism tax, allergens, seaside regeneration, plastics and duty – all on top of our weekly Brexit planning meetings. We have been in the thick of it. 

Never have those hard yards been more important than this general election year. We secured some big wins, saving the sector more than £3.2bn in costs it would have had to find if ministers had not heard and, crucially, listened. We also achieved all the ambitions we set out at the start of the year – a future Brexit agreement and migration policy that will keep our teams supported, prices low and choice for consumers; a tax regime that promotes productivity and competitiveness and incentivises investment in people and property; and an industrial strategy that put hospitality front and centre in the drive for growth, business support and investment. 

The new government was elected on a manifesto that answered many of our key asks – root and branch reform of business rates, additional support for high-street hospitality, a cut in employment taxes and reform of NICs, action to tackle the digital disrupters and, most importantly, a fair migration regime for all skill levels. We look forward to working with ministers to deliver on their ambitious programme of investment and regeneration that was outlined in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech.

Our message to government? Unleash hospitality’s potential and you unleash the potential of local economies across the country. We are a world-class, world-beating sector of growth champions. We are outperforming the economy and investing in high streets and communities across the country. Our tourism sector attracts £27bn of foreign spend – an export earner that is larger than all food and drink exports put together and with significant growth potential. It gives us our social and cultural capital and sense of identity, our pubs and cafes create community hubs, our hotels are regenerating our seaside towns, and our tourist attractions are lifting and changing the face of many towns.

However, that success can’t be taken for granted. We can only continue to make that positive contribution if we tackle the regulatory costs and burdens that stand in our way. Our pledge to government – free us up to do what we do best and we’ll deliver our forecast 6% growth, 30,000 additional jobs and 200,000 apprenticeships. 

Earlier this year we secured the government’s backing as an engine of economic growth and career of choice through our ground-breaking Tourism & Hospitality Sector Deal – only the tenth sector to achieve that. This is more than symbolic, it’s an explicit endorsement of the sector as a career of choice, delivering good-quality jobs at all skill levels. The importance of government backing for an industry-led, three-year careers and recruitment campaign and new in-work training to improve productivity cannot be overstated and can’t come a moment too soon.

All this is a powerful and vivid demonstration of our core message – that hospitality is a substantive force for good addressing the concerns and challenges we face as a society. Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year to all Propel readers from all of us at UKHospitality – and thank you for your continued support. 
Kate Nicholls is chief executive of UKHospitality. This article is a version of her speech at this week’s UKHospitality Christmas lunch

Past glories by Glynn Davis

While the country’s new generation of craft brewers sit predominantly in unglamorous railway arches, their more established UK competitors are often housed in Victorian buildings that are things of great beauty – even to non-beer drinkers.

Many were built to a distinctive tower model where the production process begins at the top of the building and takes advantage of gravity as each stage of the brewing process moves down a level. For many long-standing breweries around the UK brewing continues within these structures but with modern methods sitting alongside a few traditional elements.

As well as having great architectural merit these buildings evoke a rich history and deliver the romanticism of brewing by harking back to a time when the UK’s industrial prowess was sold around the world. These structures remain a major landmark in the towns in which they sit, a reminder of past glories. 

On my travels I’ve enjoyed numerous visits to Victorian breweries including Harvey’s in Sussex, Shepherd Neame in Kent, Hall & Woodhouse in Dorset, Adnams in Suffolk, Timothy Taylor in Yorkshire, Hook Norton in Oxfordshire and Wadworth in Wiltshire. I could go on but there are far too many to list here. However, the number has been gradually reducing. While they look good, are they fit for purpose today? Wadworth’s recent announcement it will end production at its present site, which has been in operation since 1875, and move to a new-built brewery is not a rare one. 

The move follows a trend for long-established brewers to recalibrate their place in the modern-day brewing hierarchy, which typically pitches them between artisanal, small-scale craft brewers and the global giants. What many of these middle-ground brewers are finding to their cost is those Victorian structures aren’t ideal for delivering current business strategies.

In 2012, Hall & Woodhouse concluded its Victorian brewery was unsuitable for requirements and built a £5m facility next door, redeveloping its old site. It was a similar story at SA Brains’ brewery next to Cardiff train station. In 1999, the company moved from its town centre site to the former Hancocks Brewery, which was built in 1889. However, by 2017 Brains decided to move again and build a brewery a mile and a half from the city centre.

Against this backdrop the most interesting company to watch at the moment is Fuller’s, which sold its Griffin Brewery to Asahi earlier this year to focus on its pub estate and building a complementary accommodation component. The move was a big surprise, with initial concerns focusing on the potential loss of brewing at Fuller’s site in Chiswick, which has been producing beer since the mid-1800s.

At the time of the sale Fuller’s admitted it didn’t see the brewery as a viable element of its business but called on the new owners to commit to continuing brewing at the site, which Asahi did.

However, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear an announcement at some point – perhaps soon – that brewing will be wound down at Griffin. As well as the constrained nature of the site, which limits expansion, Asahi’s global capabilities allow it to brew Fuller’s beers at multiple locations should it wish. Meanwhile, the Chiswick site offers high redevelopment value.

While it would be a sad day to see the end of Fuller’s beer being brewed in London, or production reduced to mere token levels, I don’t think anyone could deny there are multiple reasons why Asahi would make such a decision. No doubt other brewers with gloriously evocative structures will be wrestling with such hard-headed, unsentimental decisions about how they move forward.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

How to win by Ann Elliott

The Times’ analysis of the Conservative general election win made fascinating reading last weekend. The team behind the campaign treated the Tory party like a brand that wanted to take massive market share and dominate its sector. There are methods in their approach brand-owners in our sector could find relevant, interesting and applicable in their own business.

The Times reported the Tories had a framework for its election strategy based on what Dominic Cummings believed was an out-of-touch London elite taking working-class voters for granted. Having a strategy is expected, of course, but the Tories’ crushing victory is vindication of a ruthless strategy Boris Johnson’s team stuck to solidly during the campaign, whatever rapidly changing scenario they faced. In other words, they had a clear path to victory.

The party had patently run a number of focus groups supported by continuous quantitative polling and understood their voters (for that, read customers) in-depth. The focus groups revealed the “get Brexit done” slogan not only appealed to Brexiteers but also those who wanted to “move on”. Focus group feedback leading up to the 2016 referendum seems to have laid the foundation for this election strategy. Cummings used it to channel dissatisfaction in the direction of Brussels while promising something better. 

When Corbyn announced he would be neutral in any second referendum, focus groups saw it as weak, with one voter labelling it “pathetic”. Understanding the mood, needs, wants and expectations of their target market seems to have been pivotal in the Conservative victory.

The party established clear rules of command. The Times reported: “From the off, the team united behind Isaac Levido. Dominic Cummings deferred to him along with the rest of the Downing Street team. The line of authority was crystal clear, and it stopped with Isaac.” This meant it was clear who was leading the charge and they wouldn’t tolerate challenges to that single-minded focus – witness the treatment of Alun Cairns and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Once the team agreed their message they had a “ruthless determination” to stick to it – and the approach paid dividends. According to The Times the party presented voters with a clear choice between getting it done or more dithering and delay. Labour, by comparison, presented voters with mixed messages and policies designed to appeal to different groups, which seems to have confused voters.

Levido said: “When someone walks into a polling booth they’re answering a question. The successful campaign frames the question voters were asking. What question was Labour asking?”

The communication of the get Brexit done message was consistent. The party didn’t engage with or respond to Labour’s policy announcements and “glut of retail offers such as free broadband” but continued to hammer home the “cost of Corbyn” and “catastrophic risk” posed to the economy. The Conservative manifesto was deliberately slimmed down with contentious policies ditched to maintain focus on the message. 

Social media was critical in the Tory campaign and seems to have been led by two twenty-something New Zealanders who, The Times said, have a “creative and frequently controversial approach” to social media. Their most successful videos were a political broadcast of Boris answering quick-fire questions while making a cup of tea and the Love Actually skit. 

The Tories followed a well-trod, textbook path to success – have a clear objective and develop a strategy that delivers it; be clear about who leads the initiative and where responsibility lies; ensure the team buys into the objective and strategy; listen (and understand) the target market and don’t impose your own self-limited beliefs on what they are telling you; build clear, simple messages and communicate them consistently and creatively; and monitor results regularly to ensure the activity is on track.

There are many leaders in our sector who do the same with their business and create sustainable brands that deliver outstanding results. Perhaps they, actually, provided the Tory party with the inspiration?
Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliotts, the leading integrated marketing agency in the hospitality and leisure sector – www.elliottsagency.com

More than face value by Nicole Goodwin

What gets my wheels turning? Staying power. Visiting friends last month I realised three of us were wearing Converse trainers – myself, a friend, my godson (a tween) and his mother. How has Converse got it so right? The brand has been around for more than a century but still manages to make it cool for a child and a grown-up to wear the same style of shoe. Just about everyone I know owns or used to own a pair of Converse.
 
The company’s journey has had its ups and downs but, even after filing for bankruptcy and being purchased by Nike, it was able to continue its transformation from a trainer to lifestyle footwear that speaks to all walks of life. From athletes to rock stars and people on the street, Converse has stayed true to its style. Last year a pair of Converse worn by basketball legend Michael Jordan sold for more than $190,000. That’s pretty impressive.
 
As a marketer for the past 20 years it’s difficult to get that part of my brain to switch off. It’s like working in hospitality when it almost, I say almost, ruins your restaurant experience when you’re constantly distracted by what’s being done right and, more annoyingly, wrong. We all crave that perfect experience and that is what’s at the heart of success – experiences.
 
At Mast-Jaegermeister UK our core spirit brand, Jägermeister, targets the “fickle generation” – millennials and Generation Z. I’m often asked how you get this age group to convert to your brand or, even more challenging, remain loyal. There’s no matter of fact answer but there is a golden rule – don’t get stuck.
 
Here are my top three tips for getting it right.
 
Content is only king if it’s relevant and in the right context: Generation Z has the most free time of all of the age groups, which means they have more time to engage. They are always on, receptive, and unforgiving. The challenge is they use different touch-points throughout the day so it’s important for brands to be present but relevant for the occasion. They are looking for one to one content not something that speaks to the masses. 
 
Don’t over-complicate it: There are no “new” ideas out there, it’s about changing with the times, staying authentic to your brand and appearing in places where your consumers expect you to be. Keep it consistent, fresh and, again, relevant. Don’t pigeon-hole Generation Z, they are a multitude of different cells. They belong to different tribes and are open and honest about that so it’s important to stay authentic to the brand and make sure your activity is a good fit for you. It’s about being aspirational and inspirational. Consumers are looking for attainable achievements.
 
You’re only as good as your last good campaign: This is your opportunity to make them loyal for life. That’s a big statement but get it right and you’re on the right path. Don’t do something for the sake of it, have substance to why you do what you do. With two-thirds of media spend targeting this age group, it’s important to understand something’s “viewability”. The average consumer wants to engage with sound bites that are quick and shareable – 30-second clips max. They don’t want the minutia.
Nicole Goodwin is marketing director of Mast-Jaegermeister UK

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