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Fri 18th Jun 2021 - BrewDog founder James Watt orders independent review and takes ‘100%’ blame for ‘toxic culture’
BrewDog founder James Watt orders independent review and takes ‘100%’ blame for ‘toxic culture’: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has announced plans to launch an independent review into allegations of a “rotten culture” at the business, with co-founder James Watt apologising for a series of mistakes saying it was "100% my fault". Watt, the main target of a critical open letter from former employees, which described a “culture of fear” at the company, said the business would appoint an independent agency to review “our culture and people practices to ensure we can make positive and inclusive change”. In a letter to staff, subsequently posted on Linkedin, Watt said: “I know the events from the past few days have caused a lot of pain for all of our team members and our community and I can only apologise for that. I am ultimately responsible for the culture of our business. The letter that ex-colleagues wrote to us is 100% my fault. To all of the signatories and to all of our team and community who were affected by the letter, I am sorry. I want to be very candid about some mistakes that I have made that have detrimentally impacted our culture. In the hard and fast environment of high growth, I have all too often neglected many important people elements of our business. Furthermore, despite surviving covid-19 due to a phenomenal effort from our amazing team I had to make some very hard decisions to ensure our survival and these decisions have taken a considerable human toll on our business and had a negative impact. Additionally, some PR mistakes that I have made in our past have also had a detrimental impact on culture. I can promise I will not make these mistakes again. I can’t possibly have all the answers at the moment but my commitment to our team is that I am going to throw my heart and soul into working with them to fix these issues. We can and will get better as an employer and here are the first steps we are taking on that journey. We’re going to start by listening to everyone. We’ll conduct an anonymous staff survey to paint a comprehensive picture of the BrewDog culture at every level. We are also very close to appointing an independent agency to conduct a review of our culture and people practices to ensure we can make positive and inclusive change at all levels of our business. We’ll share the high-level findings of the review internally and externally before the end of the year and as part of the process and we will also reach out to the people who signed that letter to give them a voice. We will move quickly, but we also want to take the time to get this right. We are finalising action plans with each team on the output and feedback from the anonymous Times Top 100 survey, our plan is to share the key themes with our teams in the next week or so, and to be very clear on the specific actions we are taking in the areas highlighted for improvement. It is clear there are some areas of our business where we are too lean. We are conducting a full review with each department head of team structures over the coming weeks, to identify the key pinch points, and to put a plan in place to properly resource these areas. There are some elements of our package and benefits that due to complexity and regulatory issues, we have struggled to ensure are in place in all international parts of our business. We are actively resolving these issues as we speak and we will update our international teams directly on progress. Exit interviews will be sent to all leavers from the past 12 months, this will happen in the next 14 days. Exit interviews will be introduced for every single leaver moving forward also. We intend to listen better to every voice and welcome all feedback as an opportunity to improve. Our annual salary review from January was postponed as a result of the ongoing impact of the covid lockdown at the start of the year. We are now scheduling for this to happen, with our aim to have changes in place for the 1 July. We are pulling together plans to form an employee representative group. Designed to ensure that moving forward our employees have a clear voice, and a connection directly to those in the business making strategic decisions about the future direction of BrewDog. To ensure we have the correct resource and guidance in this area, to make it very clear how our teams can progress and develop their careers in BrewDog, and to set a clear learning and development strategy for the months and years ahead, we have started recruitment for someone to lead this area within the HQ Beer part of our business. We have also recently appointed a head of training for our bars business, who will soon join us also. These are just the first steps, and we’ll keep everyone updated with further actions that result from this listening and learning phase. The correct way to approach this situation, is to focus all our energy on how we can use this as a platform to think differently, challenging ourselves to build a team and company that we can all continue to be very proud to be a part of. Although this situation hurts a lot I am determined to ensure that we use it as a catalyst to become a better business.” The open letter, from a group of former employees calling themselves Punks with Purpose, accused Watt of propagating a culture of fear that had left many former workers “burnt out, afraid and miserable”. In response to Watt’s latest statement, it said: “While we hope this statement can bring some measure of closure to former staff, we have seen hollow apologies in the past. We are not going away.” The number of former BrewDog staff who have signed the open letter has grown from 60 to more than 300 since it was first published last week.

Food-led business dominate new entries on updated Propel Premium database of multi-site companies this month: Food-led businesses are dominating the make-up of the new companies being added to the Propel Premium multi-site database in June. The updated database, which has the most comprehensive information on multi-site operators in the sector, will include a minimum of 63 new companies when it is released on Wednesday, 30 June, at midday. New additions with a food-led bias include 202 Kitchen, a Birmingham-based restaurant concept inspired by the “trapbox” trend – serving comforting soul food piled up in a metal box. It runs a site in Birmingham and has opened another site in Manchester’s Spinningfields. Maggie Fu is a Liverpool-based Asian street food restaurant business that opened second site at Hanover Street, Liverpool ONE. The Pudding Pantry is a Nottingham-based coffee shop and dessert restaurant that opened its third site in High Road, Beeston. Available only to subscribers, the exhaustive database was most recently sent at the end of May and included the details of 1,819 companies. The go-to database provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different, and what each business specialises in. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. In this week’s Premium Opinion column, which will be sent to subscribers today (Friday, 18 June) at 5pm, Jasper Reid, the founder of IMM, which advises brands on international expansion and owns the Wendy’s and Jamie Oliver restaurant chains in India, looks at the growth of the QSR and delivery kitchen sectors in India. Meanwhile, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett looks at the repercussions of the decision to delay “Freedom Day” by a month. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.

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