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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 9th Oct 2015 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: The keys to reviving a foodservice brand, a country-wide love affair with food and highs and lows in foodservice
Authors: Chris Edger and Tony Hughes, Glynn Davis and Ann Elliott

Our keys to reviving a foodservice brand by Chris Edger and Tony Hughes

We would argue that there are a number of key qualifying factors in sparking a foodservice brand revival.

Paint a picture: The first thing that the brand reviver should do is awaken the organisation to the enormous market opportunity that still remains, whilst emphasising the ‘pain’ that people will have to go through in order to crystallise it. To this extent the brand reviver’s role is remarkably similar to that of the originator in the ‘creation’ phase of the brand. The brand reviver must cast a ‘narrative spell’ over his/her followers with a compelling vision for the future of the brand. This is more effectively achieved through stories that paint a picture of the ‘Promised Land’ destination – making the discomfort of journey seem somehow palatable – rather than just rational ‘dry’ explanations and numbers. 

Big objectives: Nevertheless, given that the brand reviver is attempting to transform the organisation (s)he must effect a paradigm shift in attitudes and behaviours by putting in place bold goals and objectives. Why? They return the enterprise back to its pioneering start-up and roll-out phase when brand members were encouraged to believe that anything was possible. By putting aspirational objectives in place the brand reviver is signalling that (s)he is intent on step-changing the organisation and that anybody who ‘stays on-board the bus’ is going to have to dramatically ‘up their game’, Naturally these objectives – whilst stretching – should be within the realms of possibility, backed up with a credible plan as to how they might be achieved. 

Potent symbolism: In order to get a fast start the brand reviver can take a number of quick actions that will symbolise the fact that ‘things are going to be different around here’. If (s)he has inherited a bureaucratic/ossified organisation (s)he can immediately set the new tone by despatching decisions swiftly and holding brief, purposeful meetings where people are held individually to account for what has been agreed collectively. Instant reductions in, and removal of, hierarchy, deference and status will also have a profound effect on brand member perceptions regarding fairness, equity and openness. Brand revivers never underestimate the potency of making quick symbolic changes that, first, signal the way in which they want business to be professionally transacted during their tenure and, second, set the ‘behavioural’ foundations for major transformational change further down the line. 

Multi-disciplinary team: Academic frameworks envisage a ‘guiding coalition’ coming together to act as a major catalyst for change. We go beyond this, by suggesting that brand revivers – if they are to stand any chance of success during their transformational mission – require a team of ‘all the talents’ in order to reignite the brand. Why? What needs to be done – both in terms of sharpening execution and refreshing the proposition requires a multitude of key skills and capabilities. It is advisable, however, that the brand reviver does not solely draw upon other outsiders to populate his/her new multi-disciplinary team. A blend of both insiders (who tacitly understand the brand’s archaeology and culture) and outsiders (who possess professional expertise that fills ‘gaps’ in the organisation’s capability) should be melded together by the brand reviver to achieve a ‘best of each’ scenario. For sure, if the brand reviver relies only upon ‘his/her team’ of turnaround outsiders (s)he will – most likely – alienate the rest of the organisation, setting up a ‘them and us’ situation which will impede efforts for a (relatively) quick transformation. 

It is often assumed by many managers that the hardest part of any business transformation is the restructuring process which involves reallocating and rationalising tasks and roles. However, these visible changes are far easier to implement than the main determinants of transformational success; namely, behaviours and culture. These are highly intangible and invisible forces which the brand reviver must address, transitioning brand members swiftly through the ‘change curve’ so that they think and act in a manner consistent with the realities of the new organisational paradigm. The factors above will assist in shifting behaviours but what are the differentiators for brand revivers attempting to galvanise the organisation into rapid action? 

Personal sacrifice: The main thing that characterises successful brand revivers is their ability to demonstrate and endure authentic personal sacrifice during the transformation process, signalling a ‘we’re all in it together’ mentality. Working long hours, expending tremendous amounts of energy and ‘taking’ little in return (i.e. spurning or re-distributing large short-term personal bonuses and incentives) the brand reviver inspires genuine followership during the tough tasks and choices that lie ahead. (S)he does not make sacrifices that are token gestures that are exposed as opportunistic PR exercises further on down the line (in Annual Report disclosures for instance) but real sacrifices that are respected and imitated by brand members during what can be a tough and brutal process of revival.

Eliminate saboteurs: The second most important thing that marks out effective brand revivers is their ability to ‘smoke out’ and despatch saboteurs intent on derailing the transformation process. Generally there are four types of resistors during change programmes; protestors (who openly declare their opposition to change), zombies (who have no opinions of their own and are easily led by opponents of change), survivors (who maintain a self-interested strategy of ‘malevolent silence’) and saboteurs (who covertly conspire and undermine). Of these categories saboteurs are the most dangerous because they wilfully (and secretly) scheme to block and derail any changes that threaten their own position or the status quo. In order to flush out this enemy the brand reviver must – in addition to monitoring behaviours – examine hard outcomes. Where is the change being blocked, halted or diluted? By whom and when? (S)he must then act decisively to move malevolent saboteurs from the ‘field of play’. 

Over-index recognition: Another feature of effective brand revivers is their public recognition of great follower behaviours and practices during the transformation process. There is a need for brand leaders to recognise outstanding effort though ‘tangible’ rewards that the recipients can show their peers, friend and families, thereby increasing their levels of pride and self-esteem. Revivers make a conscious effort to follow this practice during this transformation stage, not only to reward genuine achievement but also to ensure the organisation recognises that (s)he is willing to give ‘credit where it is due’ rather than selfishly seeking all the plaudits themselves!
Chris Edger is the UK’s leading teacher and author on multi-site leadership – he teaches at Birmingham City University. Tony Hughes is the former managing director of Mitchells & Butlers restaurants division. The article above is extracted from “Effective brand leadership – be different, stay different or perish”, a book they have co-authored that will be published in 2016

UK consumers’ love affair with food is a county-wide affair by Glynn Davis

When growing up in Yorkshire in the 1970s my family ate out reasonably regularly – especially on those big occasions like Christmas Day, Mother’s Day and Easter Sunday – but we were a real rarity at the time.

People didn’t really do that sort of thing. Disposable income (as limited as it was) wasn’t really disposed of on meals out and so the restaurant industry was not that developed – particularly in the provinces. Even with the inclination to dine out the options were somewhat limited and variable in quality. The pub was largely where the biggest chunk of money was spent on leisure – and this was purely devoted to alcohol and maybe the odd packet of crisps.

We’ve clearly come on a long way from that 1970s scenario when you read numbers like those recently released from AlixPartners and CGA Peach that highlight how a net 1,770 new restaurants opened in just the last 12 months. 

There are now 27,500 (licensed) restaurants in the UK, which has now surpassed the total of wet-led community pubs, which number 26,700. The former grew 6.9% compared with a decline in the latter of 4.4%.

The restaurant really has come of age in the UK. Food in this country is no longer seen as the joke it was for many years by tourists and visitors. We have slowly regained our food heritage. Part of the suppression of this in modern times has probably been the rise of the supermarket that ensured the vibrancy, colour, romance and passion was kept out of our food psyche.

They packaged it up into a sterile experience and convinced shoppers that they didn’t really like shopping for food. To help us deal with this chore they would very generously speed us through their superstores as quickly as possible. We wouldn’t have to dirty our hands shopping for nasty old foodstuffs.

This strategy worked for a while (as they grew to account for the bulk of our food shopping) but over the past few years we’ve regained our love for food. Farmers markets began popping up and the eating out-of-home market has exploded.

As well as on the high streets, this phenomenon has also been noticeable in our shopping centres. Food and beverage offers had been pretty grim but led by Australian outfit Westfield they began to recognise the attraction of providing a hefty chunk of differentiated restaurants and bars in their shopping malls. Not only did it attract more people to the centres – to then spend time in the retailers’ stores – but dwell time was massively increased as people could spend their whole day in the mall.

At the heart of this growth has undoubtedly been the branded restaurant chains, where the bulk of the growth in outlet numbers has come from, according to AlixPartners and CGA Peach. Where once it was only PizzaExpress that had a national presence we now have numerous brands including ASK, Nando’s, Strada, Carluccio’s and Wagamama to name but a few.

Six of the 20 fastest growing categories across all retail sectors are food and beverage, with Costa, Subway and Bill’s noteworthy for their growth. It is not surprising therefore that as the appeal of the supermarkets’ large hypermarkets has waned (partly due to growing online sales) they have sought to bump-up their consume-on-premise food and beverage offers.

This has been led by Tesco – with its purchase of Harris + Hoole and Giraffe – but it has largely been a disappointing effort because arguably the major grocers’ hearts (excluding Waitrose and Booth’s) are still really not in food and consumers maybe instinctively recognise this.

It suggests they will face more problems as the appetite for food with provenance continues to grow. Consumers increasingly want to consume food and drink that is created with passion and where they know something about the origin of the ingredients.

This is leading to a boom in the market for independents and street food, which is where the real innovation is now being seen. This represents a growing challenge to the branded restaurant chains that have been enjoying booming times of late.

Consider that over the past five years to June an additional 15,629 leisure outlets have opened (up 15%) and that of these as many as 12,070 are run by independents. This is double the expansion of the chains, according to Local Data Company figures. You now even have an evolving programme of food trucks selling their wares within Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds.

This provides proof that our burgeoning re-affirmed love for food is a countrywide affair. Over the past year central London saw a healthy 3.3% increase in openings but this has been outstripped by cities like Glasgow, Cardiff, and Bristol where growth has been around the 5% level and in Birmingham it has been an impressive 5.5%.

This is certainly a far cry from my time eating out in Yorkshire in the 1970s. Good old days? I’m not so sure.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

Good and bad experiences in foodservice by Ann Elliott

Eating out in the past two weeks has thrown up a wide range of experiences. Here’s my highs and lows:

Best service recovery: This has to go to All Bar One in Cheltenham on Sunday. Our pancakes arrived without banana. Not really ‘shock horror’ I have to admit but annoying to a banana-lover all the same. The waitress took our plates away and then brought them back saying ‘We don’t have any bananas so we’ve put raspberries on instead’. Unfortunately though, for the kitchen, the menu description included raspberries too. Sorry to be so anal. Long and short of it, we did get the whole breakfast for free (though it would have been nice to have had a smile or hello from some of the management team on duty as well as our stray bananas).

Best opening: We went to the opening of Banyan in Manchester last week which was pretty awesome. Lethal cocktails, phenomenal atmosphere with the young and beautiful from the city and stylish and gorgeous food. Loved it. It’s a big move for Arc Inspirations to go across the Pennines but it will do well.

Best B & B: Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse B & B is fantastic – fabulous views, wonderful beds, big, hearty breakfasts and the friendliest of hosts. A stark contrast with the YHA stay in Brighton a few weeks ago it has to be said. And it has access to the amazing gardens of Vita Sackville West.

Worst meal: Dinner at the Circus Bar in Cheltenham. Like being transported back to pub food of the 1950’s – it’s a long time since I have left so much on my plate. Virtually inedible. It’s a Sam Smiths pub (I think) so the beer was great but order food with care. We were in Cheltenham for the Literary Festival – Martha Lane Fox and Sandi Toskvig were my favourites and took my mind off this dismal experience.

Best buffet: I am usually fairly damning of hotel restaurants in general but the buffet at The Grove in Watford is really good with an enormous range of serve yourself food as well as food cooked to order by chefs who seem very proud of their wok expertise. Whilst the room layout and table settings are pretty ordinary, the hotel really tries to make this environment as welcoming as they can and the service was incredibly friendly and normal.

Best meal overall: Bit of a toss-up between Brasserie Blanc in Cheltenham and The Milk House in Kent but all-in-all the former won with a superb cauliflower soup and a really tasty crepe francomptoise. In fact, everything about the meal was great – building, atmosphere, service and food.

Worst value for money: Had breakfast yesterday in the Booking office in the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and paid £57 for breakfast, of which £20 was for two pots of tea. The tables are too small, the plates are too large and the portion sizes don’t fit the plates. Lovely setting but even so did feel I was being taken for a ride.

Best country pub: I didn’t realise that The Fox near Stevenage was owned by Anglian Country Inns but it all made sense when I found out. It’s a beautifully furnished contemporary pub that was full of ladies who lunch on the day I went there (that group does not include me). The food was absolutely fantastic with big (perhaps too big) hearty portions served by really lovely team members. Worth a visit to the countryside.

Best London eating place: Without doubt, this was KuPP ( in Merchant Square, Paddington. This has been developed by Steve Cox at Faucet Inns. It’s the most wonderful of settings next to a stand-alone Marks & Spencer cafe and a PizzaExpress. It looks fantastic and feels different, fresh and exciting. The menu was exciting and the food itself was inventively presented. I think this is one concept to watch for roll out.

All-in-all some fantastic experiences up and down the country if you exclude dry pie and expensive tea.
Ann Elliott is chief executive of leading sector public relations and marketing agency Elliotts –

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