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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 16th Sep 2016 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Michelin-starred chefs reaping the benefits of sticking close to home, understanding wine consumers, and ten thoughts on getting the best out of your business
Authors: Glynn Davis, Paul Waller, and Ann Elliott

Michelin-starred chefs reaping the benefits of sticking close to home by Glynn Davis

Michelin-starred chef Andrew Pern has a Twitter account called @Pernshire that is a tongue-in-cheek invented name for a small part of Yorkshire that houses a number of his acclaimed restaurants. He has just announced the opening of a new addition to the family alongside Whitby harbour. This sounds not too dissimilar to another location at the other end of the country in Cornwall, which is jokingly referred to as “Padstein”. It’s where television chef and seafood specialist Rick Stein has built an empire of restaurants and numerous other eating establishments.
 
It is a similar scenario in the Cumbrian village of Cartmel that is home to one of the country’s finest chefs Simon Rogan. Anybody who is interested in eating out will have either made the pilgrimage to his multi-coursed Michelin-starred jewel L’Enclume or will likely have it on their agenda. But this is just one of a number of places he operates in the tiny village. Like Stein, he is building something of an empire although this has not led to the village being referred to as something like “Cartogan” just yet.
 
This concentrated expansionary activity is an interesting phenomenon whereby very successful chefs build significant presences in specific locations to the point that their names become almost synonymous with those areas and they prove to be major visitor attractions – beloved of their local tourist boards no doubt. It sounds extremely sensible to expand within tight perimeters. There is none of the loss of control that can come from having too much distance between establishments, which can be massively destructive for independent chef/owners as they take on additional outlets beyond the venue that made their name.
 
All too often the focus can shift a little heavily towards the new unit where the A-team is frequently drafted in, which has a detrimental effect on the established joint. Close proximity also makes it so much easier to move employees around and thereby offer promotions where applicable. The tight expansion strategy is most effective when different propositions are in evidence at each of the restaurants. This is most obvious in Padstow where Stein has quite literally taken over the town with a full portfolio of differing units that absolutely cover all the bases. In the mix is the high-end Seafood Restaurant that started it all for Stein, along with a bistro, bar, deli, and fish and seafood bar and a couple of places to stay too.
 
The key for Stein has been not to move too far from the initial offer – although he has managed to also open a patisserie and gift shop! Doing so can be problematical. Rogan also briefly operated a pub in Cartmel, the Pig & Whistle, but this didn’t last particularly long as it didn’t provide the right platform for his combination of foraged ingredients and intricate food style. Visitors were disappointed to find pub standards on the menu that were a world away from the dishes he serves at L’Enclume. You can clearly only stretch it so far if you are aligned very closely with a certain style of cooking.
 
More successful has been the brasserie offer, Rogan & Company. Not only did this enable him to broaden his offer in the village but when he also added rooms to the portfolio of interests then it suddenly opened up the opportunity to offer two-night package deals with accommodation along with a dinner in each of the restaurants. Again this very much follows in the footsteps of Stein. The fact you could stay in Padstow – at one of his boutique guest houses – and eat out for a week in different Stein-owned establishments must do his bank account the world of good. It also undoubtedly helps drive visitors to the Cornish town – especially when the main man has just featured in another of his popular television series.
 
This expansion into other avenues is just the way it is for a number of acclaimed chefs who’ve worked long and hard hours in Michelin-star kitchens. The reality for these chefs is – you can have your fancy Michelin stars but do they make you any money? Not really. It’s like an Olympic gold medal. It’s all about the glory and then hopefully the rewards will follow through from other revenue streams. And in some cases you almost get to have a town named after you.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends 
 

Understanding wine consumers by Paul Waller

Wine remains an incredibly important category for bars, pubs and restaurants in the UK. In fact, it’s worth £4.2bn a year and it’s in growth. At Crown Cellars, the specialist wine and spirits division of Carlsberg UK, we continually investigate key trends to ensure we provide the best range and advice to our on-trade customers. For our most recent project, we partnered with drinks and licensed trade research experts Cardinal to conduct a wine mirror study with more than 1,000 wine consumers and 500 outlets representing a broad cross-section of the on-trade, to discover whether there is any disconnect between them.
 
Overwhelmingly, the research revealed that there are two groups of customers who have very different attitudes towards wine. These two groups are differentiated by generations: millennials – or those born between the 1980s and 2000s – and those over 30.
 
Give me choice 
 
One thing both groups have in common is that they would like more choice. However what they want to see on a menu can differ. Millennials want a style they recognise as they enter the category, after which they’re more likely to explore and won’t have the same misconceptions as older drinkers, for example they are much more likely to try German wine. Older wine consumers are more experienced and know what they like – this group wants to see a tiered range of their favourites.
 
When choosing the “right” wines, there is a need to cater for these differing preferences. More than one in four millennials wanted to see more Chardonnay while almost one in five over 30s wanted to see more Cabernet Sauvignon. Our research showed that multiple retailers are particularly in tune with what consumers want and have a strong appetite to list varietals that are more reflective of current consumer trends. For example almost three times as many multiple operators were considering listing more Chardonnay and the same number for Cabernet Sauvignon. A key challenge for operators is to offer more choice without adding further complexity. This means carefully selecting a range, rather than providing a vast list that could be perceived as intimidating.
 
On average, customers wanted to see about 13 wines on a restaurant list, and as few as seven on a wet-led menu. In trade however, a significant number of outlets are listing many more. 49% of multi-site operators and 39% of independent free trade retailers list between 20 and 49 wines. In addition, 25% of independent free trade and 20% of multi-site operators stock more than 50 wines!
 
Navigation
 
Wine is a rich and diverse category, but with this comes complexity, and the consistent message from customers of all ages was “help me navigate”. In this area, when it comes to getting the basics right, the multiple retailers stood head and shoulders above the majority of the trade with almost 100% having a wine list in place compared with wet-led independent and leased outlets where less than 60% had one.
 
In addition, more multiple retailers listed their wine by style, which was the number one factor for millennials when choosing a wine. By contrast there was a disconnect between multiple retailers in terms of the importance of regionality, with more than 30% placing this as their top factor for customer choice, but just 11% of millennials said this was the most important factor for them.
 
Consumers are more likely to try a new wine if they are offered a small taster before they buy and this can work particularly well for the over 50s who trust their own palate – 40% said this was an important factor in choosing wine. However the trade significantly underestimates the importance of tasters and, one could argue, could take some learnings from other categories such as craft beer. Less than 20% of multi-site operators saw this as an important factor.
 
We also questioned the trade about training and while 90% of the multi-site operators offer at least a basic level of training, less than 30% of the rest of the trade did. Interestingly, our research also showed that consumers don’t tend to ask pub staff for advice on wine. We suspect this is because, although the multiple retailers are investing time and money in training, the majority of the trade is not, so consumers are unaware that some pubs will have this knowledge. Surely there are some easy wins for multiple operators here to differentiate themselves by shouting about their wine expertise?

There were some interesting learnings from the research but the key outtakes were:
 
Be focused – make sure your list offers the choice your customers demand without overwhelming them
Be clear – focus on flavour and style rather than region
Be proud – make sure you highlight the fact your staff have undergone wine training and are confident and correct in their advice
Paul Waller is director of Third Party Brands at Carlsberg UK

Ten thoughts on getting the best out of your business by Ann Elliott

In the lovely heat of last week, I was sat having a beer with a friend outside her cafe, when she said to me: “If you had this place, what would you do with it?” Friendships are very important to me so I thought I would think about it first before saying anything – here is what I want to say to her (any comments are very welcome).
 
1. If this were mine, I would put my vision down for the business on one piece of paper so that I have some lights to guide my way and to judge everything by. This would probably distil into three or four key words that everyone (me, team, investors, customers) could understand so they too would come to say “ that fits our brand” or “that’s not what we do around here”. This vision and these words would then help determine everything to do with the offer – branding, interior design, food and drink offer, service, and atmosphere.
 
2. I would have a picture in my mind (and put on paper) of my customers and how I think they would use this place – what they look like, where they live, what they do and what they would eat and drink when here. I’d walk the streets to see where they go now and develop some ideas on how I can give them a better experience so they really look forward to coming here (and want to keep coming back).
 
3. I would recruit people I liked and who had the right attitude to help me run the business – starting with the manager. I would want a team that is joyful, optimistic, glass half-full, energetic, friendly, and not care about their backgrounds or career to date because the training would be second to none.
 
4. I would talk to other operators about the best operating standards and procedures to put in place because this isn’t really my forte. Others are much better at this than me but I know it’s important. Tim Bacon once said to me that he put process in place as if he trusted no one and whilst that’s not my life philosophy, I think it would be useful here.
 
5. The external appearance of the cafe would be critical – it’s that first impression piece. Chairs and tables, window decals, flowers, awnings all have to fit with the three brand words and tell customers what to expect, which then has to follow through internally. I would write a brief for an internal designer friend (another thing I can’t do myself) and develop an interior that fits my vision, which customers will like and my team can work in (and have the best loos in town). The original Loungers philosophy of interior design and supply chain really appeals to me.
 
6. Of course the offer has to fit with the vision. The team, and perhaps a nice group of potential customers, has a really positive role to play in developing this. Pricing has to fit the competitive environment but also reflect the quality of the offer and the margin I want to earn.
 
7. To open, I would do absolutely everything I could to ensure that the customers I want to get in know about this place and want to give it a try. The team and I would have to visit all local shops, offices, organisations, clubs and societies, press, schools and universities, churches, hairdressers, taxi ranks, local government offices, hotels, giving out samples and information. We would take email addresses and build all that information into a database so we could keep in regular contact. I would have as many opening parties for the community/neighbourhood as possible – the more the merrier.
 
8. I think a database is vital so I would aim to build this as quickly and efficiently as possible. My website would have to be the best from day one and be as interactive as possible. With the team, I would develop a content plan and would have (hopefully) recruited team members who can implement that for the cafe on a daily basis.
 
9. Once everything is up and running, then it would be really important to get constant feedback from team and customers and not just rely on TripAdvisor. I would have to make this a regular process piece and to act on what I heard.
 
10. I would then sit back and enjoy (as if).
 
Anything I’ve missed before I give her my thoughts?
Ann Elliott is chief executive of leading PR and marketing company Elliotts – www.elliottsagency.com

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