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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 21st Feb 2020 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Line management, learning from leaders, and ten tips to stay compliant 
Authors: Glynn Davis, Ann Elliott and Malcolm Muir

Line management by Glynn Davis

Upmarket leather goods-maker Goyard has a compact store in Mayfair’s Mount Street that always has a queue outside snaking down the road. This isn’t simply down to the store’s popularity with global fashionistas, it’s also due to Goyard’s policy that only allows the same number of people into its store as there are employees on the shop floor. This ensures each customer receives one-to-one service but with the downside they have to queue for the privilege.

Goyard’s products are too expensive for my taste but I would fail to make it over the threshold anyway due to my aversion to queuing. I find it difficult to wait for a coffee if it looks as though the preparation time will be anything more than a couple of minutes. Of course I’ll accept having to wait for certain things, such as seeing my overstretched doctor, but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in finding standing in line for food and drink a waste of my time.  

This has put me in a frustrating position over the years because many of the more highly rated and cutting edge operators inevitably seem to have a queue outside their premises or food stall/truck. Nowadays it seems anything half decent comes with a waiting time attached. At last week’s Propel Leadership Summit there was a definite theme among the successful presenters – lengthy queues outside their premises.

The founders of Dishoom, The Breakfast Club and Farmer J all said it was great to be so popular they generated long queues outside their restaurants. However, they equally recognised the negative impact on the overall service their customers might receive.

Each of those operators, along with other serious queue-generators such as Padella and Kricket, have vastly differing propositions and venue sizes and each deals with queues in their own way. With today’s technology it’s possible to operate virtual queuing systems such as WalkIn, which is used by Kricket and The Breakfast Club among others. The app messages customers when a table becomes available, which enables diners to have a drink elsewhere while they wait. 

The owners of popular Soho restaurant The Palomar recognised this scenario as a missed opportunity, leading them to take on The Blue Posts pub two doors down so they can direct waiting customers to the pub or its upstairs cocktail bar while they wait for a table.

The owners of South African restaurant Kudu took a similar approach because their 37-cover south London restaurant is fully booked most nights of the week and tables are turned once during a service. To accommodate waiting customers they opened cocktail bar Smokey Kudu a hop, skip and a jump from the restaurant. The Kricket team has also expressed an interest in taking on a wet-led venue to support its massively popular Soho restaurant.

Clearly these operators are clever at generating extra revenue and, no doubt, goodwill from customers by handling their popularity in this way. Obviously finding an available unit nearby is no small matter in major cities such as London so perhaps there’s an opportunity for restaurants to collaborate with nearby pubs and bars by striking a deal that is economically beneficial to both parties. I’ve yet to see any examples of such partnerships but it seems an eminently creative and sensible approach.

All operators lucky enough to generate queues should considers such solutions because I can’t help but feel any place with a perennial line outside has failed to consider their customers’ overall experience. Perhaps they feel good about the queues – it’s visible proof to backers and prospective customers they are running extremely successful joints. 

However, we all know popularity can be fleeting so it might be a good idea for today’s most popular operators to look after their customers a bit more before someone new comes along and steals their queue.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

Learning from leaders by Ann Elliott

The Leadership Conference we held last week with Propel was fantastic and featured the most amazing group of speakers, with every one having something valuable to say on the subject.

It was apparent, and interesting to note, there isn’t a single set of characteristics required to become a great leader – the perfect leader in one organisation could be a misfit at another. A leader who has set up their own business from scratch won’t necessarily be the right leader for a business with more than 500 sites backed by venture capital. That said, there were some common themes.

Vision/purpose: Leaders were clear on the subject – a leader has to start with purpose and a clear plan and bring their team with them by building genuine (for that, read outside work) relationships. Wagamama chief executive Emma Woods is a great fan of author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek and his advocacy of having a reason “why” in any business. Crussh chief executive Shane Kavanagh supported that, believing a leader has to have their own “why”, which has to be clearly articulated throughout the organisation. He said every business move should be aligned with it and, at Crussh, the company’s “why” had remained consistent while its “what” was flexible, enabling the brand to expand into new routes to market.

Value-led, with integrity: Culture is what people do in the business when no-one is looking, according to Dishoom co-founder Shamil Thakrar. A leader clearly sets out their values and only hires people who believe them. If they aren’t delivering to those values they need to leave the organisation. Training on those values should be continuous.

Moto chief executive Ken McMeikan believes leadership is entirely driven by values. All leaders should consider themselves “cultural architects” who must live and breathe the values they want to instil in their organisation. Colleagues should be able to use those values to hold management to account (note, colleagues rather than employees).

Self-awareness: This is critical for any leader, who has to understand the type of person they are and appreciate their own strengths (and weaknesses). Woods said a leader should understand their own character, strengths and leadership style – “know what you’re good at and play to it, build a team around you to fill in the gaps”.

Humility: This characteristic was a key feature in many of the presentations. Thakrar talked about being eternally grateful to customers, staff and team, while McMeikan said leaders had to constantly (and deliberately) listen to colleagues – without an agenda – and act on those recommendations. They have to encourage challenge throughout the organisation at every level.

SA Brain chief executive Alistair Darby said leaders should always seek to bring in a different perspective. Diversity should be an active concern for the perspective it brings and you should recognise you don’t have all the answers. Leaders should listen, actively, without prejudice. Penny Manuel, managing director of Soho Coffee Company, said you can’t be a good leader and have a big ego.

Honesty/authenticity: There was a general theme of transparency and honesty in the presentations. Manuel said as a leader you have to genuinely believe everything you’re saying – people can spot (and hate) anything that’s not authentic. 

Trust your team: The Breakfast Club founder Jonathan Arana Morton confounded the room by saying he didn’t think of himself as a good leader – “I’m not really good at anything” – but sees his role as surrounding himself with good people and motivating them. He feels like an imposter sometimes (he isn’t!) but knows he has to lift his team. He imagines doing a ring walk to music before entering one of his cafes. He said: “Your teams take their lead from you. Leaders don’t create followers, they create leaders.”

Alexa Reid, managing director of Angus Steakhouse, said leaders don’t empower people by simply telling them they’re empowered – any kind of prescription kills empowerment. Empowerment can only happen with complete buy-in from the team. “Teams perform best when they’re focused on serving customers, not on profitability,” Thakrar said. He added: “A basketball team performs best when it’s just shooting baskets, not watching the score.”

Empathy: Manuel said difficult messages should be handled personally. Having thought about the impact on the other person and their feelings, you have to recognise the emotional requirements of your team. She quoted poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Leaders have to ensure their teams aren’t too frightened to give them honest feedback, then truly listen to what they have to say before doing something with that information.

Innovation: One of the most important roles of a leader in any organisation, according to a number of speakers, is to accelerate innovation – the lifeblood of any business. Farmer J founder Jonathan Recanati exemplified this in his entrepreneur’s vision, while many leaders spoke about it being fundamental to the way they lead. 

There was so much to learn from brilliant people and, while they may all have been very different, there was consistency in their messages.
Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliotts, the leading integrated marketing agency in the hospitality and leisure sector – www.elliottsagency.com

Ten tips to stay compliant by Malcolm Muir 

Compliance in food safety has never been more crucial in the hospitality industry. With the news more than two-thirds (70%) of hospitality workers lack confidence regarding allergen procedures, it’s time for hospitality operators to take a deep dive into their risk management procedures to review how safety checks are implemented. Here are my top ten tips.
 
Compliance must be top of the training agenda
Given the worrying statistics suggesting the majority of hospitality staff lack confidence regarding allergen procedures, training has to become a natural prerequisite. Tell your teams about allergens – this may sound obvious but you’ll be amazed how many hospitality operators don’t. 
 
Empower your teams to take ownership
A key priority for every operator must be to explain and ensure teams understand the consequences of not following what may seem to them an unimportant operational procedure. Empower them to take ownership and responsibility because, if they don’t, the worst-case scenario is a breakdown of the system, which could lead to a fatality.

Protect all links in the compliance chain
With staff turnover in the hospitality sector at circa 30%, the effect of just one person not being trained to the same level as other employees will eventually mean the original control procedures put in place will fail. Hospitality operators need to beware because once a single link is broken, the rest of the compliance chain can become useless.
 
Check, review and check again
Hospitality operators need to carry out weekly checks to ensure staff are continuously up to date on compliance procedures. Every member of the team must remain aware and focused on delivering procedures. Ongoing checklists are a useful tool but must be treated as a thorough check, not just a tick list. Operators need to check, review and check again.
 
View your business through the eyes of customers
It’s imperative for hospitality operators to step outside the business and look in from a customer perspective. This is harder to do than it sounds. It’s often difficult for operators to disengage from their expectations of procedures so I would advise asking a trusted colleague or a specialist company to carry this out.
 
Scores on the doors
According to the Food Standards Agency, food hygiene ratings influence almost three-quarters (72%) of consumers in their decision to dine with an operator. It is therefore vital for hospitality operators to have stringent processes in place for hygienic handling of food, cleanliness and condition of facilities, and hygienic management of food safety. This includes having systems or checks in place to ensure food sold or served is safe to eat, food safety is well managed, and good standards are maintained.
 
Ensure expert risk management is in place
Deciding who is responsible for compliance management is vital. We’re seeing a trend towards hospitality operators appointing a risk manager to cover various compliance elements across the business. However, problems can arise. For example, financial risk is completely different to food safety risk so the skills and expertise to manage both may not be available in-house.  
 
Get a true picture of risk at every site
Risk is often discussed at board level but the true level of risk on a site-by-site basis doesn’t always filter through various management levels back to the boardroom. Area and regional managers have been known to paint a picture of compliance control within their designated areas to avoid a poor performance score affecting their reputation. It’s therefore advisable for the board to instruct an independent source unencumbered by internal politics to produce risk and compliance data for a true reflection of the company’s risk status.
 
Watch all branches of the brand
Franchising has grown into a significant force in the UK economy. However, it’s important for hospitality operators with a franchise business model to ensure franchisees not only stay on-message with the brand but also adhere to parent company principles when it comes to food safety – something that isn’t easy to regulate. Remember, one break in the compliance chain can lead to a collapse in remaining procedures, making it difficult to recover from reputational damage.
 
Waste not, want not
Food safety compliance isn’t the only hot topic on the risk agenda for 2020. Waste management is also a top contender as we enter a time of heightened awareness among consumers about sustainability and the true cost of eating out – not only financial but environmental. It’s therefore advisable for operators to treat waste and the business approach to it with the same honesty as food safety.
Malcolm Muir is consultancy director at Venners

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