Subjects: Women still have some way to go, room for more, cutting down on wine wastage
Authors: Ann Elliott, Sarah Travell, Glynn Davis
Women still have some way to go by Ann Elliott
“Why do we need to still have an International Women’s Day?” “Why isn’t there an International Men’s Day?” “Isn’t the job done?” “Why do you keep going on about it so much?” Just some of the questions, among others, I have been asked this week. I can understand some of the frustration behind the questioning.
Our two main trade bodies, UKHospitality and the British Beer & Pub Association, are led by women. Quite a few businesses in our sector – Turtle Bay, Tonkotsu, Prezzo and Mowgli, for example – have female chairs, and there will be others I haven’t thought of. The sector has some brilliant female non-executive directors, including Emma Woods, Helen Jones, Karen Forrester and Celia Pronto, to name but a few.
There are also numerous examples of brilliant women founders and entrepreneurs in hospitality, including Helena Hudson, Nisha Katona, Laura Harper-Hinton, Mel Marriott, Ellen Chew, Amanda Pritchett, Louise Palmer-Masterson, Bharti Radix, Yasmine Larizadeh, Thomasina Miers, Wendy Bartlett, Joycelyn Neve, Naomi Heaton, Chelsea Finch, Anh Pham and Rebecca Bishop. That list could go on and on too
The human resources discipline includes a considerable number of outstanding female human resource directors who have contributed so much during the pandemic, including Helen Melvin, Karen Bates, Miranda Burgum, Susan Martindale, Nina Marshall, Jackie Burn, Anne-Marie Sarantis, Dawn Browne and Jacqui McManus. I am sure to have missed some brilliant women out – apologies. From my own observations and experiences, this is the board role most likely to be taken by a woman.
Of course, marketing in this sector, if not exactly dominated by women, has some exceptionally talented women in its ranks, and too many to mention here. I don’t see as many women in finance, although Lizi Hills, Danielle Davies, Koula Achillea and Julie Centracchio are paving the way for women in this role.
Women have also made huge strides in operations over the years – surely women must make up 50% of the general manager and business development manager population – although I suspect this percentage falls rapidly when you get to operations director board roles. I have huge respect for women who do sit on executive committees and boards in this role, like Kara Alderin, Sharon Singh, Clair Preston-Beer, Anni Opong, Shirley Couchman, Karen Bosher, Helen Charlesworth, Lisa Gibbons and Kate Eastwood. This is not an exhaustive list either.
I have organised a dinner for female operator chief executives in the sector in May, and we have almost 30 women coming to that. Propel will hold another Female Leaders conference this summer, and there is no shortage of exceptionally talented speakers and contributors there.
So, really, is there an issue with women being present and promoted in our industry? We are in all businesses, in all positions, on most boards (even if just as non-executive directors and not executives), at most events (although it would be nice to see more than a 15% representation of women at some industry lunches) and participate in most industry conversations. We have mentors, coaches, supporters and role models who leave the ladders there for us to climb rather than drawing it up behind them.
As businesses with mixed boards perform better than those with single sex boards, our presence is sought after – this after a lifetime of our noses pressed against board room doors. We are there. The recently published FTSE Women Leaders survey talks about how far we have come in the work place generally, but also states how far we still have to travel. Its recommendations include:
* Increased voluntary target for FTSE 350 boards, and leadership teams to have a minimum of 40% women by the end of 2025
*FTSE 350 companies to have at least one woman in the chair or senior independent director role on the board, and/or one woman in the chief executive or finance director role in the company, by the end of 2025
*Key stakeholders to set best practice guidance, or have mechanisms in place to encourage FTSE 350 boards that have not achieved the prior 33% target to do so
*The scope of the review is extended to include the largest 50 private companies in the UK by sales
It’s a very well observed and written report, and worth a read. Our job is not done in hospitality, but I am full of optimism that we will get there, and then, perhaps the daft questions I get asked will cease.
Ann Elliott is a hospitality strategist, connector and adviser
Room for more by Sarah Travell
The last two years have led to the majority of us reassessing many parts of our lives, part of which is our surroundings. If there were any silver linings from the pandemic, one was that people learned to appreciate more what they had on their own doorsteps in terms of places to visit and to stay.
Unsurprisingly, with the ability to travel overseas banned or significantly hindered, staycations increased. Research by Parkdean Resorts carried out late last year found that 53% of 2,500 people surveyed said they would choose to holiday in the UK in 2022, with 39% saying that post-pandemic, they would be more inclined to spend their holidays in the UK. And, while more people will escape to the sun or slopes this year, many will continue to seek comforts closer to home, fuelling further interest in pubs with rooms, hotels and holiday parks.
With this increase in consumer interest will also come investor activity, as witnessed last year by RedCat Pub Company’s acquisition of Coaching Inn Group and, most recently, the Inn Collections’ sale for a deal valued at circa £300m. The Propel Premium database of multi-site companies has now grown to include 2,341 companies, which operate 64,253 sites. An additional 49 companies, which operate 227 sites between them, were added during the last month – and many of these are looking to take advantage of the staycation trend.
West Country holiday park operator John Fowler Holidays is a family-owned company with 13 sites in the UK. The business, which already has sites established in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, recently acquired Cardigan Bay Holiday Park in Pembrokeshire for its second Welsh site. The acquisition is estimated to contribute another 3,000 holidays (6%) per year for the business.
The sector will also hope that overseas tourists and the international business market picks up this year, of course. Aptel, which is a new high-tech aparthotel brand founded by Karan Uppal, will be one such business new to the list that will be hoping that comes to pass. It recently launched its first site, Aptel East, in London’s Commercial Road. Comprising 33 suites, including family suites or studios for double or single occupancy, guests are given a unique access code to their suite via a touchscreen device and have the added assurance of a 24-hour concierge. The site is the first of an ambitious expansion plan, with the aim of opening more Aptel sites in London and other UK city locations over the next 12-24 months.
As mentioned previously, the scramble for destination-led pubs with rooms has intensified, with the likes of Young’s, Oakman Inns, Greene King and Brakspear among those companies recently adding to their room stock. New list entrant, Essex-based Baker Hospitality, which is owned by Piers Baker, operates Dedham’s The Sun Inn and Colchester bar and restaurant Church Street Tavern. The business announced it will relaunch The White Hart Inn on Mersea Island as a pub with restaurant and rooms for its third site. The White Hart Inn, which has been closed since 2013, will benefit from a partial rebuild and major refurbishment including a bar, dining room and open kitchen plus lounge, with an open fire, outdoor seating in a terraced garden and six individually designed en-suite bedrooms, some with sea views.
With an increase in staycations comes the need to rejuvenate local amenities and high streets. Rockwater, which is led by investor and operator Luke Davis, operates the three-storey food and beverage destination and community hub in Hove, East Sussex, which opened in 2020. Davis now intends to turn restaurants and kiosks at Sandbanks and Branksome into a Rockwater Village. The company said the two prime seafront sites will help drive tourist footfall, and it plans to invest £8.7m on the new venture. In Sandbanks, the site will be fully refurbished, with the bar and restaurant featuring a cocktail bar, ice cream parlour and terrace that will overlook the sea. It will also feature a beachside deck from where a lifestyle programme, Rockwater Life, will be run, plus kiosks selling takeaway food and drink and a beach retail range. The Branksome venue will be fully refurbished to feature a ground-floor restaurant and a large roof terrace with retractable roof, offering food and drink and entertainment, including comedy and music.
A trend that was gathering pace before the pandemic, staycations increased in importance over the past two years. While that pace of growth will inevitably slow as we recover from the impact of covid, there is certainly more room for businesses to grow their market share and for new entrants to launch fresh concepts into the space. And as the above examples prove, there is plenty for consumers and investors to check out.
Sarah Travell is the founder and chief executive of Virgate, sponsor of the Propel Multi-Site Database. The database is one of the benefits Premium subscribers receive. 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. Companies can 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 single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to upgrade your subscription
Cutting down on wine wastage by Glynn Davis
One of the few hotels my family and I enjoy staying at with any sort of regularity is the Old Bridge Hotel in Huntingdon. Not only are owners John Hoskins and his wife, Julia, great purveyors of hospitality, but he has been a Master of Wine since 1994, and so the selection of vino is especially good.
The by-the-glass list runs to around 30 options, which is pretty punchy for a modest sized establishment, and you’d maybe think it was a tad risky as the potential for waste clearly increases the more bottles you have on the go. But the Old Bridge has this covered because it also runs a compact wine shop on the premises that incorporates an Enomatic wine dispenser.
The device holds 20 bottles, with the wines dispensed in three different volumes including a very modest 25ml, which encourages myriad samplings for extremely low costs to the drinker – starting at £1. The ability to test wines in a dedicated space in this way can give an indication of potential demand in the hotel, where the same wine list (as well as food menu) is available across the bar, lounge and restaurant areas. Hoskins’ extensive knowledge also ensures he predominantly stocks wines of wide appeal through a combination of value and quality and avoids any long tail of bottles gathering dust in the cellar.
Managing stock levels and avoiding waste are absolutely paramount right now as costs and supply chains come under pressure. But care has to be taken, because businesses catering to a broad audience and enjoying a high level of regulars, just like at the Old Bridge Hotel, don’t want to compromise on the options available to their guests. This certainly includes wine, and it seems many drinkers are disappointed with the choice available in many establishments – especially when it comes to wine by the glass. As many as 22% of drinkers find the wine they want is not available by the glass, and 24% feel they have to compromise on choice when selecting a glass, according to Bermar.
There was absolutely no compromising on choice at the Coravin Wine & Bubbles Bar that opened in the run up to Christmas, as a pop-up in central London, and ran until January, offering customers 300 wines by the glass (including 50 types of Champagne). The bar was set up to promote the Coravin wine preservation system, which enables the wines to be taken from bottles without removing the corks (in a nutshell, it uses a hypodermic needle and inert gas).
Many restaurants and bars now use the device for offering premium wines by the glass that would typically only be available by the bottle because of the high potential for wastage. Its usage has predominantly been in the higher end establishments for supplementing their by-the-glass list with very expensive options. However, with the price of the Coravin device having dropped over recent years and the obvious opportunity for venues to deliver an extended offering while also cutting their wastage, their appeal could potentially be broader.
Such a piece of technology seems eminently more accessible, and certainly more impactful on a return-on-investment basis for independent operators, when compared with many of the other tech-led solutions that are grabbing the headlines like robotics and automation. This is great stuff for the big QSR chains but has limited appeal to smaller players. Thankfully, other way more mundane solutions than Coravin are also appearing in the marketplace for operators to manage their wine offerings with greater efficiency and less waste. These involve alternative ways of packaging and dispensing wines.
There is a growing acceptance of putting a wider spectrum of wines in cans, and also the much-maligned bag-in-boxes, but most interesting is the growth of wines in keg. For restaurants with sufficiently high volumes, there is the potential to enjoy significant cost savings compared with buying multiple bottles – and also the ability to reduce waste. The acceptability by consumers of wine dispensed from taps on the bar is certainly growing, especially when factoring in the sustainable angle of shipping wines in larger reusable 30l and 50l containers being much better for the environment than mere 750ml bottles.
As businesses are having to look ever more closely at their product offerings, position in the marketplace, ethical stance, and operational practices while also seeking out potential drivers of efficiency, they should certainly include wine in this exercise as there are definitely some opportunities to shake things up.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends