Episode 127 Sarah Heward
Real Food Cafe – Scotland

Sarah has been pretty vocal throughout the pandemic in representing the Scottish Hospitality Sector.  

I wanted to chat with Sarah in the first instance about how somebody goes from being the MD of a decent sized company in the city of London, to buying an ex Little Chef by the side of an obscure road in rural Scotland. Along the way driving revenue to over £1.7 million per year from a pretty small footprint. And secondly how Sarah had embraced technology to revolutionise how this road side cafe operates.  Motivated by the pandemic, but along the way learning some really interesting things that I think the hospitality sector at large is going through. Probably five years worth of technical evolution in one year as we move from ordering from a human, to ordering on an app.  Not in evening restaurant service, but very much so across the casual daytime sector.  This leads to challenges around the user experience, but some potential big benefits if, as appears to be the case, spend per head increases, whilst labour costs decrease.

Sarah also makes some great points about the infrastructure busy tourism destinations are likely to need to have in place if we are to experience the staycation boom most are expecting.  It’s not just about business being ready, but car parks and toilets and roads and so much more.

Find the Real Food Cafe online, twitter, or instagram 

Episode 126 Chris Davies
CEO Harvest London – Vertical Farming

Chris Davies is founder and CEO of Harvest London, a couple of vertical farms in the city of London.  Chris is going to help us understand how vertical farms could be part of the solution to feeding the planet.  As Chris puts it, this will be part of the solution and not all food will be, or can be grown this way.  But the benefits of growing food where it is to be consumed, rather than potentially 1000’s of miles away, the benefits of harvesting food and getting it to the restaurant door within four hours, rather than perhaps four weeks.  The benefit of a perfect summers day, every day, no matter the time of year or external weather conditions.  The use of tech and automation and the potential for companies to ship their perfect growing recipe to perhaps tweak just a couple of bits of the growing process to grow the perfect leaf.  A little more water, 1/2 an hour less light, more blue light than pink light, a slight nutritional change.  All of this can effect the flavour of what we grow and eat.  And in Chris’s case much of this learning is being done around basil, but can be applied to so much more.  And it is clearly a recipe that is working.  Chris and Harvest London have just raised over a million pounds of investment, including from the UK governments future fund and demand is fast outstripping supply as they have grand plans for the future.

Find Harvest London online or follow them on instagram.

Episode 125 Tim Hall
Executive Chef – Burgh Island Hotel

It was quite a few months ago when the opportunity crossed my desk to interview Tim Hall, who is the executive chef at Burgh Island.  It caught my eye because Burgh Island is such a unique location, as a tidal island just off the south coast of Devon. 

I was intrigued to understand a bit more around the complexity of running not one, but three restaurants, on an island that for many hours of the day cannot be accessed at all, or certainly not without its challenges.  Add to that Tim’s reputation for excellent food and access to some beautiful foraged ingredients, a new owner of the hotel and a new fish restaurant on the island, and I thought it would make a lovely day out and place to visit.  Alas lockdown got rid of the visit element, but it was still nice to catch up with Tim and and learn all things Tim and Burgh.

Episode 124 Lee Cash
Founder Peach Pubs

Lee Cash was always driven to become self employed in the hospitality sector.  He learnt his craft with some of the best, from Robin Sheppard at Bespoke Hotels and chef Raymond Blanc.  But all the time driven and motivated to test himself, to learn all he could and get ready to put into practise the art of perfecting 1000 little details to make his own venues successful.  I always enjoy chatting to people who really have proper hospitality in their soul.  Who understand how spaces feel.  How the lighting, the candles, the music, the team, the furniture, the layout, the space itself and so much more comes together to create somewhere special that people enjoy.  

I loved Lee’s perspectives about pubs being a great leveller.  More so perhaps than restaurants, you are likely to have every type and age of person hanging out at a bar, ordering a decent pint of beer.  You’ll get to hear about how Lee and his business partner Hamish bought different skills to the business, and how over the years, at different stages in their growth, these different skills have helped Peach grow into such a fantastic business. 

You’ll also laugh at the story of Lee going from being so skint one morning that he had to use his passport as a deposit in an Aussie backpackers, to a few hours later saying yes to his first chef job cooking alone on boat full of divers on the great barrier reef.  That say yes now, work out how later, kind of attitude that so many driven entrepreneurs have.

You can read more about Peach Pubs on the website, or find them on twitter and instagram

Episode 123 Jonathan Neame
CE of Shepherd Neame Brewers

We’re going big this week, and actually I don’t mean a big podcast, but a big business, chatting to Jonathan Neame, the chief executive of Shepherd Neame Brewers.  With 320 pubs and pre pandemic turnover of £150 million they are bigger than the normal business I chat to on this podcast, but they have a really interesting family history.  Having been around for over 300 years, and maintained family ownership I think they qualify as having had a very inspiring independent hospitality adventure.

Topic wise Jonathan is clearly well informed on all that is going on in the pub sector.  We touch on navigating the pandemic and at least seeing some growth in the grocery and off sales side of the business, the responsibility of taking over a multi generational family businesses,  how to navigate out of the pandemic and how different that may be in London compared to a proper community pub.  Changing beer trends, sourcing hops, rents as both a tenant and landlord, future support to enable the sector to bounce back and even Brexit all crops up in our wide ranging chat.

Read more on the Shepherd Neame website, or follow Jonathan Neame on twitter, or find the brewery on instagram