Episode 99 Robin Sheppard
Chairman Bespoke Hotels

Robin Shephard is the Chairman and co-founder of Bespoke Hotels.  Bespoke look after over 5000 hotel rooms, 6000 team members and £500 million pounds worth of assets.  But they particularly interested me, because many of you will know I love the independent hospitality sector. 

Bespoke are fascinating, because although they’ve become a significant player, they keep their personal brand and business very much behind the scenes.  Most of their venues are independently owned, and bespoke simply provide some of the benefit of brand, with consistency of service, some centralised professional team members and some of the benefits that come at scale.  But at the same time none of the venues are forced into a one size fits all box.  They are genuinely venues that have a hospitality soul, and many of the venues you would know in their own right, purposely having no idea that bespoke are involved. 

Robin has a wealth of experience pre-bespoke, from GM positions throughout some fine establishments, to launching a British Bottled water brand and even writing a book about his time being bed bound and paralysed.  Robin is well known in the hospitality sector and I’m sure you will enjoy hearing his views.

Robin does not hold back on his political appraisals, we touch on the impact of OTA’s and turning them from foe to friend, Brexit crops up, who the VAT cut is for, which venues have re-opened and why, how that’s going and Robin’s predictions for the future.

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Episode 98 Danny Pecorelli
MD Exclusive Collection

Exclusive is a superb example of what can be achieved in the genuine world of hospitality when not dominated by venture capitalists or short term city demands.  Exclusive is family owned.  They take a long term view, are not hugely leveraged and as you’ll hear in this conversation Danny is a genuine human with a sincere love of the hospitality sector.

Danny has also been very helpful in helping England win the Rugby Wold cup, but I’ll let him tell that story.

We touch on Danny’s role as the Chair of Master Innholders and what that has meant to him, UK Hospitality comes up again and we get into the details of the operational changes Exclusive have made in re-opening after Pandemic lockdown.  The customer and team response to those changes has been positive, but Danny and I also chew the fat on our expectations of trade as we flip from leisure to business in autumn.  Even Christmas comes up in this wide ranging and enjoyable conversation with one of the good eggs.

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Episode 97 Tim Maddams
Chef, Teacher, Presenter

This episode was recorded just before COVID lockdown, so is not referred to in the episode, but it’s a great chat, so I wanted to finally get round to releasing it.  Thanks.

By the time Tim Maddams had reached the end of his first year as a professional chef, working in a restaurant kitchen, he came to a crazy realisation:  he had cooked more meals in those 12 months than most people prepare in an entire life time.  

For a while, working hard with luminaries like Alastair Little and Marco Pierre White and appearing on TV with Hugh FearnleyWhittingstall, gave Tim a constant buzz. But after one family holiday, he realised that if he continued on that 70-houraweek path, he would find himself in a destructive spiral of doom 

That is why, in 2012, he turned himself into what he calls a ‘free-range foodie’, offering a variety of services which draw on his life-long love of foraging, game and field sports, as well as his considerable culinary experience.  

I’m fascinated by the plethora of jobs and opportunities linked loosely under the ‘hospitality’ genre.  I’ve employed hundreds of chefs over the last 17 years and seen many look for a career change, when the reality of working every weekend starts to have an impact on family life.  So, when the opportunity to interview Tim cropped up, looking at just how diverse his income streams are, I was excited to find out more.  

This edition gives you a snapshot of what it’s like to have a varied freelance career, from running a Chef’s Shed, created from old telegraph poles and palettes, to organising ethical, small-bag foodie shoot days and more.  Incidentally, these small days are supporting  a much bigger movement: helping to feed 600,000 people in the last 4 years, through Tim’s work with The Country Food Trust

Episode 96 Tim Wookey
Co Founder Amamus Speciality Coffee

This episode was recorded just before COVID-19.  At the time we had no idea what was about to come.  During the pandemic I’ve been focusing on time specific conversations, but now as hospitality re-opens I want to release a few great conversations that have been patiently waiting for their time.

Tim knows a great deal about coffee, but rather than being a roaster or venue, he’s got a unique slant on trying to get better coffee in the places many of us spend time, but generally have low expectations.  Tim correctly points out that many ‘value led’ businesses have absolutely no idea that the commodity coffee they are supplying their clients is contradicting their ethics, disappointing their clients and costing planet earth and the coffee farmers more than is necessary.

In this conversation Tim takes us through his journey.  Starting with a child free Sunday morning, reading the paper and sipping on a cup of Jamaican Blue coffee.  Off then to discover about the volcanic soil, the hand picked beans, losing up to 30% of the crop through the finest hand check standards, through to the blue mist on the mountain slowing down the ripening process.  And then across the globe to the artisan coffee roasters, with so much knowledge and passion, but some spare capacity that Tim and his team can symbiotically help with.

I learnt a lot and really enjoyed an hour inside Tim’s head.  And if he can get to the point where every garage, solicitor, accountant and other society touch points serve well informed speciality coffee, then I for one will be happy.

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Episode 95 Andrea Rasca
Founder Mercato Metropolitano

Andrea is a walking philosopher with some very strong opinions on the ethics of business and the community around food and drink. I’ve interviewed Andrea before about his business and journey, but today we focus on the recent opening of his latest venue in an absolutely stunning old church in Mayfair.  I’ll let you listen to andrea’s eloquent description of that stunning space.

Andrea stayed open in some guise throughout the lockdown since their business is pretty diverse from a deli, bakery and shop through to street trade units.  Andrea’s philosophy is that entrepreneurship means sometimes you make money and sometimes you lose money, but all the way through you must focus on and serve your community.

We touch on the dream incubator campaign that they shifted to online due to coronavirus and how the success of that has motivated Andrea to try and expand it to overseas markets.  And I explore Andreas thoughts on why small is beautiful, and in some ways how that can even be translated to how countries are managing the pandemic, including his home country of Italy.

We end on the Agricultural bill and the necessity to at least keep moving forwards with food standards and ethics, and not to see leaving the EU as a chance to make any backward steps.

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