Episode 94 David Simms
Restaurant Associates 'Culinary Director'

Now whilst to your average human Restaurant Associates is not particularly a consumer facing brand, you will certainly know many of the venues that David Simms and his team operate, from Somerset House, to Edinburgh zoo, to Michelin starred restaurants like Jason Atherton’s City Social and Michelle Roux’s Parliament Square.  

I chat about David’s history in the podcast, so I’m not going to list it here, but fundamentally just be reassured  that I was really excited to get to chat to David because I knew the diversity and depth of his experience across the hospitality sector.

We touch on chef development and training, the changes in kitchen culture, both positive and negative, and how to get the best out of a brigade.

David has some great advice about the complexity of re-opening the doors, why to keep the offering simple, and some of the operational considerations of having less people to do tasks.  That leads us on to the impact of supply and the need to be clever and efficient to stand any chance of making a post covid profit.

David has some great thoughts on sustainability and the supply chain and our obligation as an industry to help educate, but not lecture the consumer on food, where it comes from and its environmental impact.  We may even start a joint campaign to making eating strawberries in December a criminal offence!

After a rollercoaster of a chat with many highs and lows, we try to end positively around the nature of such a creative sector and where it may end up on the other side of the pandemic.

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Episode 93 Karl Chessell
CGA Data & Insight

I first saw Karl speak at an event in March where I was impressed by some of the insights and data that he and the CGA team had collated.  It was nice to see so many of the thoughts and impressions that I had of the sector backed up by some scientific data and commentary.

Now seemed like the perfect time to put some data behind the theory of what re-opening may look like.

Karl and I go on a bit of a journey in this conversation, and it is worth noting that it was recorded about a week before Boris confirmed the 4th of July opening date.

We start with some analysis of what was going on in hospitality pre covid.  As a result of coming out of the period of political stalemate and uncertainty with regards brexit, and a decisive election result, executive confidence levels in hospitality were the highest they had been for many years.

Ironically 77 percent of the sector were concerned about labour shortages, not the potential layoff of 2 million colleagues.

We then touch on some of the data around consumer behaviour during lockdown and move on to what Karl and his team have seen in both the USA, china and other countries who are starting to re-open their doors.

And then it’s post covid and are there any clues as to what we can expect and what we should be focusing on as a sector.  I personally was pleased that the consumer does not seem to be wanting a sterile operating theatre with everyone behind screens and masks. Personally for me that is not hospitality.  

Karl gives out some advice on what he thinks operators should focus on and and we agree to touch base again in a few months and see what we’ve all learnt.

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Episode 92 Kris Gumbrell
CEO Brewhouse and Kitchen

Kris is a very experienced operator who has had both a successful corporate, as well as more entrepreneurial career in hospitality.  We briefly touched on Kris’s early career but spent more time chewing the fat on a broad range of hospitality topics.  From EIS funding schemes and some great perspectives on why debt is quite often not the answer. 

We also have a great conversation around hospitality as part of the rejuvenation and placemaking of towns and cities.  Quite often they are the vibrancy and life-blood an area needs as a catalyst for investment and regeneration, yet all too often with high rents and taxes such important businesses are often marginally viable.  

Kris has some excellent and creative thoughts on rent negotiations and how thinking outside the box and looking for win win opportunities between two parties can often lead to some interesting solutions.

Kris is also planning a slow and steady post Covid re-opening, testing and learning as he and the team go with some of their larger, more spacious garden venues.

You can follow Kris on LinkedIn or find out more about Brewhouse and Kitchen.

Episode 91 Griff Holland
Friska Founder

I’ve spoken to Griff Holland from Friska before in episode 47 and I love his love of food and drink and humans.  

After a crazy couple of months of lockdown I thought it was a great time for a follow up.  We touch on how trade had been in the 6 months before lockdown and how he’d been navigating Brexit indecision, multiple elections and a stormy winter.  We look at the rollercoaster of shut down itself and how Griff pretty much nailed his plans in one emergency covid meeting, rather than every day.  And then in his ever positive manner we switch to his pivots to deliver Friska at home, why he’s not a huge fan of deliveroo and wether his sweet spot will still be busy lunches near glass fronted office blocks, or if he’s having to rethink his strategy.

I’m sure you’ll get a nugget or two and enjoy the conversation. 

Episode 90 Sally Beck
Royal Lancaster & Hotelier of the year

This weeks guest is yet another true inspiration of hospitality.  Sally is the General Manager of the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London and the 2019 hotelier of the year, joining some legendary predecessors of the award.  

We have a pretty wide ranging conversation all the way from chickens, to my relief that Sally was not actually born in a pub, to how a 40 million pound refurbishment actually turned into an 85 million pound refurbishment, as well as Sally’s desire to create the happiest hotel in London, and what that actually means.

Sally is very principled when it comes to the integrity of our industry and how we should be treating apprenticeships, and in-fact all members of our teams.  Sally is much more about the team and asking for opinions, than demanding results.  And with consecutive years in the Times Employer of Choice awards her approach is paying huge dividends, both culturally and financially.

Well, it was before the pandemic arrived at least, so we also chat on it’s impact, complexities and Sally’s thoughts on how and when to re-open, as well as some exceptionally creative thoughts on how to come out trading on the other side.

Sally’s cv is awesome and she deserves her reputation as one of the best in class.  I’m confident you’re going to enjoy this conversation and learn a few nuggets of wisdom on the way.  

For Sally’s Hoteliers Charter that we chat about please do check out the Patreon Page where you can also support the podcast  as well as sign up for our weekly newsletter keeping you informed of our latest guests here.