Next year I will have been working in this sector for 35 years and, in all that time, it has never not been enjoyable. Of course, there are things that could have gone better (owning five leased pubs wasn’t easy) but overall, it’s just been brilliant and I wouldn’t have wanted to work in any other sector because:
It is generous
There are many amazing individuals in this sector who are generous with their time, advice and expertise. From a personal perspective, Debbie Hewitt (The Restaurant Group), Luke Johnson (Risk), Steve Richards (Casual Dining Group) and Mike Tye (Moto) all immediately come to mind. They have all been happy to share their knowledge and learning without asking for anything in return. You only have to sit in a Propel conference, as I did recently, to appreciate how delighted speakers are to help others by passing on lessons from their experience. I learned a lot from Paul Hemming (from AlixPartners) and Nick Pring (of Urban Pubs and Bars) and am always grateful that those who are so busy, find time to write and present a session for the benefit of others.
It is innovative
The spirit of innovation is quite extraordinary in this sector and it’s always looking for different and better ways to do things. It’s always willing to try new technology such as Wireless Social, Collins, and Flyt. It innovates with new design (see the new Ask design for example), new ordering styles (Inamo) and new food (try Strut & Cluck, Kiln, Temper to name but a few). And on a different scale, but in the same vein, Kerb and everything Jonathan Downey does.
It supports the entrepreneur
I love the trio of Dorian Waite, Harald Samuelson and Roberto Moretti (working with Active) and the support they are giving to new entrepreneurs like Celia from Eat Poke. Alternatively, the help key individuals (such as Karen Jones and James Horler) have given to Laura from Corazon. Bababoom is another concept to have benefited from the input of those with experience in the sector. ETM has supported the phenomenally successful Bounce. Brandon Stephens has been backed by a considerable number of industry experts to launch REVL. It’s an industry that wants others to succeed, not fail.
It does not accept defeat
Phil Urban has done a fantastic job with Mitchells & Butlers. He has brought in talented new people and inspired those who have been there some time. It has refreshed old concepts, driven successful ones, such as Miller & Carter, and is now launching new concepts again after a break of some time. The Restaurant Group has a task on its hands, as it knows, but the new management team there is absolutely on the case and determined to restore Frankie & Benny’s back to its former glories. I know I have mentioned her many times before but Kate Nicholls from the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers absolutely personifies this attribute as an individual in her drive to challenge legislation that could damage the sector.
It thinks big
The vision Simon Townsend had at Ei Group in developing and launching the ‘managed experts’ concept is just brilliant. Hippo Inns (with Rupert Clevely), Frontier Pubs (with Food & Fuel), Hunky Dory Pubs (with Oakman), Marmalade Pub Company (with Marylebone Leisure Group) and Mash Inns (with Laine Pub Company) – with more to come – are all bringing underinvested pubs back to life with a vengeance and it’s great to see. Greene King’s audacious bid for Spirit has paid off. Graphite’s purchase of New World Trading Company and the vision of Tim, Jeremy and Chris saw it sweep the board at the recent Publican awards. In contract catering, Sodexo has spent two years implementing sweeping change in its bid to dominate the world in integrated facilities management. And I love what Kevin Bacon is doing with Urban Legacies and what Martin Wolstencroft is doing with Arc – truly inspirational.
It is the most wonderful, dynamic, generous and forward-thinking sector, and I am delighted by it every day.