Humans of Hospitality
This is the humans of hospitality podcast. It’s about the awesome humans, from bakers to chefs, to entrepreneurs, to brewers, to farmers, to musicians and so many more who make
our world just a little bit more wonderful.
For over 20 years, Hugh Lambert travelled the world as a TV cameraman, director of photography and editor. Often he’d find himself in some of the remotest parts of the world, perhaps living with a local tribe. On each trip he’d try different foods. Some of them were quite out there, in terms of taste combinations and ingredients. (I’ll let Hugh reveal what the roasted figs he ate one day in the jungle really were.) With that broad-minded approach, it isn’t surprising that Hugh has created a drink with unusual ingredients: Shanty Spirit, a seaweed botanical vodka. This isn’t a gimmick. As you’ll hear, Hugh falls into my beloved category of brilliant – and possibly slightly bonkers – obsessive. Someone who describes his spirit as ‘4 years of research driven by a lifetime’s passion for being by the sea’. They really were years of intense focus: macerating countless seaweeds, then working through a long list of botanicals until he got to a point where he could collaborate with a distillery and see his idea bottled up. As you know, if you’ve listened to Vince Noyce at Portsmouth Distillery and Alex Kammerling at Kamm & Sons, I love these stories of dedication – particularly when they bring something new and authentically different to the market. Hugh’s venture is still young, but, when it comes to his future success, I’m excited to say that you will have heard it here first, on this podcast. Follow Hugh on Twitter or Instagram or order a bottle via his Website.
I think most people with a keen interest in incredible food and hospitality are aware of Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir and its reputation. They’ve churned out over 30 michelin starred chefs, had two Michelin stars themselves since 1981 and their organic certified kitchen gardens are legendary. I was very excited to finally get to go and visit. Helped by a sunny day the hotel and grounds looked stunning. Executive Chef 'Gary Jones' was generous with his time, chatting freely and took the time to take me on a tour of the gardens and poly tunnels where his enthusiasm and knowledge and happiness to share his thoughts and experiences typified the generosity of so many who work in hospitality. Gary has had a fascinating history, from working at Le Manoir on two separate occasions, most recently for 21 years, to working for Richard Branson on Necker Island and having received Michelin Star accolades from scratch at two other venues. He’s also a black belt in karate, practises yoga and is a busy Dad to 3 teenage daughters. Our chat meanders from Gary’s own kitchen garden hunting snails by torch light at 1am, to the symbiotic relationship with his team and the garden team at le Manoir, to the change in diets and using less butter and cream in the kitchens, a great story about how Gary ended up working on Necker Island and even the ‘genius’ of Raymond Blanc, or RB as he’s known, and the contrasting skills they both bring to the kitchen and development of so many of the world’s best chefs. Follow Gary on twitter or instagram Follow Le Manoir on twitter or instagram or via the website
Back to learning this week as we are off to discover the wonderful world of bacon production from someone whose family have been producing it since the early 1990's. Whether you eat meat or not, there is something about bacon. Perhaps it’s the smell as it cooks, or the fact that it’s an integral part of the full English. But has our long-term familiarity of this staple grown a bit of contempt? Sausages seem to have a higher status: more and more breakfast menus mention the provenance of their Cumberland and chipolatas. But all too often, bacon is just categorised as ‘bacon’, so you have no idea where it’s come from, how it’s been produced and whether or not it’s been plumped up with salt and water. Then there are concerns around nitrites, with the NHS reminding us that ‘eating a lot of red and processed meat probably increases your risk of colorectal cancer’ and the market is currently being disrupted by a nitrite-free newcomer. Ellen Streatfeild is well aware of how bacon falls in and out of favour. Since 1994 her family’s farm has stuck to their principles of giving bacon the care and attention it deserves, whilst growing their weekly production from 50-100 kg to 10 to 12 tonnes! This programme explores how you find the sweet spot between maintaining your standards and surviving commercially, in the face of some very tough competition. Find out more about Denhay via the website or follow them on twitter
I wanted to chat to Simon because the Alchemist has such an exceptional reputation and I wanted to find out more about what makes them and Simon tick, but also because with 20 cocktail bars and restaurants dotted around the UK I knew he would be a good barometer of what is happening in different geographical pockets. We touch a little bit on lockdown and the subsequent closure of one of their venues, we discuss some of the fast tracking of initiatives, particularly around technology such as ordering at the table and the nuances of wether that should be app or web based and how it integrates with existing tech. We touch on some of the design elements of their venues since I’m always personally fascinated by spaces that can transition from breakfast to lunch to dinner and then late evening drinkers. It’s a tough art to get right and Simon explains how much work they put into things such as natural light and street level entrances to try and get this right. With so many landlords Simon also has some useful perspectives on the shared burden of the accrued rental overhead that so many operators now need to either pay, or negotiate fast. Follow the Alchemist on Twitter or Instagram and check out their website. Or follow Simon himself on Twitter
Although originally from Skegness, Ben is more captivated with Sicily and one day would like to move there. Sicily has had a huge influence on his favourite style of food and he’s even written an awesome book called ‘moorish'. Ben is actually only a chef because of fellow Skegness buddy Jason Atherton who got Ben his first chef job at the Ritz. We touch on Ben’s time at the Salt Yard and how a big influx of cash that he hoped would sort out his financial and restaurant dreams ended up ruining his love for the business and lead to him planning on heading out on his own. But now he’s found the best of both worlds. A good level of investment and the chance to open restaurants serving his style of food. Including his latest venture into the world of dark kitchens and delivery through Gallio, a Mediterranean pizza idea he’s been working on. Follow Ben on Instagram or Twitter and check our his restaurant Norma
You have to be impressed with today’s guests energy levels. Adam Handling works hard, has achieved a lot and is not short of an opinion or two that he’s quite happy to share. Adam joined me just 48 hours after re-opening The Frog, his flagship restaurant in Covent Garden. He’d been through a particularly traumatic closure period where he’d lost four of his venues and learnt a great deal about the business side of running restaurants. Adam speaks openly and honestly about the financial, physical and mental aspects of what he has been through, but he’s kept a huge number of his team, despite 57% payroll costs on re-opening, and he’s keen to find another venue before the year is out to accommodate his talented crew and try and ensure they keep their jobs. He’s working hard, is thinking about michelin stars and is one of the most driven people I’ve chatted to. His enthusiasm for all things sustainable and what he learnt through his now closed restaurants the Ugly Butterfly and Bean and Wheat is very infectious. Personally I wish Adam the very best for the future, and like many of us, he may well end up with a much stronger business as a result of all he has learnt in the past few months. Follow Adam on instagram or twitter and order some dinner from HAME
For my 100th episode I really wanted to get a bit of an industry super star in my eyes. Robin Hutson has been on my list of people I’ve wanted to chat to since day one of launch. I live within a pretty easy cycle of two of Robin’s PIG hotels - Pig on the Beach in Studland and Pig in the Forest in Brockenhurst. I LOVE what Robin has created. I’ve seen Robin talk at a couple of hotel events and in essence he just knows his stuff. He oozes common sense and his attention to detail is exemplary. His venues have plenty of open grounds, an awesome kitchen garden supplying the kitchen with exceptional seasonal produce, relaxed ambience and surroundings, good food and wonderfully designed venues, but not pretentious. It really is just a great business and his occupancy figures and margins are the envy of many a competitor. They say never meet your heroes, and I was worried having finally organised a meeting I’d be disappointed. But Robin was generous with his time, enthusiastic with his stories and I felt privileged to get to poke and prod at one of our hospitality greats in his own venue. So there could not really be a more fitting person for my 100th show. A genuine human of hospitality. Follow Robin on twitter Follow the Pig on instagram Or check out their website
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. Follow Robin on Twitter Find out more about Bespoke Hotels Find out more about Blue Badge Access Awards
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. Follow Danny on Instagram or Twitter Find out more about Exclusive Collection here
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 Fearnley-Whittingstall, gave Tim a constant buzz. But after one family holiday, he realised that if he continued on that 70-hour-a-week 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
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.
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. Follow Mercato on Instagram Learn more about Mercato on the website
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. Connect with David on Instagram Learn more about Restaurant Associates
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. Sign up to the CGA ezine here And find out more about CGA here
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.
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.
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.
David from Grind London, a collection of coffee shops, cocktail bars and restaurants, started his hospitality journey by inheriting a mobile phone shop, where he loved the building but not the business. Fast forward and David has managed to walk that tricky operational and design tightrope where his venues are both a great stop off for a daytime coffee, but also a sit down meal, and by night transform into a busy cocktail bar. Not an easy feat, but something that feels so effortless when right, but in reality is a real challenge. I personally remember GRIND for some memorable crowd funding videos and how early in its development it managed to attract significant levels of investment and expanded into some high profile sites as a result. We touch on the cycle of raising money and investing that money and how useful it is that they’d just raised funds prior to the pandemic, and had not yet spent them, albeit it is now very frustrating to have to burn through some of that cash just to keep heads above water rather than opening new venues. We also touch on how the diversification into online retail has been helpful in keeping the business and some of the team ticking over. David also touches on his thoughts on TRONC and the furlough scheme, as well as having some great perspectives on when to re-open, rental issues, distancing, blunt instruments, targeted measures and more.
Robert has an MBE, is a Restauranteur, a patron of Hospitality Action, president of the Restaurant Association, founder of the Nth Degree Global, and has even been covered in the FT as a power dresser with his very dapper suit collection. He’s also got a very active instagram account where he also interviews a number of other great humans of hospitality. We have a fantastic chat about his past experiences in hospitality, which have been many and varied. Robert gushes about London’s place as the hospitality and tourism world champion, and his enthusiasm is infectious. We discuss the recently launched young chef young waiter competition and Robert really has done an incredible job of revitalising this event. Some of the best known industry greats have won this award in the past, but it needed a revamp to stay relevant. Robert, the Restaurant Association and UK Hospitality have really upped the stakes to the point where you can win a Mercedes Benz and a night in a top London hotel, with a much more glitzy award ceremony and competition finals. We also touch on all things pandemic and the wider implications for hospitality.
We are looking to china for some inspiration as they are running a good couple of months ahead of us from a pandemic timeline perspective. Nat is from London, but has been living in Shanghai for a number of years and runs Homeslice Pizza across 3 local outlets. He was therefore very well place to discuss the operational aspects of coming out of the other other side of lockdown in the hospitality sector. I found Nat’s descriptions of the challenges of acquiring PPE in china fascinating, in part due to the timing of the crisis around Chinese New Year and everyone being on holiday and factories shut. I guess if it was hard to get hold of equipment in China, it is no surprise that the international community was also struggling. We also touch on how technology was used to help release lockdown, such as a compulsory app on everyones phone that showed either a green or red qr code that had to be scanned to enter a venue. Getting a green code depended on where you had been, who you had been with and your temperature. Nat’s insight into why china has been so good at managing the virus with it’s very big to very small approach to government was fascinating, but you really need to listen to his explanation to get the gist of that one. We also touch on how long it’s taking for any semblance of normality to return to visitor numbers, even 8 weeks since lockdown release, and some interesting comparative KPI’s around employee %, rental charges and VAT, which has been reduced from only 6% to nothing by the Chinese government to help stimulate the economy.
Charlie sold his group ‘Draft House’ to Brew Dog and now operates as a chairman and investor through his business ‘Bunker Projects’. Charlie is currently chairman of the Breakfast Club and Butchies fried chicken in London. We chat about 'project pint', what it stands for and how it evolved. Project Pint is a fun and inclusive way of helping Britain shift from a FOGO, to a FOMO mentality as soon possible, when it is safe, falling back in love with the Great British pint and going out with a mate. I also take the opportunity to get his wider perspective on a few issues including his warm up for the lockdown post the sale of his business and the 3 key things currently effecting hospitality ‘CASH / DISTANCING AND FOGO’ We talk about how anyone in hospitality should probably be seeking the advice of an insolvency lawyer just in case, our thoughts for the future of the industry from both an independent and chain perspective and Charlie even gives me some well needed business advice on not being a purist when it comes to craft beer.
In this weeks conversation I catch up with Peter from the Institute of Hospitality. Now I have to confess to not knowing a huge amount about the IOH but I thoroughly enjoyed this chat with Peter. Clearly he's been in the industry long enough to know what he's talking about and have a very rounded and objective perspective on quite a diverse range of topics that cropped up. We touch on OTA's, graduate training, VAT, the opportunity for independent hospitality, the impact of the pandemic and how we can find a way to trade through. As Peter points out, we've been through wars and many other challenges as a sector and we will bounce back, in time. The IOH are the professional body for hospitality and have members in every sector in over 100 countries. An impressive achievement. Their primary purpose is to promote professionalism through lifelong learning with hospitality educators around the world. They have an exceptional knowledge library and resources and a programme of professional development events. I implore you to take a listen, and guarantee that you'll learn something new from Peter.
I really enjoyed meeting Phillip Eeles from Honest Burgers on a previous episode back in December 2019 with co-founder Tom Barton. This time it was just Phillip and he was equally as enthralling and honest and happy to speak the truth. We touch on his role of late, looking after the out of London venues and his 180 degree turn on how those out of London venues should be managed. We then get into the impact of the pandemic from charity and longterm integrity where Phillip tries desperately hard to walk the fine line between honesty and political correctness, but comes out with his personal integrity and diplomacy intact. We chat about the #NationalTimeOut campaign and Phillip has an eloquent way of explaining the need for an open and symbiotic conversation with landlords and how the whole economy, not just hospitality in essence needs a period of hibernation for all, but a fast re-birth afterwards. Honest are out of the pits pretty early with the shift to takeaway, and we look at the financial viability of that, as well as the operational changes such as PPE required to operate in this new space. With all of that, a few tangents and how we see the future of our industry, I very much hope you enjoy the chat.
Lots has changed since I last caught up with JD. Hospitality Union has become more grown up from its early WhatsApp group days and now has a website, brand and a more disciplined and structured voice representing over 3000 independent hospitality owners and senior operators. Through Hospitality Union JD has been campaigning for a number of national support measures to help the sector navigate the pandemic, and fundamentally save as many jobs as possible. Next to the JRS and furloughing scheme some sort of plan on rent is essential to save the industry and jobs. #NationalTimeOut has gained national support from many leaders of the industry and some of our best and most famous chefs and operators. JD and I chat the latest development on this and his confidence that some sort of framework support will be agreed nationally soon. We also touch on more general structure and flexibility on our re-opening such as what happens with terraces and outdoor spaces and the debate on 2 metres to 0 metres and how sometimes less regulation and common sense is better than over-regulation. As always please head over to the website to support via our Patreon page.
Logan is from Logan's Punch and tacolicious, venues of varying size in Shanghai. As a prior F & B consultant from San Francisco, Logan has been living in China for ten years and has had a ring side view of the pandemic roll out from there and across the globe. I was fascinated during this chat to hear the importance of the timing around Chinese New Year and the impact that had on how the virus was transmitted across China. Interestingly their has also been some government business support, as in Europe, but not to the same scale, with tax and rent relief. In many ways it appears their very strict shutdown has meant they have been able to re-open faster than parts of Europe. And when I say strict how about a 14,000 dollar fine for breaking the seal on your restaurant door! The lack of travel into the country for many months means that the population feels much safer that the virus has not spread, and bars and restaurants are returning to some level of business, albeit the ex pat population are no longer around. I also found it interesting about 1 metre, rather than 2 metre distancing rules, and imagined the difference that would make to UK covers once hospitality is allowed to re-open. Who has decided 1 metre in china, 1.5 mitres in Belgium and 2 metres in England? I very much hope you enjoy this global chat, and a glimpse further down the pandemic timeline. Follow them on instagram here
This is the first post pandemic episode I’ve done representing what is such a vibrant, energised, important and all too neglected part of the incredible hospitality sector - the street food traders. And when I say neglected I mean that so many of them are small, independent operators with no premises and no staff, so generally don’t qualify for grants or furloughing cash. It’s heart breaking to imagine the hardship that some of these incredible hospitality humans are facing during this crisis. As well as their members we touch on some of the Kerb challenges such as rents and the #nationaltimeout campaign and what that would mean for their Seven Dials site, as well as the rest of the industry. Simon and kerb were heavily in negotiations over rents and their CBILS application literally pre and post this recording. Despite the chaos of our sector, there was plenty of positivity to chat about too, such as the opportunities for street food to be one of the first sectors to rebound with its natural al fresco credentials. It was also great to hear about some of the initiatives simon and his team are working on to support their members along with your chance to check out some free resources via the spinout onto YouTube of some of their inkerbator information.
This is the week where Rishi has given much of the industry a further life line by extending the furlough scheme through to October. Though we wait nervously for the details of the ‘joint’ funding he mentioned from August onwards and wether our sector may qualify for further support once the scheme is removed for much of the country. Today’s guest is Rupert from Conker Spirit, a gin distiller in Bournemouth. I’ve seen a number of distilleries moving into the sanitiser market and I really wanted to find out more about how and why. I think it demonstrates again the creative versatility of people in hospitality and is a great example of another business pivot. Rupert and I chat about some of the technicalities of shifting from booze to sanitiser, such as how to get the HMRC onboard so you don’t have to pay £25 in duty per litre of sanitiser produced, and actually the speed the HMRC moved on that I think reflects further positive efforts behind the scenes from the government to try and get the private sector to support the public sector as much as possible, through things like sanitiser as well as PPE and feeding our key workers. We also touch on the very crowded space of craft distillers and who will and will not survive this crisis and what trade may look like on the other side, as well as a couple of other positive pivots Rupert has seen, such as sleep packs for nurses.
Another week and something is clearly in the air with more and more restaurants or hospitality venues trying to re-open in some guise. Maybe it’s the frustration of sitting idle, maybe it’s the recognition that the industry is very broken and some sort of pivot for survival is going to be essential for those businesses that can do so. And many cannot. I’ve seen a number of posts from the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) offering practical support, not only for members, but for anyone visiting their website. Whilst much of this is really useful and detailed, I particularly enjoyed chewing the fat with Andrew on some of the sustainable opportunities that we would be foolish to waste as we look at what our industry could look like moving forwards. As we inevitably reduce our menus to simplify production, both to have fewer chefs in the kitchen for distancing purposes, but also to reduce costs and waste, is now the chance more than ever to look at buying local, purchasing from people rather than brands and caring more about the impact of what we purchase on the land and the environment. I certainly hope so and Andrew is well placed to talk about what this could look like. Could government support even be tailored and focused to offer additional support to those doing the right thing and trading more ethically in the food and drink space. Complicated, but a great concept. Enjoy the conversation.
With the continuing backdrop of hospitality recognising just how hard it is going to be to open up post lockdown I’m catching up with Steven Lamb. Steven is particularly well known for having worked with River Cottage right from it’s foundation years, and now makes a living consulting, presenting, training, writing and more. As a freelancer falling between the gaps of all personal and business support in this crisis I wanted to see what Steven was doing to try and navigate a way through the challenges. Particularly his moves into the online world trying to run virtual food festivals, online training, and a health and well being site ‘slow life good life’. I love this sector for it’s speed of creativity, optimism and can do attitude to pivot and find a way through whatever it takes. I hope conversations with the likes of Steve provide a bit of inspiration on standing up and thinking outside the box so that we don’t all just end up sobbing and rocking in a corner. Enjoy the conversation.
There seems to have been a bit of recognition this week in just how long the hospitality sector is going to be effected by this crisis. First in and last out seems to pretty much be the case. That’s tough news to process for many operators, but we are a resilient and creative bunch. Much of people’s headspace is now moving from how do we close, minimise outgoings, furlough and pay the team, to what on earth does re-opening look like. And if we can’t re-open how do we pivot and do something to pay both the personal mortgages and business costs until we can re-open viably. This weeks guest is Michael Bremner. Chef and winner of Great British menu, and owner of two restaurants in Brighton. Michael was incredibly honest and reflective in our chat. It can be tricky as a business leader to walk the tight rope of staying positive and motivated and wanting to say the right things for our team and our customers, whilst also being realistic enough to understand that we are not instantaneously going to return to normal when lockdown is over. I think overall Michael and I believe we will ultimately keep and open our businesses in some guise…it’s just the time period that is the variable. And that’s some of what we chat about.
Our most unusual episode yet in that I am going from host to interviewee. I recorded an episode last week with a friend, accountant and fellow podcast host 'Warren Munson' from Evolve. Warren interviewed me about the impact of the Coronavirus closure on my personal hotel and restaurants. Having interviewed many people on similar topics in the past few weeks Warren was happy for me to share this story on my own podcast. A number of listeners and contacts have been in touch recently asking how things are going at Urban Guild, so this seemed the ideal way to provide an update. I touch on the transition period from opening my most recent restaurant about 10 months ago, ramping up ready for summer and then the shock, both mentally and financially of being closed by the government. I also discuss some early thoughts on ongoing government support as we try and find a way to trade out of this disaster, once we are allowed to open, and what that may look like. Please do check out Warren's other episodes and my thanks to him for letting me share this audio. I hope you find it interesting.
in this Coronavirus special I'm catching up with Andrew, Executive Director of some incredible hotels under the Iconic Luxury Hotels group. I first met Andrew on this very only podcast a few months ago. Since then so much has changed in both of our lives that I wanted to catch up and discuss how he and the business are navigating through the pandemic. Initially it was thought that the country hotels may ride out the storm as guests looked for long term stays away from the city. But soon all venues were closed, over 800 of the team are furloughed and Andrew is back to answering phones and walking the corridors of deserted venues. We discuss how this may end and what it will take to trade out the other side, as well as some of the fun ways they are keeping their team engaged during the extended shutdown. Andrew is a calm and rational chap who shares some good perspectives on what all this means for both his business and the wider industry.
In this episode I'm joined by Guy from Riverford Organic Farmers chatting about the surge in demand for their vegetable boxes. Guy is always good for an opinion or two and I thought it would be interesting to chat to someone incredibly busy, rather than quiet, as a result of the Coronavirus impact. We chat about how Guy and his team are simplifying their offering, going back to their original roots as a veg box delivery company. Guy in many ways hopes this will be a long term move since he has always wanted to sell more seasonal produce, rather than adding complexity due to the demands of the customer. The environmental implications of a less consumer driven supply chain could be a long term benefit to the wider farming wold, and society in general. We also touch on the potential 'land army' being recruited from the UK, rather than Eastern Europe, to help farmers with picking and the longer term implications that could have on wages, working standards and the price of food. Whilst Riverford is currently closed to new customers they are working hard on getting back to 'normal' and looking after the loyal, regular customers who Guy and this team have always so enjoyed serving. I think Riverford are a great company with a great ethos and give us hope about the balance between our human impact, demands and potential change in our relationship to the food we eat.
In this episode I catch up with Chef Director Jack Stein at his family's Rick Stein restaurant Group. Whilst Rick Stein is locked down in Australia I'd seen alot in the past ten days with Jack defending a pretty negative article in the Daily Mail. Jack has been very honest with his team and customers about the financial challenges the business is facing as a result of it's current coronavirus related shut down. We discuss the challenges of meeting £300k a week in payroll costs with £0 revenue coming through the door, and some of the unfair accusations around how his Dad should simply 'put his hand in his pocket' and pay people. We chat about the challenges specifically of operating in tourist towns in seasonal hotspots and the further complexity that is going to add to re-establishing their business. We touch on a potential insurance claim and the issues around the insurance industry thus far managing to wiggle out of claims. We finish off with some of the great ways the industry is responding including a 'virtual food festival' running Easter Monday 13th April with details via Jack's Instagram page.
This is a shorter special edition of the podcast looking at how Giles Henschel is trying to pivot his business during the coronavirus challenge. Giles has been in business for many years and has a background in the military so I was very keen to see if he had any wise words on how to navigate his business through the crisis. Many of us in hospitality have been advised to offer home delivery, either of produce or finished products. But this has its complexities and I've felt that the wholesalers are better placed to offer this than the restaurants. Giles has done just that re-establishing his B to C brand Loaf and Larder and complimenting what the supermarkets are trying to offer with home delivery. His primary motivation, rather than profit, simply to keep his team employed and ensure he is in the best position to be able to trade out of the other side. We also touch on the balance of keeping entrepreneurial and recognising we must some day re-establish the economy, whilst we all have a desire to keep the team and community safe. Enjoy the conversation, and if you can please support the podcast via our page on Patreon.
This is a shorter special edition of the podcast looking at how Kate and UK Hospitality are working hard to represent the UK hospitality industry, with a direct ear to the UK Government. Kate and I have a wide ranging chat covering their early involvement in keeping the government abreast of how quickly the hospitality sector was being impacted as the coronavirus travelled at pace around the world. The sector was an early warning barometer of what was about to come to others, as occupancy rates and visitors to bars and restaurants dropped, long before they were told to close. We also chat about the benefits of grants over loans speeding up the potential recovery once this is over, but how the lifting of a lockdown is not likely to be instantaneous, but a staggered release and what the impact of that may look like. The potential impact of landlords working better with tenants to share responsibility for our recovery also crops up, and a of course a celebration of the incredible response of the hospitality sector in trying to help the NHS and local communities on a national level.
This is a shorter special edition of the podcast looking at how some humans in the hospitality sector are coping with changes as a result of the coronavirus. Mitch is an utter gentleman of our industry who has created a small group of restaurants that have an exceptional reputation for being part of the local community, generally in seaside resorts of South West England. Along with his chairman Will from Hawksmoor, they are a couple of wise brains who really understand the hospitality sector, and operate for the right reasons with strong values and a passion for service. In this conversation we chat about how events unfolded and when Mitch decided to close his venues, before being told to by the government. We then focus on quite probably the more challenging aspect of how we re-establish our businesses and how much support may be required to trade again. We touch on business interruption loans, the job retention scheme and even wether the government could step in as 'an insurer of last resort'. Typically Mitch ends on a positive note confident that he will rebuild and see us all with business intact on the other side.
This is a shorter special edition of the podcast looking at how some humans in the hospitality sector are coping with changes as a result of the coronavirus. Hospitality Action are a charity established in 1837 that has since offered vital assistance to all who work, or have worked within hospitality in the UK. They are there for the chefs, waiters, housekeepers, managers, concierges, receptionists, kitchen porters, sommeliers, bartenders, catering assistants and cooks across the UK. They also launched an emergency appeal just after Boris Johnson's announcement in mid March asking the public to stop visiting restaurants, bars and cafes across the country. As hundreds of thousands of incredible hospitality professionals started to be laid off, it was clear that perhaps more than ever, the charity was going to be in demand. Raising over £250,000 in less than two weeks they have been inundated for help. Mark Lewis chats about how they are responding and how the public or larger companies can donate.
This is a shorter special edition of the podcast looking at how some businesses in the hospitality sector are coping with changes as a result of the coronavirus. In this chat I catch up with Kirsty who I first spoke with about her story back in September 2019. Kirsty's company 'Love Drinks' represents some incredible high end drinks brands with genuine authentic stories behind their stunning products. Kirsty provides another example of the ripple effects back up the supply chain as bars and restaurants across the country closed. As entrepreneurs Kirsty points out that we are used to volatile and challenging working lives, but we need to remember the impact on those around us who are use to a more stable and secure lifestyle. We also explore the potential for Kirsty to pivot her business with a direct to consumer, rather than wholesaler model, and the longer term challenges that could present. From her own challenges around mental and physical health Kirsty is also good at reminding us of the need to stay healthy and positive, despite the uncertainty of when hospitality will be back up and running as we once knew it.
This is a shorter special edition of the podcast looking at how some businesses in the hospitality sector are coping with changes as a result of the coronavirus. In this episode Jennifer from Canton Tea explains how her normal customer has completely disappeared almost overnight and her entire team have been furloughed. However, Jennifer and her team have pivoted the business fast, both to help them service the crisis, but also to support both Hospitality Action and frontline hospitality teams directly. Jennifer is the kind of human that reassures me we will come out of this the other side, and together we will trade and support each other again. A great human and great business, enjoy the show and do check out cantonsocial.cantontea.com as we discuss in the show.
A bonus episode and new idea to release shorter regular podcasts specifically around what people in the hospitality sector are doing, or some advice around some of the fast paced legislation changes. These CORONAVIRUS special podcasts are slanted towards people in hospitality or who are interested in hospitality, but will overlap with business people in general and what they are doing in the current crisis. Other episodes you can find and more orientated around everyone interested in food and drink. In this episode, Will Beckett from Hawksmoor chats about the journey in the past two weeks and how they navigated the difficulty between holding onto their values, whilst making tough decisions for the business. We discuss the implications of the government support strategy that has been launched, and some thoughts on the future and how and when things may change. I hope it’s useful.
A bonus episode and new idea to release shorter regular podcasts specifically around what people in the hospitality sector are doing, or some advice around some of the fast paced legislation changes. These CORONAVIRUS special podcasts are slanted towards people in hospitality or who are interested in hospitality, but will overlap with business people in general and what they are doing in the current crisis. Other episodes you can find and more orientated around everyone interested in food and drink. In this episode, JD who has a background as a corporate lawyer, is particularly good at keeping abreast of some of the support from government and what it means in the real world. We cover Forfeiture Moratorium, employee rescue plan, eligibility to loans, HRMC and what you should and could be doing in your business now. I hope it's useful.
This week’s guest has a brilliant way of describing his striking career change in 2008, when he went from ‘birdless flight to flightless birds’. I’ll explain! For more than a decade, Ben Jackson had been the MD of the London Beach Store – a business he loved, because it focussed on his fascination for kite surfing, which had begun when he was 3 years old. Then, just over a decade ago, he got involved in running his family’s farm and has never looked back. Fluffetts specialises in what it calls ‘genuinely free range eggs’ and Ben has built up encyclopaedic knowledge about every aspect of hen behaviour and egg laying. For instance, the ‘pecking order’ really does exist and most flocks have a hard-core escape committee: birds who work out how to fly over any barrier and into the woods, never to return. And if you’ve ever wondered why egg yolks vary in colour from pale yellow to orange or why the shells of larger eggs tend to be more brittle than those of smaller ones, Ben has the answers. Some of them will make your mind boggle. I’ve wanted to dive deep into eggs for a long time. We consume millions of them a day across the country. But with battery farming, organic and free range, I think there is a great deal of confusion around such an everyday product. So it’s time to get myth busting and get some actual facts. Enjoy the conversation.
Craft beers and gins have come into their own in the last few years – alongside artisanal bakeries and independent coffee roasters. So what’s going to be the next big thing amongst small, specialist food and drink businesses? If you listened to my podcast with Keterina Albanese at the Pub Show, it could be cider, English whisky or rum. If it’s rum, then Giles Collighan, Vince Noyce and Dich Oatley will be leading the way. I caught up with Vince and Dich at the Portsmouth Distillery, where I discovered that the word ‘rum’ is really an umbrella term for a drink that comes in different guises, from the floral French ‘agricole’ which uses sugar cane juice to the molasses-based rum associated with the British Navy. Regular listeners will know that I love meeting people who do things properly. Who really research and understand their craft and don’t take shortcuts. This edition is yet another tale of dedication and patience, with Vince in particular devoting hours to researching different rums across the Caribbean, from the Dominican Republic in the North down to Trinidad in the South. It’s a tough gig, but someone’s got to do it… And now, they have to impatiently wait 3 years for some of their barrel aged rum to mature, hidden in a casement of a fort built in 1785, providing perfect temperature controlled ageing conditions.
I’ve waited a very long time to interview this weeks guest. But patience paid off, and I’m utterly sure this programme will blow, or at least open your mind just a little bit more. It’s about those tiny little creatures without whom this podcast would not exist, in the sense that so much of the food and drink we eat is dependent on this insect’s ability to pollinate plants. Mark Rogers, owner of Twinways Orchard, has immersed himself in the world of bees for years. Whilst I knew bees were important, and I knew they were being threatened, for a very long time I’ve wanted to speak to an expert about what exactly is going on and why we should be concerned. Mark will reveal parts of bees lives that sound like they belong to science fiction – and yet they’re happening all around us, without us noticing. For instance, I thought being Queen Bee was a nice gig. It turns out she’s not the boss at all but the hive’s egg slave, being herded around by her inferiors. And did you know that honeybees are greedy vandals? Give them half a chance and they will rip a hole in the bottom of a flower to get to the nectar, leaving nothing for other types of insect whose tongues were designed specifically for that plant and will pollinate it properly. And we haven’t got onto the figure-of-eight dance that bees do, and the amazing things it tells other bees, or how long bees can survive in the post. When you listen, I hope you learn as much as I did, and I hope that you will never want to spray your roses, or any other plant, again.
I always wanted this podcast to be pretty eclectic in it’s range of guests, all hung under this idea of hospitality in its broadest sense, where food and drink is the common denominator. This weeks guest, Sue Quinn is a food writer and cookbook author. I wanted to chat to Sue about the importance of the written word in hospitality, and I guess life in general. The reviewers, the critics and the influencers are all having an impact on our venues and our daily lives. From the ghee butter in Olivia Coleman’s Oscar-winning goody bag, and the rise of ultra-processed vegan food to the eery beauty of cacao pods that look like alien lanterns: this gives you a flavour of the range of topics that Sue explores in her writing life. But her early career was far removed from food and drink. Sue was a political journalist in Australia before moving the UK as London correspondent. After a stint at the Guardian as a home news reporter, she went freelance, and began editing and then writing cookbooks. Sue’s now an award-winning food writer, journalist and cookbook author. Her articles and recipes regularly appear in the Telegraph, the Sunday Times and the Guardian and her books range from Easy Vegan to Cocoa, her most recent encyclopaedic work on chocolate. In the interests of research, Sue even travelled to Mexico, where she sampled gorgeous artisanal hot chocolate – something she was well qualified to do because she has accreditations in both chocolate and cheese tasting. As you’ll hear, variety really is the spice of this writer’s life – and Sue’s ability to turn her pen to a range of projects is an advantage in a sector which has seen a huge amount of change in the last few years.
I love the challenges of operating hotels... well, even if I don’t necessarily love them, because it’s really hard, I do at least find them utterly fascinating. We’ve not been to a hotel for a while, but I so enjoyed chatting to Gareth Banner from The Ned a fair few episodes ago, I thought it was time to return. This time, instead of one super huge hotel in the city, we’re taking a look at a few stunning properties spread over a somewhat larger area. And If you want examples of how hotels can evolve with the times, and bring in new types of guests, without alienating their traditional following, this is the episode for you. Andrew Stembridge is Executive Director of Iconic Luxury Hotels. They are a small and impressive collection, including The Lygon Arms, a coaching inn that dates back to the 1600s; Cliveden House, a stately home and Chewton Glen, an 18th Century manor house which has enjoyed half a century of award-winning 5 star-hospitality. As you’ll hear, Chewton Glen has led the way over the decades. It was one of the first hotels in the country to open a spa, in 1990. Under Andrew’s leadership, it has also become very family-friendly, with wonderful tree house lodges (more on those in a moment), the Beehive Kids’ Club, and classes at the hotel’s cookery school, The Kitchen. And by hosting Chris Evans’ Children in Need events, it's broadened its fanbase even more, and helped to raise millions of pounds along the way. So how do you introduce so much change, and still maintain the historical spirit of a place? Keep listening, and you’ll find out.
There is no getting away from the fact that James Cochran is a dude. He’s the chef with no name and his restaurant is named after a song from The Strokes, and if that’s not cool enough, he also happens to be an epic chef, and an all-round entertaining chap. If you look at James Cochran’s sample menus – from pheasant sausage to buttermilk jerk spiced chicken – you can see the influences that shape his brilliant cooking: Scottish from his dad; Vincentian from his mum. When James was honing his chef’s skills alongside Brett Graham at the famous The Ledbury, he couldn’t bring these influences to the fore – great though his time with the Michelin-starred chef was. (He really does mean ‘great’, despite the 18-hour days when he never saw daylight and despite regularly missing his tube stop, because he was so exhausted). James came into his own when he was named ‘Champion of Champions’ on the Great British Menu in 2018 and his Goat Sharing Board and legendary Scotch Bonnet Jam reached the attention of millions. Now, as the owner of 12:51, he has the freedom to work creatively with the ingredients from his childhood. He says he ‘feels honest every day about the food he does and is happy to carry on his parents’ legacy’.
Mushrooms, who knew? Well, some people do, but most us will be doing some intensive learning in this episode. Mushrooms do some amazing things and cover miles and miles of the forest floor without us even knowing. By the time you finish listening to this interview with John, you’ll be wondering why on earth we don’t do more of what he does, and why restaurants and cafes don’t feature more food sourced in this way. I’m talking about foraging. To me, foraging is a no brainer. The foods you come across, whether they are roots, berries, leaves, mushrooms, seaweeds or flowers, are true super foods. The act of searching for them also helps your wellbeing, either because you’re enjoying it with family and friends, or, if you’re on your own, it’s like a form of meditation. You might have ruled out this activity, because you live in a town or city. Think again! John discovered the rewards of foraging in London, as he explored his local park in Stoke Newington. You won’t believe how many different species of plant he has eaten from that square mile, but you’ll find out later. Now that his home is in Dorset, John’s foraging patch extends to woods and the seashore, as well as different green spaces in the capital. Through his foraging walks, workshops and book, he’s doing his bit to spread the word about wild foods and just how fascinating they are.
If there is one restaurant on this planet that embodies purity of intent and an obsessive eye for detail, it’s Hawksmoor. Whether you’re in London, Manchester, Edinburgh or New York (which will, or has opened, depending on when you listen) you know you’ll be given exceptional food, but with none of the stuffiness that used to come with such wonderful dining. As regular listeners will know, I have the privilege of interviewing dozens of hospitality legends. Without fail, whenever the Hawskmoor name crops up, people express their appreciation for the awesome, well deserved, and exceptionally consistent reputation. Hawksmoor’s founders, Will Beckett and Huw Gott, have stuck to their original vision, doing simple things really well and delivering them in beautifully relaxed settings, which feel like they’ve been there forever. But doing simple things brilliantly takes a lot of time and effort. My conversation with Will gives you an insight into the incredible amount of thought that goes into every tiny detail – from sourcing ingredients from the best ethical producers to calibrating the level of smoky grit on the grills used to cook the famous Hawksmoor steaks…. To even rummaging through second-hand shops to find the right architectural features for each of their venues. Hawksmoor is an inspiring example of how you can build your business with integrity, on both sides of the Atlantic. And if you’re wondering why Hawksmoor dares to bring its offering to the USA, home to the steak restaurant, start listening now to find out…