‘Brewdog- Business for Punks’- a far from conventional business book

‘Business for Punks’ is written by James Watt, the co-founder of the Brewdog beer and brewery company.  I am a huge supporter and advocate of “small” entrepreneurial businesses, challenging the larger corporates and providing a product or service with a distinct point of difference. Brewdog is certainly one of these, and the approach they take to running their business is certainly novel, and different to any I have seen before!

Their philosophy is summed up in this great quote:

Don’t waste your time on bullshit business plans. Forget sales. Ignore advice. Put everything on the line for what you believe in.

Having done a hospitality/business degree for 4 years of my life, I saw what could probably be called the “proper” way of doing business. Financial models with strict rules, marketing classes with ‘rights and wrongs’, human resources management lectures with vast archives of academic literature and arguments, operational procedures from experienced practitioners. Now this was great, I loved it (my inner nerd coming out), and this was totally why I went to university. But with hindsight, and over two years since leaving the world of academia, it’s actually good to look at things from a completely alternative viewpoint. And ‘Business for Punks’ does exactly this. I don’t know how this would have gone down as an academic textbook, probably not too well, but the advice it gives is perfectly pitched for young fledgling businesses who want to do their own thing, their way, or indeed established companies who want a new look at how to run their organisation.

The book is structured as you might expect a traditional business book to be, but with off-piste sub-headings. For example:

Starting a business- “Don’t waste time on bulls*** business plans”; “Ignore advice”; “Get people to hate you”

Finance- “Cash is motherf*****g king”; “Make banks your bitch”; “The paradox of growth”

Marketing– “No budget, no problem”; “Fans, not customers”; “Give it away”

Building a team– “Interviews suck”; “Love at first sight”; “Ships need captains”

a few more.. “Steal and bastardise”; “Networking is for fools”; “Don’t follow trends”

See what I mean about an ‘alternative’ approach to business!? Now I don’t necessarily agree with every word inside, although the overall message of the book certainly resonates with me, and I think will with a lot of business people.

Fancy reading it yourself? Buy it online here. And have a nice cold craft beer in hand at the same time.

Brewdog

Taste of London

Last week in Regents Park took place the annual Taste of London Restaurant Festival. Despite the typical English “summer” weather (the venue reminded me somewhat of a ‘Glastonbury for Foodies’), I popped along on Saturday morning to see what it had to offer. And the answer is this: some of London’s best restaurants, chefs, dishes and suppliers, all in one place, with an abundance of choices of things to eat and drink. With only a couple of hours to spend there I had to choose carefully- so, what did I go for?:

• Smoked Bacon and Egg from Roux at Parliament Square

• Currywurst from the German Gymnasium

• Lamb Shoulder and aubergine from Pied à Terre

• Lamb Fettuccine and Truffle; Cod with Liquorice; Amalfi Lemon Cream, from Sartoria

• Keralan Chicken from Trishna

All washed down with a pint of Doom Bar amber ale and couple of Menabrea, an Italian blonde beer.

Not a bad selection there! Looking forward to next year already.

Should we Stay or Should we Go?

Not really one to openly discuss politics (mainly because, and happy to admit this, that I don’t understand most of it!), however the upcoming EU referendum is bound to have an effect on the Hospitality industry so I’ve had a look at some of the main issues.

Jobs

Anyone who works in or visits restaurants and hotels in the UK, can testify for the diverse workforce from across Europe and the world. This would not cause dramatic repercussions as such for businesses but some changes to contracts and HR procedures might be considered to adapt to new or tweaked laws. However were UK to leave the EU, they could still work with EU employment law, as the Swiss do. A Brexit would have more of an impact on individuals from overseas working in the hospitality industry; mainly, that obtaining work permits from skilled workers in the EU would be considerably more complex, hence discouraging people to come over. One argument in the Brexit camp is the old adage of “more jobs for British people”, but considering the situation we are already in with significant skill shortages in kitchens, housekeeping and restaurants, this argument does not stand too strong. One would however hope that the lure of London and other major cities will continue to bring people in to the UK.

Suppliers

Contracts with suppliers may need reviewing in the case of Brexit. One of the benefits we have in the EU is restriction-free trade with suppliers, allowing us to bring in olives from Greece, croissants from France, Proscuitto from Italy (etc etc), allowing UK hospitality businesses to provide authentic experiences to guests. Losing this may mean renegotiating all these contracts, which being out of the EU might prove difficult. Likewise vice-versa, for us to export our products overseas would mean new and different agreements. 12% of hospitality professionals surveyed stated that rising food costs was their biggest fear about a possible Brexit.

Tourism

One sector that would undoubedtly benefit from a Brexit is the smaller, regional hotels and B&Bs. A Brexit is expected to see a 20% drop in the value of the pound, and so for those who often opt for low-cost holidays to Europe might lean towards a staycation instead, hence keeping their money within the UK economy, which can only be a good thing. Tourism into the UK could be affected, as restrictions on VISAs and travel make free-flowing of tourists more difficult. In fact a Caterer survey found that for 21% of people in hospitality, the main concern is a fall in visitor numbers. One number quoted is that 1/3 of potential tourists from Spain, Italy and Germany, and 1/4 from France, would be less likely to visit the UK if we Brexit, amid fears that quite simply a holiday in the UK would become more expensive and less value for money.

Overall– a vote to Remain means that hospitality businesses would save money and time by not needing to change contracts and procedures, and would continue to benefit from skilled people from overseas coming into our restaurants and hotels to plug skill gaps. A vote to Leave means a rise in domestic tourism and arguably more opportunities for British staff, although whether that actually fills the skill shortage is a different question.

A survey conducted in May by the IoH suggested that most Hospitality managers are voting to remain (52.4%) , with 36.3% voting leave, and 11.3% as yet undecided. Come June 23rd, it will be interesting to see what way the country goes, and what effects this has on our industry.

3010021_BrexitCartoon
Credit to RetailWeek.com for the photo

24 Restaurants of the last year

Turning 24 tomorrow, and looking back on some amazing restaurants and foodie experiences over the last year. By somewhat of a coincidence, I’ve been to 24 (1 every fortnight, I know that sounds like a lot), so here they are…

Best in Show 

The Manor and Paradise Garage – outstanding, modern British and innovative food and drinks. The finds of the year for sure.

The Michelin Stars

Launceston Place– because who doesn’t like a 7-course Tasting Menu…

Angler– fine-dining fish and seafood in the heart of the City of London

Murano– innovative, clever and refined Italian dining from Angela Hartnett

City Social– modern, stylish, and possibly the best restaurant view in London. Beautiful restaurant from Jason Atherton

Highly Recommended

Curry Leaf Cafe– authentic Indian cuisine down on the South Coast

Polpo– Venetian-style restaurants and bars throughout London. Great relaxed atmosphere and food

Best of London

The Shed– part of the Gladwin Brothers’ group, a superb British restaurant in Notting Hill. Great spot for brunch

House of Ho– delicious Vietnamese and Asian food, in Central London

Almeida– modern British restaurant in Islington, very clever and interesting dishes

Quaglino’s– had both dinner and afternoon tea here, in this most iconic and glamorous of Mayfair restaurants.

Paternoster Chop House– bar food, great steaks, huge selection of meat, all in surroundings of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Skylon– stylish restaurant on the Southbank, which great views over the Thames

German Gymnasium– German and European food in a beautiful space near King’s Cross

Avenue– American-themed restaurant in St James. ‘Triple Pig Burger’ an absolute winner.

Sartoria– slightly biased, but well worth a visit for Francesco Mazzei’s authentic Italian cuisine

Blueprint Cafe– modern European food on the Wharf next to the Thames. Another good spot for dinner with a view

The Diner/Joe’s Southern Kitchen– a new departure for me, but really got into casual-style US diners this year. Both these two well worth a visit.

Best of The Rest

The Red House, Newbury– lovely country pub in Newbury, Berkshire. Great wine list and delicious Sunday roasts. An absolute must if in the area.

Old Parsonage Hotel, Oxford– part of the Mogford group in Oxford, the restaurant at The Old Parsonage Hotel is now probably the best in the collection for dining. A very Oxford-y type of restaurant, but delicious.

Valencia– yes granted not a particular restaurant as such, but I had 24 hours here in October, and the Spanish/Valenciennes have a fantastic eating and drinking culture.

Persian Food– again not a particular restaurant (although Little Persia in Shepherd’s Bush is great), Iranian and Persian cuisine is a new discovery for me this year. Very vegetable and herb-based, I look forward to trying more of this delicious food.

Looking forward to seeing what my 24th year will hold in the wonderful world of restaurants, food and drink!

bdaypic

 

‘The Diego Masciaga Way’- Lessons from the Master of Customer Service

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”- Mahatma Gandhi

One of the best hospitality/service books I’ve read, and just finished, is ‘The Diego Masciaga Way’. Diego Masciaga is the long-standing Director of the celebrated 3-Michelin star Waterside Inn, and this book by Chris Parker is a fascinating insight into the thoughts and principles of a man clearly at the top of his profession.

I won’t spoil the surprises for those interested in reading it, but the main principles of service are highlighted in the final chapter, based around; Recruitment; Training; Leadership; Service Delivery; Longevity and Consistency.

An inspirational read- can highly recommend!

Masciaga

London Wine Fair 2016

Visited the London Wine Fair last week, for my second visit. One of those events where I am there as much for business as for pleasure! Always great to meet suppliers, taste new and interesting wines, and catch-up with industry colleagues and friends!

London Wine Fair 2016