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Front of house = the face of your business!

Your front of house team is one of the first opportunities you have to make a good first impression on your customers. Whether they’re the only person working in your small, family-run tea room or one of a huge reception team, they are the face of your company and should project what you’re all about, how much you care and how good you are. They are a reflection of your business, your brand…and of you! Recruit carefully and wisely to create a front of house team which is welcoming, engaging and informative.

Charm and friendliness coupled with an innate sense of service cannot be taught or trained. Look out for these traits at interview, and dig deep when asking candidates about excellence in customer service. Relevant past experience is all well and good, but I go for a warm, winning smile and sunny demeanour over a so-so character with more experience every time. That said, ensure your preferred candidate has a bit of common sense, good numeracy and literacy skills, and is tech savvy in our increasingly tech dependant world. Staff are required to operate on-line booking systems, deal with requests on social media and pull reports from tills so you need to be confident that they’re trainable and can carry out these tasks effectively and efficiently.

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As well as engaging with your customers, your front of house team needs to be able to engage with one another. After all, no customer wants to see the bickering and arguing that airline cabin crews can renowned for. When recruiting, think about how the candidate will gel with the rest of your team. Would they fit in culturally? Are they a big personality who may conflict with another strong character? Would their particular skills complement existing skills within your team or, conversely, would their shortfalls only add to your woes?

Once you find a good ‘un, make sure you keep ’em! Get to know your new recruits, notice their particular skill set, and recognise vision and ambition. Keep staff morale high and turnover low by introducing an engaging induction plan which introduces new staff to all other members of your team and different parts of your business. Design a training and development programme, which sounds expensive and scary but can be easily implemented by involving your suppliers, taking advantage of free on-line programmes and looking out for scholarship and work experience opportunities.

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As manager or business owner, carry out spot checks on your team, or organise a Mystery Shopper who can provide a fresh, objective pair of eyes. With vast experience at many other hotels, bars and restaurants, they’re in the perfect position to benchmark your business and put your front of house team to the test.

So, how would your team fare? If average, make them good. If good, make them great!

Victus Consultancy can help small, independent catering and hospitality businesses achieve their potential. We guide, advise and support new, budding and more experienced business owners with all elements of your business, such as staff training & development as well as menu offering and pricing, licensingallergens,  and compliance. Give us a buzz on 07732 454 639for a quick chat and we can take it from there!

EU hospitality workers – how would we fill the gap?

As Brexit negotiations continue, throw up controversy and falter, the British Hospitality Association has once again stated that hotels and restaurants could go out of business if staff from EU countries are forced to leave the country.

Dire warnings include the industry losing up to 60,000 staff a year, only 1 in 50 applicants for jobs in well-known coffee shop chains being British, and hospitality businesses needing up to 10 years to replace EU staff. And worryingly, hospitality businesses already have more job vacancies than any other sector in the UK.

How has it come to this?

Go to Spain and watch a waiter at work. He owns the floor. He takes orders, doesn’t have to write anything down and brings the right food to the right person first time. Sit in a coffee bar in Italy. The barista loves her work – she is cool, she knows all her customers by name and she makes the meanest coffee you ever tasted. Then have a meal in a Greek taverna, where the family runs the place like clockwork.

In these countries, like many others, hospitality is a serious career choice – jobs are valued, sought after and respected, and the staff take great pride in their work. A hospitality and/or catering qualification is usually mandatory, employees are contracted and it is often a career for life. In Britain, conversely, where employment laws are much more flexible, hospitality is often seen as casual work –  great as a part-time option for young people at school or in further education, but not much beyond that. This can lead to a disinterested, disaffected level of service, which in turn discredits the industry.

Admittedly, a job in hospitality involves serious graft. Workers spend many hours on their feet, deal with demanding customers, and in our increasingly fast-paced work, the pressure to provide a quick yet efficient service can be exhausting.

So, how can we make hospitality a more attractive proposition?

  • Proper contracts: Too many hospitality staff are on controversial zero hours contracts, so more secure employment which offers paid holidays, sickness leave and other benefits would be great start. New employees immediately feel well looked after and appreciated
  • Training: Never underestimate the power of a personalised induction programme and ongoing training and development. With imagination and creativity it needn’t cost the earth, and instead will reduce staff turnover which always helps with profit
  • Skills: Hospitality workers can often be regarded as unskilled. In fact, employees such as chefs are highly skilled and many others require a huge dedication to quality and service, and a fierce work ethic. Give staff skills and they immediately feel more valuable and indispensable, and this is the image they will project onto customers, raising the profile of the industry
  • Widen your employee pool: Consider employing older and disabled people, who have historically struggled to find work and who may stay with you longer than younger people
  • Culture: It’s unrealistic to think that we can change a whole nation’s attitude towards an industry, but as business owners we can create a wonderful culture which staff want to buy into and commit to. A culture where each and every employee is cherished and looked after, and which is tangible to our customers

I love this industry. I’m passionate about it. I eat, sleep and breathe it. I’m proud to say I’ve worked in it my whole life, and have no intention of changing that. Let’s instil this mentality into up-and-coming talent to secure a fantastic future for us all.

 

Victus Consultancy is passionate about recruiting, training & developing catering and hospitality industry teams to promote and raise the profile of the hospitality and catering industry. Contact us if you’d like an industry expert to help you attract, retain, coach and mentor the very best people for the benefit of both your business and your customers.

Catering for the FreeFrom market

The term “FreeFrom” has recently evolved from simply describing food which is suitable for people with allergies. It’s increasingly being used as a buzzword to let those with health, lifestyle and ethical concerns make an informed decision about what they do and do not eat. As hospitality professionals, it’s our job to ensure that we fully commit to catering for customers with a FreeFrom diet, whether due a medical condition or lifestyle choice. And I’m not just talking about following legislation and staying on the right side of the law, I mean really taking the time and effort to create imaginative, mouth-watering dishes that all customers can happily tuck into.

According to Allergy UK, around 45% per of the population of the UK has a food allergy or intolerance. For the people affected this is an inconvenience at best and life threatening at worse. Additionally, there are now over 500,000 vegans in the country, an enormous 360% increase in the past ten years. These statistics, along with the increasing number of people opting for healthier eating, passionate about the environment and concerned about ethical issues, creates a wonderful opportunity for us as caterers to reimagine our menus to increase the amount of multi-allergen-free dishes on offer.

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This needn’t be as difficult as you may think. There are now many appealing gluten-free, diary-free and egg-free cakes available. Similarly, a typical lunch-time offering of soup, sandwiches and baked potatoes can be expanded to include flat bread, savoury tarts and pitta bread with exciting fillings such as gluten and dairy free mango chicken or goats cheese with a locally sourced chutney. Indeed, using suppliers from your community and wider region is a great way to support other SMEs, create a story around local specialities and cut down on food miles. In the long run, this approach may also help with Brexit-induced rising costs of imported ingredients. It also presents a fantastic opportunity to rely more heavily on seasonal and even organic produce.

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However, understanding allergens can be a minefield. What’s the difference between dairy-free and lactose-free? How can you avoid cross-contamination in a small kitchen? What are the best options for a customer who requires a gluten and dairy free meal which is also halal? There’s a wealth of information on-line such as the Food Standards Agency  and Allergy UK. You could join social media groups dedicated to people with allergens which helps you understand their complex dietary requirements, frustrations, requirements and recommendations. Follow bloggers like the Intolerant Gourmant and consider bringing in a consultant who knows their stuff.

And it’s not just food, you also need to consider drinks. The hot drinks market is expanding all the time as the variety of coffees and speciality teas continues to grow. Caterers need to ensure the types of milk we’re offering also increases, with people on a health kick looking for non-fat or low-fat options, and lactose-intolerant customers requiring soy, rice or almond varieties.

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The key is to cater for everyone. Eating is one of life’s joys, and it should be as pleasurable and stress-free an experience as possible for everyone, regardless of special dietary requirements.

Contact Victus today to discuss how we can help you with allergen legislation. As food and beverage specialists, we can also help you source great ingredients and products to create delicious FreeFrom dishes to ensure a great dining experience for ALL your customers!

Training staff in turbulent times

With rising business rates, the introduction of the living wage, the uncertainty of Brexit and the proliferation of huge hotel and restaurant chains, times have never been tougher for humble hospitality and catering SMEs. With both budgets and time tight, the temptation may be to put training staff nearer the bottom of the priority list.

With one eye on keeping prices competitive and another on reducing costs, operators may feel overwhelmed at the thought of spending time and money on training. Many a client has said to me “What if I train them and they leave?”. My response? “But what if you don’t and they stay?!”

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Recruit great people who fit with your business in the first instance and the battle is half won. But hospitality has notoriously high staff turnover and you need to ensure you keep the good ones, otherwise you’ll be stuck in a never-ending, time-consuming cycle of recruitment and induction.

Training and development may seem like an expensive and daunting task, but be resourceful and use a little ingenuity, and it can be surprisingly enjoyable and good value. Get all team members involved with induction programmes. Your existing team will become aware of what they’re capable of; they’ll feel valued and develop an increased sense of responsibility and loyalty. It also works to introduce new staff to everyone and all elements of your company, and frees you to concentrate on other areas of the business.

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Consider free on-line courses, research scholarships and see what council or business enterprise courses might be available locally. Get your suppliers on board – your coffee supplier could run a course on the different types of beans and styles of coffee and your meat supplier could come and talk about different cuts of meat and how best to prepare them. Be open minded and arrange a job swap with another business to up-skill your staff and theirs. But do invest in specialist training consultants where required. Allergen, health and hygiene legislation can all be a minefield and an expert can not only ensure your staff are fully up to speed, but they can help implement best practise to ensure you don’t fall foul of the law as well.

Full trained staff are more confident and competent, and can provide the very best service. It’s therefore essential to find the resources for continual professional development. You’ll reap the benefits through lower staff turnover and increased customer satisfaction. And who doesn’t want that?

Victus Consultancy is passionate about recruiting, training & developing catering and hospitality industry teams. Contact us if you’d like an industry expert to help you attract, retain, coach and mentor the very best people for the benefit of both your business and your customers.

Moments of Truth

Fifteen years ago, looking for refuge from the pouring rain, I popped into an unprepossessing tea room. I needed a cuppa, and badly. Just five minutes later I was presented with a beautiful fine bone china cup, saucer and tea pot. All very nice of course, but nothing I didn’t expect or hadn’t seen before. Then I noticed it… a beautiful silver tea strainer sitting at the side of the plate. Aaaaaaaah! What a lovely touch! Visions of the finest loose leaf tea brewed to my exacting standards with no “bits” floating around filled my head. This one little object elevated the whole experience from a quick cup of tea and a bit of shelter from the rain to one of those rare things – a moment of truth.

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So, what are moments of truth? Simply put, these are the “Wow!” or “Ah-ha!” moments in marketing or customer service when a customer’s interaction with a brand, product or service forms or changes an impression about that particular brand, product or service. They can range from a customer walking into a bistro which has been highly recommended to them, and thinking “Yes! I see what people mean! This place is incredible”, to the unexpectedness of a tea strainer which changed my whole perception of an otherwise unremarkable tea room, to a hotel being able to turn around a complaint into something positive, making the customer change his mind about never returning.

And why are they important? Well, you need moments of truth to differentiate yourself from your competitors, strength your identity and build your “fan base”, especially when hospitality is becoming increasingly homogenised. Go into any well know chain of coffee shop and you know exactly what you’re going to get. There are no surprises when it comes to the standard of the beans, the shape of the brownie or the range of toasted sandwiches. But, and this is a big BUT, even in these surroundings you can make your customers’ experience special. The product may be highly standardised, but staff never should be. Taking a high chair over to a harassed parent before they’d even thought of it, offering the WiFi code to someone struggling to get signal and some pretty latte art are all very simple yet effective ways to help make someone’s day.

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Independent businesses are less restricted, and can have great fun creating a memorable experience with lots of quirky touches. I often talk about my mum’s hand made knitted tea cosies which are a big feature of my own coffee shops, and never fail to surprise and delight customers. A really surprising sandwich filling or amazing taste combination always work a treat, as does your ability to cater for customers with complex food allergies or intolerances. Imagine you’re used to brownie, brownie or brownie and all of a sudden you’re offered piña colada cake, soaked pistachio & citrus cake and orange & polenta cake! Suddenly, your whole world is opened up to a range of different tastes and textures, and you’re going to go back to that amazing place time and again because they care about you and want you to have an enjoyable, stress-free culinary experience.

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You have plenty of opportunities to create moments of truth. Think of all the different stages of catering and hospitality experiences when you can create an impression on your customers. Your website, literature, the front of your building, how you welcome guests, your decor, the way towels are folded, the way toilet roll is folded (yes, really!), your cups, your cake display, the soap you use, how you deal with children and every single interaction between your staff and customers – don’t underestimate the huge power that every little touch can have.

Every moment can be a moment of truth.

 

Victus Consultancy has thirty years of experience in the hospitality and catering industry. We can help you with all aspects of running an SME such as staff training, allergens and creating moments of truth which reflect and reinforce your brand to create a strong, positive impression. Just call us now on 07732 454 639 for a no-obligation chat.

 

 

Man meets Wall

I’ve just walked the Great Wall of China. Ok, not all 6,600 miles of it, but certainly some of the most gruelling, challenging, awe-inspiring sections.

I know! Me! Walk the Great Wall! Even just typing the words gives me goosebumps. I pinch myself as I type. Damn, I thought I was made of stronger stuff!

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Imagine spending time with someone who after five days states that they have no idea what you do for a living yet you have had to rely on them and a band of twenty three others just to get through each day? This was the first time in my 42 years of life where I wasn’t a husband, a dad, a leader, a boss or a son, I was just Andrew and I liked it.

Just Andrew was to be a team player and work along with this intrepid band of hospitality vagabonds to complete almost 50 hours of strenuous mile after mile in scorching heat, carrying a back pack with up to six litres of water just to avoid dehydration. I think it’s fair to say that questions had to be asked if my marbles were still intact.

Precisely a year ago I was sitting in a meeting at Gleneagles Hotel. Inspired by some of my peers and their remarkable stories, I resolved to also also make a difference. Factoring in my determination to not become just another “Fat Dad”, I made a decision. I’d been humming and hawing over an opportunity to join a week long trek along the Great Wall of China to raise money for a Scottish hospitality charity and get fit at the same time. Now, with the rain pouring outside and feeling at a crossroads, it seemed to be a no brainer. I paid my deposit and the reply email informed me that I had 279 days to go.

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We all then got busy with life and the weeks turned to months and Christmas passed and we were down to sixteen weeks and that realisation was what I needed to get off the couch and start training and train I did. There was absolutely no way the others would be waiting for me. At first it felt like punishment but after the seventh morning of walking 90 minutes before work I was beginning to waken before my alarm and find myself looking forward to the walk. I was starting to eat healthier and drink more water. My work was benefiting from the new me; I was thinking more clearly, making better business decisions and could seem to manage more tasks each day.

The time arrived to head to China. We met at the airport, nervous giggles and cuddles were exchanged with my comrades. Little did we know what lay ahead over the next ten days of travel and trek.

Two days later we’re standing at the base of the tourist section of the Great Wall of China. Ahead of us, to the side and behind us was 6600 miles of one of the wonders of the world and there and then reality hit and it hit hard. I burst into tears and I was not alone, I tried to blame the sun tan lotion but we were all in the same boat. We were only doing a small few sections of this monster, I believe only two people ever have completed the whole thing and it took just under two years.

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We began walking and talking and very quickly the talking stopped but the feet kept moving and after 90 minutes we were told that we had only just arrived now officially on the wall. I consider myself a fairly fit man, I have cycled many races, competed in many active pursuits but this was something that I struggle to describe. The heat, the height, the team work, the sheer majestic scale of the wall commanding over the landscape. Simply breath taking.

I read about other people’s accomplishments and think how lucky they are to have been involved in something so special but on this occasion that someone is me. After day number three we had formed a bond that I believe will last forever, we laughed, we cried, we sweated but most of all we walked together as a team. We made an unspoken deal that we went as a team and would leave each day as a team, last man standing and all that!

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The fitties would storm ahead and the slower team members would carry out their day’s business at a much more refined pace but we arrived and left each section together.

Every night at dinner every single person had a story to tell from that days adventure:
“Remember when this happened?”
“Wasn’t it funny when?!”
“I cant believe that!
“Did you see when?”
I’m smiling as I type this.

I’ve gone through life thinking that I had something to prove, prove to others, my peers, friends and family, turns out that I was wrong. There is the old cliché that we are not here for a long time instead we are here for a good time and I now can see that. I had to travel half way round the world to finally get it!

Friends, family, health and stories is where it is for me now.

I will continue to work hard, try and help others but I will make more time for stories. I saw an opportunity and I took it.

After all, life is all one big story.

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Creating a culture of clean

During his first visit to NASA’s headquarter’s in 1961, President John F. Kennedy stopped his tour to speak to a janitor mopping the floor. “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?”

“Well, Mr. President,” replied the janitor, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

Cleaning isn’t a sexy or exciting topic, but its importance can never be understated. If NASA’s role was to put a man on the moon, our role as catering and hospitality professionals is to create the best possible experience for our customers. We invest time, effort and money in creating eye-catching branding, mouth-watering menus and funky decor, but the basics should never be overlooked.

Say a resident chooses to dine in-house or a non-residential guest has read great reviews about your restaurant. They sit down and the table is sticky or there’s a dodgy looking stain on the floor. That’s their first impression, it’s a poor one, and you now have a lot of catching up to do. No matter how delicious the food or attentive the service, the whole experience will be overshadowed by cleaning and hygiene issues which could have so easily been prevented.

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Create a culture of cleaning excellence. Make it a key topic at induction, then run refresher courses as part of ongoing staff training and development. Include on-line and local authority or college courses, and consider using an industry expert and mystery shopper. Keep up to speed with new legislation and best practices. Ensure everyone involved with food, from KPs to F&B Managers, holds a Food Hygiene Certificate and that these are displayed for all to see. Organise a cleaning regime so all equipment gets thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis, and everyone is clear about who should be doing what when. Make health and hygiene a business KPI, and review your staff’s as well as your overall performance on this.
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Ensure your staff understands the importance of cleaning to avoid cross-contamination. If you don’t have multiple sets of pots, pans and utensils, everything has to be cleaned thoroughly before preparing food for a customer with special dietary requirements. There’s a lot more to allergens than following the latest legislation – it can be a matter of life and death, and the part cleaning has to play can never be understated.

Staff who’s primary role is cleaning should love cleanliness and have high attention to detail. Whenever I leave a hotel room or self-catering cottage with my family, I always look under the bed and behind sofa cushions for errant bits of lego, cars and pen lids. Discouragingly, I’m usually disgusted by the amount of dust, fluff and general dirt. Encourage cleaners to see the room how guests do – get them to lie on the bed to check for dust on ceiling lamps and fans. And stand in the shower and crouch down by sockets to check the hidden nooks and crannies.

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I’m a firm believer that all staff are responsible for cleanliness. If there’s something on the floor, pick it up. If you see a mark, wipe it. You might be a big hotel with dedicated cleaners, but if any member of staff sees something that could detract from your customers’ experience, they should sort it out immediately.

No matter your place in your hotel’s hierarchy, or whether cleaning is a fundamental part of your job or not, you’re not above doing your bit. So do it as if you were sending a man to the moon, creating an atmosphere of excellence for customers to enjoy.

Victus Consultancy can help with all aspects of operating a B&B, guest house or hotel, including cleaning. We’ve run our own catering businesses for over 15 years, and are experts in health & hygiene, allergens, training, setting up processes and procedures and following legislation and directives.

Simply give us a buzz on 07732 454 639 for a no-obligation chat, and we can take it from there.

Opening your dream coffee shop – 5 top tips

I recently spoke at a conference for hospitality and catering students. One of them asked me what traits you need to become a entrepreneur. I answered passion, an open-mind, creativity, determination and discipline. Being inquisitive, competitive and always ready to move on to the next thing. But most of all, you have to have vision and ambition.

One of my (many) personal aims is to own and operate seven Heaven Scent coffee shops, and for the brand to be instantly recognisable and highly regarded. Today, I’m a mixture of delighted, proud and anxious as I open my third outlet at Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries, a simply incredible, award-winning new building which will breathe new life into this former Royal Burgh.

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It takes a huge, and I mean HUGE, amount of work to get a coffee shop up and running. Starting a new business is daunting. The dream is fun, taking the leap is adventurous, but the reality can be overwhelming. In among the sexy jobs like choosing your coffee suppliers and beans, sampling cakes, ordering funky crockery and deciding on the decor, there are many, many other things that need to be considered.
So, you need to prioritise, and in my experience the key things to focus on when opening a coffee shop are:
 
1. Recruitment
Never underestimate how much your staff influence your customers’ experience. A friendly welcome, top chat and all-round excellent service are as important as the eating and drinking. Your staff can create a warm, inclusive atmosphere where people want to hang out. Recruit on personality – warmth, charm and charisma are innate and priceless. Then plan the training so your team is up to speed by opening day.  Well trained staff can create a latte with style and flair, advise on multi-allergen free dishes and know your menu inside-out, filling your customers with confidence and offering a personal level of service that big chains simply can’t match.
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2. Create a USP
Coffee shops may be a growing market, but it’s a busy, crowded one and you have to stand out from your competition. Customers expect independent coffee shops to have a more artisan and speciality feel, so know your audience and do your research. Being located in a prestigious building designed for both regular users and to attract visitors will certainly help my new outlet get off the ground, but we’ll still shout about the provenance of our food, our support of local suppliers, our home baking and our imaginative range of multi-allergen-free dishes.

3. Law & legislation
Yup, it’s dull, dull, dull but you don’t want to end up in a world of pain so sort out your paperwork. Insurance, HMRC,  VAT, national insurance, business rates, health & hygiene, invoicing… Get to grips with Food Standards Agency guidelines, learn the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, or HACCP, and ensure you comply with EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC).  And while you’re at it, don’t forget to create a profit and loss sheet.

4. Get to know your suppliers
Like your staff, you need to pick your suppliers wisely. Customers are increasingly discerning about quality, environmental impact and ethical sourcing, and will be keen to know about your suppliers and their products. Keep it as local as possible, get to know your suppliers and look after them – you need them much more than they need you when you’re just starting out.

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5. Marketing
It’s never too early to let people know about your arrival of your new coffee shop, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to start raising awareness. Create a Facebook page, advertise in your local press, promote yourself at community events, have plenty of posters and information in your window, and go round businesses and houses in your area with flyers. Passersby will see there’s something going on and be interested, so set up a stall outside with tasters and teasers.
Good luck, and welcome to the wonderful world of being a coffee shop owner!
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Victus Consultancy has many years experience of starting hospitality and catering businesses. If you’d like to realise your dream of owning a cafe, coffee shop, restaurant or hotel, we can help you with all aspects such as staff training, allergens and creating the ideal food and beverage offering. Just call us now on 07732 454 639 for a no-obligation chat.

All about the brand

A recognisable brand is surely one of the most valuable assets of any business. Do it well and the very mention of your name will conjure up images of style, innovation, excellence, customer care and creativity. Do it badly, however, and you’ll always find it difficult to project who you are and what you’re all about in a positive light.

Craft a name, logo, values, mission and ethos to create a brand which truly represents your business. This will build a strong identify which resonates with your customers. Take All Bar One, Slug & Lettuce, and Wetherspoons – each makes you imagine very different styles, atmospheres, staff attitude, approach and price points. Customers walk into their venues and know what to expect – this consistency is key to maintaining brand loyalty.

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A strong, impactful logo is a great way to start. Choose your design, typography and colour, then ensure you use the same kind of style across your business. Consistency across your drinks lists, bar menus, brochures and promotional information reinforces your brand, creates a stronger impact and increases credibility.

By nailing your branding you can even boost profits by selling branded merchandise – Hard Rock Café immediately springs to mind. If your customers have a great experience and love what you do, they’ll want to identify with you by wearing your logo. Who can knock an additional source of revenue which also provides a free PR and advertising opportunity?

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Staff uniforms are another opportunity to display and reinforce your logo, with the added benefit of acting as a walking billboard on their commute to work. But choose wisely who wears these clothes. Your team can’t simply wear a branded uniform, they have to believe in and be the face of your business. Recruit with personality and cultural fit in the forefront of your mind – will the candidate be a reflection of your brand and the image you want to project? Your brand begins and ends with the people behind your bar. A professional, fun, friendly bartender will attract repeat customers who will spread the word, but a surly, sloppy one will result in a bad customer experience and a loss of confidence in your brand.

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Victus Consultancy can help you with all aspects of your hospitality and catering business, including setting up, branding, expansion, recruitmentallergens and providing excellent customer service.

On the road with Victus

As well as working on a challenging consultancy project, in the past few weeks Victus has also been zipping around the UK delivering motivational speeches, presenting at awards ceremonies and compering at large international trade exhibitions.

But what makes me qualified to stand up to 250 students who aspire to work in catering and hospitality? Hand over a gong to one of my peers? Or moderate a panel of industry experts?

I think it boils down to a mix of experience, knowledge and personality.

IMG_3988I love working with bright, young, emerging talent, and I’m often asked to speak and lead workshops at schools and colleges. Last month I was a keynote speaker at the University of Highlands and Islands “Get Inspired 2017” Entrepreneurship. No doubt the students were expecting me to regale them with tales of my huge achievements and brag about my numerous successes. But I had a different agenda. I wanted to stand up as living proof that an entrepreneur has to withstand disappointments, challenges, trials, tribulations and no end of hardship. I’m honest, I’m direct and I wear my heart on my sleeve… and I’m quite happy to tell a room full of strangers about one particular business venture which pushed me right to the edge, both financially and emotionally. Share with them that I picked myself up, dusted myself down, and once I’d wept and wailed a little more, I used the experience to set up Victus.

The students were a great bunch, full of enthusiasm, eager to ask questions and really engaged. And they seemed to get my message:

“No matter what happens, keep trying. He showed that it does take a long journey and lots of hurdles along the way but you will get there eventually.”

IMG_3989Also in March I was the compere for “The Big Picture”, the main stage at the International Food Exhibition, held at the vast London Excel. This involved introducing keynote speakers, presenting awards and moderating panel discussions. Topics focused on hard hitting issues within the UK and international food and drink industry, with experts offering their advice and opinion. I had to think on my feet, know my stuff and keep both the speakers and audience on side. One speaker didn’t turn up and I had to think fast… I remembered someone I had met earlier, tracked her down and between the two of us we delivered an engaging discussion.

It was hard, challenging but it gave me such a buzz. But how was I able to pull it off?

I own a number of catering businesses so I have to keep up to date with law, legislation, best practice and things on the horizon like sugar tax. With over thirty permanent and part-time office, kitchen and front of house staff I’ve been there and seen that with almost every possible hiring, firing and training scenario. I work with many different kinds of suppliers, and understand the provenance of food as well as environmental and wider sustainability issues.

I specialise in one industry, and within that industry I have key areas of expertise. I don’t claim to be all things to all people, but I know what I know and I focus on this. If I was asked to speak at a technology or marketing conference, I’d decline. It’s not my thing.

But people. Building teams. Food & beverage. Allergens. Growing a business and aspiring to own more. Now those are topics I could speak about until the cows come home!

Victus Consultancy is an engaging, passionate and entertaining presenter, speaker and host. He is available to talk at hospitality and catering events throughout the UK and further afield, subject to availability. Contact us for additional information.