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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.
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.


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.


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.


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.

BBQ like a Boss!!

With the food industry currently embracing pop-ups, food trucks, street food and all things artisan, there’s still one culinary style that can put a smile on any man’s face and get his stomach rumbling…. the humble BBQ!!

Fire and beer, is there a better combo?


Yet for some people, the idea of a BBQ conjures images of seriously over-cooked yet raw sausages and dodgy looking chicken wings that should be delivered with their own toilet roll. But take a look at our friends in the Southern States of America, now these guys know how to cook up a veritable BBQ feast.

Barbecuing must be the oldest and most simple form of cooking dating back from whenever. But where does the word “barbecue” originate from? Well, there are multiple theories, but for me the most plausible is that “barbecue” is a derivative of the West Indian term for slow-cooking meat over hot coals – “barbacoa”.

Then, of course, the South Africans have their “braai”, the Chileans their “asado”, the Japanese their “yakitori” and the Brazilians their “churrasco”. For us in the UK, any process which involves smoking and grilling a product over an indirect heat source for a period of time is praised as barbecue, but this method of cooking is not as highly regraded or appreciated as it is in other parts of the world, probably because of our approach!


Ask anyone who can BBQ like a Boss and they’ll offer one key piece of advice… “timing”. The secret to effective BBQ’ing is patience and time, take your time. Make sure the coals are heated to the right temperature, then keep your meat, fish and veggies on the grill for the right amount of time. Your guests want to be wowed by an expert who can do it better, much better, than they can. At no stage in the game should they be worried that what they’re served hits either end of the scale being seriously over-cooked or the opposite.

Consider what you’re putting on the grill. It shouldn’t just be about a simple pork sausage or basic burger. Pretty much anything within reason can be cooked on a BBQ, so why not try pork, chicken and even game, fish and vegetables?


If we’re taking the humble BBQ to another level, then we need to talk about marinades. These provide an explosion of flavour without detracting from the meat itself. Be careful with a citrus marinade as if you leave it on for too long before cooking it can in fact toughen the meat. And it needn’t be anything overly complicated – a mix of ketchup, fruit chutney and Worcestershire sauce makes a fantastic marinade for chicken.

Smoking works as a great technique for the larger cut of meat but it requires specialist equipment, a great deal of knowledge and, again, time. The art of grilling food over direct heat also is a delicious method of cooking and far quicker which helps for smaller cuts of meat.

Another great BBQ tip is not to over-turn the meat and to not press the meat too hard as this actually forces out the flavour. There are so many ways to cook fish on a BBQ despite the myth that all fish disintegrates when coked this way. Fish baskets, foil and skin on are just a few techniques to make you BBQ like a legend.

A collection of friends gathered around a bbq

Soak wooden BBQ skewers in water prior to use to stop the sticks burning and in turn damaging the product. Oil vegetables before barbecuing to keep them from sticking to the grill. Sear vegetables on a high heat and then move to a cooler part of the BBQ to ensure that they are perfectly cooked with the most amazing flavour. Root vegetables love a bit of foil involvement and that keeps the taste in while they cook to a perfect crunch.

Let’s give fruit a chance too. Some fruits just don’t work and therefore shouldn’t be tackled. Apples, pears and quinces are all surprisingly tasty when barbecued but keep them big and chunky. A favourite is pineapple and then the classic full banana but why not abuse it with honey and chocolate buttons? The options are endless.


Nowadays we are governed by so many Health and Safety and Environmental policies and we are using a smaller surface and mixing products so due diligence is essential. Thermometers, separate chopping boards, prep stations, leaving adequate space between products, different utensils …ahhh its a minefield out there, but a tasty minefield.

I urge you to BBQ, why not? Show me a person who does not enjoy a good BBQ…. I thought not!!


Victus Consultancy can help you with all aspects of your food and beverage offering, including managing costs, pricing, menu design, allergen considerations, health & hygiene and… how to BBQ like a boss!

The hospitality work-life balance


All work and no play, yeah yeah yeah. We all know about the old work-life balance debate.

I remember many years ago talking to a colleague about what he had done in the 12 months since we had last met. I listened in awe to his tales of his intrepid adventures, fine wines and exotic foods from around the world, then heard myself regale him with my thoughts on increasing the average room rate, RevPAR, TRevPAR, the bottom line and undertaking a full hotel refurbishment.

I gulped and realised I had very little else to talk about. What’s more, I was helping someone else live their dream. It was certainly not my dream and things had to change.


I’m passionate about hospitality, I’ve worked in kitchens, hotels, restaurants, bars and bistros for over thirty years. I love it, I wouldn’t do anything else, but the demands on those of us working in the hospitality industry are great – long hours, meeting our guests’ increasingly high expectations, and of course overseeing and managing operations, often at breakneck speed. It can be almost impossible to arrange a team meeting, never mind catch your breath. But this dedication and commitment to what we do inevitably takes its toll, and it’s imperative that we all manage our work-life better to avoid stress, resentment, or even burn out.

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Fortunately, flexible working and work-life balance incentives and policies are starting to become the norm in companies, and increasingly sought after by employees. This being said there are still so many in the hospitality and catering industry who are less than satisfied. A recent survey stated that 25 percent of hospitality employees are unsatisfied with their personal work-life balance, and the attitude of “I was made to do it” is still very much prevalent.

A company with competitive edge over their competition is often accredited with seriously looking after their employees. This indicates that we need change to seriously change our mindset to make this work for us. So the question now is: what can hospitality operators do to ensure there is a balance and certainly not an imbalance?


  • Listen to your people to find out and get a proper understanding of the situation within your business. By using engagement surveys with the team, establish what people are actually thinking and feeling within the workplace. This also lets us see who is engaged and who is disengaged. Therefore is a poor work-life balance causing issues? Maybe your staff don’t have problems with work-life balance. Lucky you!
  • Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise! It may sound counter-intuitive, but do the most important tasks before the most urgent ones. Understand what really matters. Achieve the right balance of working IN the business and working ON the business. Time is your most valuable commodity – it’s the one thing you can’t buy more of, so, don’t waste it.
  • Be clear, honest and open. Let your staff know if you need to leave at 5pm on the dot for a family celebration, or pop out at 2pm to see your child in their school play. Specify that you won’t be available after a certain time. Your team then know where they stand, and will feel more comfortable about doing this themselves. This leads to a more positive culture, increased morale and lower staff turnover. But always remember – flexibility is a two-way street.
  • Pace yourself. If you’re most alert first thing, this would be the best time to write reports. If you feel sluggish in the mid-afternoon, then grab a cuppa and do a walk-around , chat t0 staff and customers. Be realistic about what you’re able to achieve – no-one can operate at full throttle all day long.
  • Embrace technology, but don’t let it control you. Ensure that technology makes your life easier without becoming time consuming. Don’t be a slave to it. Put on the silent button when you need to focus on important tasks, staff, family and friends.

Right. Blog written. That’s me off for a cycle then home for dinner with the family.

Victus Consultancy is passionate about all aspects of the catering and hospitality industry. Contact us if you’d like an industry expert to help you achieve a better work-life balance for you and your team.

5 ways to turn customers into fans

In this age of technology, on-line bookings, automated systems and much less traditional face-to-face contact, providing exemplary customer service has never been so important. Building and developing a meaningful relationship with your clientele is absolutely vital to making your business successful.

Any business worth their salt aims to look after their customers. But as hoteliers, restauranteurs, and bistro, bar and cafe owners we should be going beyond this by turning our customers into loyal fans who will sing from the rooftops about how we good we are and keep coming back for more. We need to create a culture of excellence, granted, but there are 5 key things we should all be doing to make our customers love us and truly buy into our business.

Survey form with a tick placed in Outstanding checkbox.

1. Recruit GREAT staff
Your staff speak to and serve your customers – they’re the face of your company. Staff can be trained, gain qualifications and learn the tools of their trade, but personal skills are innate. Warm, friendly, welcoming members of staff who remember a customer by name and their preferences are priceless. They can truly engage with your customers, making them feel valued. My youngest son particularly loves one of the baristas at our local coffee shop who he calls “Mr Mischief”. They have a great rapport, which has turned this one cafe into THE cafe – no others are now good enough for my 7 year old!

2. Invest in training
Once you’ve recruited the right person, train train train! Ordering a cocktail is much more enjoyable when the person you’re ordering it from can create it with flair, panache and skill. Likewise, a latte is much more enjoyable when the milk is frothed to perfection and topped off with a latte art fern. Staff will grow in confidence and your customers will benefit from their ability and talents.

3. Brand
A recognisable brand is surely one of the most valuable assets of any business. Craft a name, logo, values, mission and ethos to create a brand which truly represent your business and what you’re all about, and you build a strong identify which resonates with your customers. An eye-catching logo can be used to great effect on your signage, windows, literature and packaging, and helps your customers identify with you more easily.

4. Turn a transaction into an experience
Make your breakfast offering more exciting by including a range of award-winning ingredients. Tell a story about where your dishes come from – is it a local farm where livestock is free range? Or a local entrepreneur who has started producing an exciting range of jams and chutneys? Offer information about your cuts of meat, the provenance of your fruit and vegetable, and the backstory of any fair trade products – it all helps build customer engagement and loyalty.

5. Unique selling point
Stand out from the competition with your own signature product. It could be a range of savoury scones, an amazing multi-allergen-free cake or an imaginative afternoon tea for children. Or offer a variety of high end, speciality teas, home made syrups or silky smooth decaf. Customers will travel from further afield to try out these speciality dishes, and will ultimately become fans!

Victus Consultancy
is passionate about encouraging best practice and excellent customer service in the catering and hospitality industry. Contact us if you’d like an industry expert to help you provide the very best experience possible for your customers.

Inspiring young people

Catering and hospitality is a great industry.

That’s my opinion and I stand by it 100%, but not enough people know or believe this. I still to this day hear members of the public asking my professional, full time front of house staff, “ So, what else do you do?” and then seem to be surprised to find out that this is in fact their sole source of income. And why shouldn’t it be?

catering students

Sit in any Spanish or Italian street corner cafe and watch the waiters at work. They are consummate professionals who memorise orders without writing anything down then present the right dishes to the right customers without having to ask. It’s an art – a wonder! Hospitality is their career, one in which they have trained and developed to be the very best they can be. They’re proud of their jobs, and rightly so.

It’s a truly superb industry and we should all embrace it. After all, everyone needs to eat, drink and sometimes be away from home, and we want it to be the most enjoyable experience possible.

If we’re going to get young people engaged with our industry then we need to start them young and ignite sparks of passion. Let’s infiltrate schools and colleges and lead pupils and students throughout their learning journey from primary school to high school, and from college and into their first job with the catering and hospitality industry. Let’s provide talks, run workshops, provide role play opportunities, offer scholarships and organise work-based placements. This industry can lead to the most amazing journey with plenty of opportunities along the way.

Young pupils

Work experience is paramount to ensure that the student is a good fit with the business. Some employers now leave it for the staff to decide if a certain individual will make the team, as it is the team that will be working with the individual on a day-to-day basis and not the human resource department or manager. Almost X-Factor in its approach! The idea of “try before you buy” could be invaluable and cut down on any unnecessary recruitment, selection and induction and training costs.

It’s well documented that many people leave a business when they don’t feel engaged, feel undervalued and aren’t entirely sure what their purpose is within the organisation. So with this in mind, let’s start at ground level with engagement, work up and up-skill. Develop, develop, develop!

The second area of attack is to engage with the local community. Let’s create hands-on opportunities for our neighbourhoods to see, feel, taste and touch our industry. It’s imperative for all hospitality operators to open their doors and let others take a peek inside. We can become showcase our brand while getting people to understand what we’re all about and adding credibility to our industry.

Invite children from your local primary school to a healthy eating workshop at your restaurant, cafe or hotel and you kill two birds with one stone!


Victus Consultancy is passionate about recruiting, training & developing talent in the catering and hospitality industry. Contact us if you’d like an industry expert to help you attract, retain, coach and mentor the very best people.