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Business leaders networking at the Peach 20/20 Conference  

13 Dec 2022

How to change for good: Five lessons on transformation from the leaders

If there’s one constant in hospitality, it’s change. But how can businesses adapt and be sure they’re moving in the right directions? Three agile industry leaders joined Peter Martin at the Peach 20/20 Conference to discuss transformation and the lessons they’ve learned in five key areas.

1. Change through… The omnichannel

‘It’s amazing what you can do when you broaden the business’

A triple whammy of COVID, delivery issues and inflation have forced businesses to look afresh at their supply chains lately. In the case of seafood restaurant group Rockfish, it’s prompted a move towards direct sourcing, via the acquisition of a supplier and a trawler. “I’ve always had an aspiration for Rockfish to own its supply chain—to be really close to the market,” said founder and CEO Mitch Tonks. “It's been a fabulous asset in mitigating some of the inflation we've all experienced.” 

Rockfish has also launched a canning business and a direct-to-consumer ecommerce operation, doubling its EBITDA capacity. “We want to change the way people buy seafood in the UK,” he said. “We’re still focused on restaurants, but now we’re leveraging all our assets and expertise to sell through different channels. It's been totally transformational… it's amazing what you can do when you broaden the business.”

2. Change through… inclusivity

‘We need to create socially safe spaces’ 

Greene King has won plaudits for its work on diversity and inclusivity lately, including its championing of women’s football in pubs. After overcoming some early resistance, it has led into more efforts to make pubs welcoming and safe spaces for everyone, including LGBTQ+ people. Doing that properly requires a holistic approach, said Karen Bosher, managing director of premium, urban and venture at Greene King. “It’s about signalling not the products or environments but our broader inclusivity agenda… so when people look at a pub, they don't think that it’s an exclusive fraternity. We have to create socially safe spaces.” 

Big sporting events like the World Cup are great opportunities to change attitudes, she thinks. “When you start to move the dial on events and occasions, that traditional tribalism around football gets diluted a little bit, and everybody can enjoy things [in pubs] in a socially engaging way.”

3. Change through… Leadership

‘Leaders should make other people’s jobs easier’ 

Denmark-based Ole & Steen is making a splash in the UK, but it’s required a rethinking of the offer—from a bakery retail business in its homeland to a café and on-the-go brand here. “It’s about keeping true to the essence of our business of product integrity and quality,” said CEO Jason Cotta at the Peach 20/20 Conference. This kind of transformation demands culture-led leadership, he thinks. “I believe in being a servant leader. My job is to make the job of the people that actually do the hard work—making bread and cake and selling it—easier.”

4. Change through… Values

‘Companies need a purpose’ 

To change workplace cultures, businesses need to live and breathe their values, Mitch Tonks thinks—especially around community and sustainability. “We've worked hard on building our culture… nowadays people want to work for a company that has a purpose and is a lot bigger than the sum of its parts.”

Change also requires accountability and leading by example, said Karen Bosher. “My job is to mentor [managers at Greene King] and show up as a good role model.” Work like this can encourage people to stay in hospitality, she thinks. “There’s an industry level problem about how we look after people… We have to accept the fact that some people will move on and embrace that… But we also need to show there are plentiful careers with good earnings potential.”

5. Change through… Technology

‘Tech is really hard to get right’

COVID has transformed hospitality’s use of technology, but businesses are still trying to optimise it. Mitch Tonks thinks digital solutions are most valuable at back of house rather than front—"I don't like technology in the restaurant… nothing replaces human service”—and admits it’s tough to get right on the ecommerce side. “I thought it would be so easy [to implement]… but everything we thought would work didn't work,” he said. “It’s a completely different environment and skill set to running restaurants, and you need different people.” Jason Cotta agreed: “Go to the genuine experts if you want to do this stuff, because it's really hard.”

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