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The Pub Skills Summit


On 08/07/16 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)


This week, the PMA held its first Pub Skills Summit; a timely subject amidst the current economic uncertainty in the UK - the need for training, skills and retention of staff could not be more important. As Barry Flack, a global HR expert remarked: “Technology can aid the lives of you and your team, but it does not replace the human element”.


After a fascinating introduction to the use of ‘Big Data’ from CPL Training, where 240 computers use ‘Thor and Roxie’ to look at structured and unstructured information (the latter mainly social media), we then had four wonderful presentations giving us practical examples of workplace development from individual pub companies.


Natasha Waterfield from the New World Trading Company described ‘Tribes’, a programme to unite colleagues working on 14 sites, where 426 miles separate their Glasgow HQ and their site in Farnham. 7 out of 14 sites are more than 90 minutes from HQ.


They wanted to make sure that their pubs did not act as silos, and encourage employee engagement, ensuring they felt part of the company. They developed six ‘tribes’; Discovery, Endeavour, Adventure, Orbiter, Kingfisher & Mayflower (your test for the day is to work out which explorer sailed each of these ships)! They then split their teams into 6, across all their sites, and engaged through an online tool which provides competitions, and incentives for qualifications and a healthy lifestyle. At the end of the year, the winning tribe of 300 colleagues is given two extra days of paid holiday.


Jill Scratchard from Oakman Inns explained ’Oakmanology’, which encourages knowledge and craftsmanship. Through an online application, it is mobile, rewarding accessible, measurable and structured, something you can do in 5 or 10 minutes at a bus stop.


Dawn Browne from Fullers explained their ‘service coaches’ drawn from 3,000 employees. They started with 25, doubled a year later and now have so many that they cannot host them in a Fullers’ pub. They help them train others when they refurbish a pub, troubleshoot when a venue has a problem and act as mystery shoppers with competitors.


The Service Coaches receive more than 120 hours of coaching, and as a result, customer satisfaction is higher in pubs with a service coach and turnover of staff is lower. They clearly make a difference to their business.


Michael Soderquest from Star Pubs & Bars explained how in 1996 the tenanted and leased estate were poor relations to managed houses, and how they introduced a 5-day residential induction for all new lessees. All have to buy a CPL training licence and must undertake the induction at least 4 weeks before they enter the pub.


They are asked, for example, to create a rota, to cost it up and work out their own wage percentage. They look at scenarios of adding 2% to their GP and then add 2% to expenses; the cleaner comes in and turns on all the lights before having a cup of tea, for example, which will impact on their initial predictions. The chef heats up all the equipment three hours before they need to use it, etc.


It illustrates how day to day actions affect profitability, and the scheme has dramatically reduced the first year failure rate.


Finally, Paul Dickinson and Gavin Sinden, who won the Chef of the Year award, talked about the recruitment of chefs, their apprenticeship programme and how they have attracted new chefs and strive to retain existing ones. Clearly still for many, attracting and retaining chefs is essential. We need pubs to be seen as attractive as working in a silver service restaurant.


It was certainly a good start to a subject which affects us all and requires creativity, investment and focus. The advent of the Apprenticeship Levy, increased costs through Living and Minimum Wage and the auto-enrolment for small companies into pensions means that everyone will want to attract, retain and train their teams. Learning from others who are achieving this is important to all.



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