CGA’s sell-out Insight conference delivered lessons in leadership from some of the industry’s top names. Here are just seven of the takeaways.

1. Nail the basics

Marcel Khan, CEO at Thunderbird Fried Chicken

It’s easy to lose sight of the fundamentals of running restaurants, said Azzurri Group CEO Steve Holmes in a head to head interview with CGA’s Peter Martin. “First and foremost we’re a restaurant business and we’re selling experiences to people—if you lose the focus on that you can go downhill quite rapidly,” he said. “Data and understanding customers are super-important, but they come a close second to the fundamentals.”

2. Focus on what people feel

If restaurants focus too rigidly on things like steps of service, they risk leaving guests cold, said Steve Holmes. Instead, Azzurri frees up staff to engage with people in the way they think best. “We try not to get bogged down by processes … we focus on what we want customers to feel like when they leave our restaurants.”

3. Agree to disagree

Good businesses have an open culture in which people freely express opinions, said Thunderbird Fried Chicken CEO Marcel Khan in his Insight session—and they shouldn’t be afraid of thinking differently. “People talk a lot about diversity in gender and colour and that’s crucial, but diversity of thought is big too. Not having everyone agree is really important in a business.”

Fleet Street Communications' MD Mark Stretton

4. Get out to the frontline

It’s too easy to stay at head office: leaders who want to properly understand their business and their teams need to get on to the floor, said Marcel Khan. “While you’re looking at your spreadsheets, make sure you’re spending time in your restaurants too—and make sure you have fun while you’re doing it.”

5. Work out your mission

An Insight panel on communications made it clear that modern brands need a purpose—a mission that consumers can easily understand. “Everyone has to have a social proposition… a message about how they’re going to make a difference,” said Fleet Street Communications managing director Mark Stretton. “In the long-term stewardship of a brand, knowing who you really are is so important.”

6. Listen to what people think

Supersonic Inc.'s Mark McCulloch

In the digital age, it’s never been easier to hear what people are saying about your brand, said Supersonic Inc’s CEO Mark McCulloch—and you can never get too much feedback. “You need to obsessively look at what people are saying about you,” he said. As well as keeping tabs on the usual platforms, use internet searches to find what people are saying behind your back too.

7. Enjoy yourself

With so many tasks from day to day, it can be easy to lose sight of the many pleasures of working in hospitality, suggested Ann Elliott, CEO of the Elliotts Agency. “Working in this industry is a joy,” she said.

CGA’s Insight 2019 was sponsored by CPL Online, Fishbowl, Merchant’s Heart, Odgers Berndtson, Wireless Social and Zonal.

     

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