LEADING hospitality company, Heron and Brearley, is introducing new measures in response to changing consumer habits and increased pressures across the licensed industry.
In the vanguard of managing change is retail director, Steven Taylor, responsible for Heron and Brearley’s 47-strong managed house portfolio, which includes five in the UK.
Mr Taylor, at just 32, was appointed to lead and transform the group’s pub division in August 2010 to bring a fresh approach and new impetus to the business.
‘I am driven by listening to consumers and taking on the challenge’, said Taylor in his first interview since his appointment.
‘The industry’s moved on massively over the past few decades and we acknowledge that Heron and Brearley’s managed estate may have been a little slow in reacting to the changing pace and face of the licensed trade.
‘Since my appointment my focus has been all about listening to our customers and working to protect them wherever possible from rising prices and, importantly, provide them with affordable quality products and services.’
He adds that it’s an ‘approach that seems to be working well.’
Mr Taylor points to sales of Holdten lager which he says provides the island with an exceptional product priced well below the UK average.
But he adds: ‘Unfortunately, despite our efforts, even in the short time since my appointment we have incurred above inflation costs out of our control, such as increases in duty and VAT.
‘This, combined with general economic pressures, makes the job even more challenging.’
Mr Taylor says: ‘I am keen that the expectations of our customers are met and that we are at least comparable with our UK counterparts.
‘I have established a new management team covering operations, property, staff development, marketing and catering to support my plans.’
Mr Taylor stressed: ‘Service is the key now. Although the industry is suffering there are still plenty of opportunities in real ale and further developing our Okells brand, food, female-focused offers and hospitality for the family.
‘In the past the pub trade was largely just about selling pints, but we understand that if we don’t deliver on the experience factor, then customers will stay away.’
He explained that as part of the new structure the company was putting in place better lines of communication, both internally and externally, ‘making clear what our standards are to our colleagues, listening to our managers and their teams to help shape the business and connect better with our customers.
‘At the same time we’re exploring new income streams and setting out plans to identify the customer base of each outlet; better communication will help us deliver improved services, target the right offerings to the right customers and provide a broad offer.’
Mr Taylor added that two of the company’s central Douglas outlets - C’est La Vie and Rendezvous – were scheduled for a relaunch this year.
‘Re-positioning our business to counter the challenges the industry’s facing is not only good news for our customers but also good news for our 800-strong workforce.
‘As we strengthen and grow the business in partnership with our customers and our people, we’ll be able to offer a wider range of attractive career pathways and develop talent right across the group.
‘To begin this process we have launched a new staff development programme in association with Isle of Man College and in consultation with the British Institute of Innkeeping called “Raising the Bar”.
‘Our staff throughout our estate work extremely hard in what can be a challenging job; we see this programme as a vital component in supporting our staff and creating an outstanding calibre of pub manager, equipping them with the skills and tools to share with their teams so together they can deliver excellent customer service.’
Mr Taylor described Heron and Brearley as a ‘traditional company with success that spans more than a century in business.
‘My aim is not simply to bring a youthful outlook but a fresh approach to the local hospitality market and grow our business by exporting fine Manx hospitality throughout the United Kingdom and beyond.’