Anthony Pender CBII, Director of the Yummy Pub Company and former Chair of BII, talks to BII News’ Editor Kate Oppenheim about crisis management and taking a can-do approach to surviving lockdown.
Disasters aren’t new to Yummy Pubs. In 2013, The Grove Ferry in Kent was devasted by floods and in June 2018 its flagship pub, the Somers Town Coffee House in central London, was destroyed by fire, with the damage to the building and trade totalling near to £1m.
The difference this time around, says Anthony, is that everyone is in this disaster together.
“It was the probably our past experiences that led us to react more quickly, because two weeks ahead of most others, we began reining in our spending and managed to re-adjust our costs by £80,000 before we were forced to close our doors. Incidentally, prior to closure, we’d seen trade drop by 75%.
“Our response throughout this period has been to protect our team, satisfy the bank and work with our suppliers,” says Anthony.
Yummy quickly demonstrated that it had a firm grip on the situation, introducing micro-controls and cost cutting, as well as requesting help from its bank and landlords to avoid any over-borrowing that it couldn’t afford. That, describes Anthony, is “just kicking the can down the road”.
Maintaining Yummy’s business profile on social media and in the press has also been key to keeping the pubs front-of-mind. From Jason creating a grocery market at The Wiremill to sell stock from all four pubs through an online Click & Collect service, to providing 75 food packs a day to support the homeless, working with Haringey Council. Yummy (like many other businesses) hasn’t stopped working despite the pubs being ‘closed’.
“My business partner Tim Foster has been working with Budvar and Camden Town breweries to help create goody bags for staff at University College London Hospital. Somers Town is the drop off point, helping to collect over 4,000 chocolates and 300 cases of beer, which are then distributed to the hospital teams. Without the pub to unwind in after a hard day, the drinks and socials have offered staff a place to relax and chat after they’ve come off duty,” he says.
“And OAPA advisor Paul Pavli CBII [also a Non-Executive Director of BIIAB] approached Nestle, Britvic, Lupa, Leathman’s, Feel Good, Thomas Franks and Bidfood to provide food and care packages for the homeless and those in need. To date, 33,000 items have been sent to Somers Town to be distributed.”
While Yummy’s good and charitable works continue apace, Anthony is at pains to point out that cash flow management remains critical at every step.
“I am counting every penny and ensuring all the orders goes through me, as a Director. We have a responsibility to ensure that every penny, whether to pay wages or a supplier, is justified and can be paid. I have spent a lot of time on the phone managing relationships and spread sheets! And I keep reforecasting,” says Anthony, adding that during the first six weeks of lockdown, he actually reforecast twice a week.
“I needed to ensure we were in a position to look after the sole traders – the little guys who must also be protected. And I must add that our landlord, Wells & Co [formerly Charles Wells] has been exemplary in its care of us during this and the fire at Somers Town.”
Yummy’s staff, while furloughed, are also keeping busy, improving their food and drink knowledge via online training, watching HospoLive and creating their own video diaries to share their new recipes and cocktails devised at home during lockdown.
“Sharing their incredible knowledge has created a great vibe, while helping to protect their sanity through structured communication with each other, using House Party, Zoom and quizzes,” says Anthony.
While the early weeks of closure have been about ‘crisis management’, Yummy has now begun to focus on how it can emerge better, stronger and ready to fight for every pound that consumers will have to spend.
Anthony explains: “We have been thinking about reopening and how we will be able to do business. Tech, from ordering systems to payment at the tables, will play a vital role in terms of limiting contact.
“Understanding our business, our supply chain, our people and being able to maintain a firm grasp of the wheel, as well as knowing when to apply the brakes, is essential.
“In the first few weeks of trading, I think success will be about knowing when to hit the brakes quickly, as well as being able to make a quick decision. You can’t let yourself be paralysed by fear. The worse thing anyone can do in any crisis is not make a decision, or to dither.”
- Anthony Pender CBII’s full-length Viewpoint on the current crisis as it unfurls will be published in BII News magazine’s summer edition, to be published in July.