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  • Pubs and Sport: The Perfect Match

    Brigid Simmonds | 06 September 2019

    A version of this article first appeared in Propel Friday Opinion.   I have always been passionate about sport – both playing it and watching it. In fact, this passion led to me running the Business in Sport and Leisure association for 17 years and even writing a book on public and private sporting partnerships. In my 10 years at the BBPA, a real privilege of my role has been to promote pubs and sport. For me, the two are inextricably linked. There is no better place to watch live sport on the TV than the great British Pub. Major sporting events, like the FIFA World Cup, also provide a big boost for pubs. Of course, there is more uniting sports and pubs than just watching matches on the television. For many sports teams, the pub acts as an extension of the clubhouse. For others, it is the place to go for a game of darts, pool or snooker. As pub goers, we have always known of this relationship between pubs and sport. Never before though have we explored how deep it runs. Until now – with the “Pubs and Sport: The Perfect Match” report – launched by the Sports Minister Nigel Adams MP in Parliament this week. The report, written by beer writer and sports journalist Will Hawkes for PubAid, with support from the BBPA and the Sport & Recreation Alliance, gives us for the first time a full picture of the diverse and socially significant relationship between pubs and sports. The main finding of the report was outstanding: pubs support grassroots sport to the value of £40 million each year. And whilst local football, rugby and cricket teams get the lion’s share of that support according to the report, by no means do they get all of it. In fact, pubs across the UK are funding grassroots sports as diverse as curling, squash and skittles. One of the case studies in the report, The Golden Lion at Broad Oak in Kent, even supports Bat and Trap – the cousin of cricket but played in a pub garden with just 8 players a-side. Pubs like The Golden Lion are key to the success of lesser known sports like Bat and Trap, reflected by the fact that The Golden Lion is host to no less than 32 Bat and Trap teams from its local league. This support that pubs give to grassroots sport isn’t just financial either, the report finds. Many pubs are actually helping grassroots sports by providing crucial in-kind support ranging from free room hire to post-match meals and everything in-between. Take The Lion at Treorchy in the Rhondda Valley, another case study from the report. What was once a boarded-up pub, which looked to have served its last pint until Adrian Emmett took it over, now supports over 15 different sports teams in the town, ranging from rugby and football to cricket, pool and tennis. What is perhaps most interesting about Adrian and his pub is the imaginative ways in which they give support to their local sports teams. The Lion will regularly host a BBQ in its back garden for the sports teams it supports, buying the food and offering it at cost price to the clubs, allowing them to keep whatever money they raise. They also offer teams free tickets to the pub’s comedy club, letting them sell them on and keep the proceeds, all whilst driving footfall into the pub. The support that pubs give to sports teams reinforces the vital role they play at the heart of our communities across the UK. As someone who hugely believes in personal development through sport, for life, I was particularly touched by the amazing support of The Butler’s Arms in Pleasington, Lancashire. Another case study from the report. The Butler’s Arms support Blokes United, a football social inclusion scheme, often for those with mental health issues. The pub has raised almost £5,000 for Blokes United since February 2018, which has paid for pitch hire, kit, and food and hot drinks every Thursday after matches. Next on the list is raising £6,000 for a minibus for away matches. Michael Hales, the owner of The Butler’s Arms puts it best: ‘As a pub in the heart of the community; it is about giving something back. It makes a difference.” For any publicans – or anyone working in hospitality for that matter – inspired by the fantastic support these pubs are giving to sports, please do read the “Pubs and Sport: The Perfect Match” report. It includes many valuable tips for sports clubs looking for support from a pub, as well as pubs or other hospitality businesses who’d like to do more to support their local community through sport.

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  • Making the tourism sector deal work

    Brigid Simmonds | 11 July 2019

    As the prime minister announced the sector deal for tourism on her way to Japan for the G20, those who had worked on this for two years heaved a huge sigh of relief, tinged with trepidation because the hard work begins now! Recruitment is an issue across the hospitality sector for three main reasons – fewer people from the EU are coming to the UK to work, full local employment, and the perception that our sector doesn’t offer a real career. Skills are a key element of the sector deal and UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls and I are working with government to set up a skills board with the aim to raise £1m to fund a major recruitment and retention campaign. A variety of targets – or key performance indicators – are written into the terms of the sector deal, from apprenticeships to mentoring and in-work training. In addition, we’ll reach out to those who want to return to work and those hard-to-reach groups for whom finding work can be a challenge. It was appropriate, therefore, that as Theresa May was launching the sector deal, I was on my way to Newhaven Job Centre to talk about how we can help its clients find work. From the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and UKHospitality, to the British Institute of Innkeeping, a range of associations have long supported the Hospitality Works campaign, which helps job centre teams better understand our sector. Earlier this year the Department of Work & Pensions, which leads this government campaign, invited me to speak at its awards ceremony in Birmingham. While there I met two wonderful ladies from Lewes and Newhaven job centres, which are near where I live. One of them was taking part in the world championships for Sussex pub game toad in the hole – so there was a real interest in our sector and they were happy for me to visit so they could learn more. Universal Credit has come in for criticism and it remains to be seen whether wider concerns with the system can be satisfactorily resolved. The team in Newhaven, however, clearly supported the system change, pointing to a myth-busting Telegraph article as evidence you no longer lose your allowances if you work for more than 16 hours, and any reduction in allowances is purely based on how much you earn. The team said it can now use more discretion to help single parents, for example, become work-ready through skills training, interview techniques, CV writing and customer presentation. The team is looking for local employers prepared to guarantee an interview for those who have undertaken that training and, if that employer says a client also requires health and safety training, the job centre can help with that too. Job centres used to have a reputation for sending anyone to an interview, now they are looking to match specific skills with employers. They also help disabled people find work and the online portal means face-to-face meetings aren’t required on a regular basis. They can send money for housing direct to the provider and work with charities to help the more challenging find the right role. The care and enthusiasm of those who work in Newhaven was clear. To any employers reading this, are you in touch with your local job centre, can you guarantee an interview for candidates who have undertaken relevant training? It’s certainly worth making the link.

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  • Revitalising our high streets

    Brigid Simmonds | 10 May 2019

    A version of this blog originally appeared in Propel Hospitality. I was asked to speak at an Inside Government conference this week on the next steps to revitalise the UK’s high streets while sharing best practice from four years of being a judge at the Great British High Street competition. In a week of so many policy announcements relating to the high street, the timing was perfect. Most significant of all, perhaps, was the government’s response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee inquiry into high streets and town centres, which looked at alternatives to business rates. Inevitably the government’s response was robust, citing its warmly welcomed one-third reduction in business rates for businesses with a rental value of less than £51,000, worth £60m to the pub trade alone, while dismissing calls for alternative taxes to business rates to boost the high street. As ever, the British Beer & Pub Association continues to make the case for government to change the business rates system to support our high streets and especially pubs, which pay 2.8% of the total business rates bill yet equate for only 0.5% of turnover. That doesn’t mean, however, there isn’t other government support that pubs and the wider hospitality sector can make use of and I think we can agree it’s important to use all the help we can get. Last year, for example, the government appointed Sir John Timpson to chair an expert panel on the Great British high street. The panel’s report identified the importance of local leadership to boost high streets because no two towns are the same, they each have their own unique culture and heritage. As a result, the government is setting up a High Street Task Force with £9m of funding. Once up and running the task force will be a place for local leaders across the UK to access highly valuable support and guidance to regenerate their high streets and town centres. Furthermore, the chancellor’s decision to give £675m in funding for high streets in last year’s Budget was a huge boost. That funding will help improve infrastructure and access to our high streets, which in turn will see investment in them grow. Expressions of interest for phase one of the funding attracted 300 bids. It’s worth the pub and hospitality sectors seeing how they can become involved with such schemes. Local government is also a great source of support for our high streets and town centres, particularly where councils have the right skills and are prepared to invest. At the Inside Government conference, former councillor Graham Galpin spoke about Ashford Council’s £50m regeneration investment, which used data-driven insights to smarten Ashford’s high street and events and interactive experiences to drive footfall. The council is also developing a cinema complex and bought and refurbished a covered market it now offers to startups at low rents. This locally driven regeneration reiterates what I learned from the Great British High Street, where winners such as Bishops Waltham and Cowbridge exemplified how important local leadership is for high street and town centre regeneration. Of course the hospitality sector also has a key role to play in the regeneration of high streets. We should all do our bit to engage in schemes taking place across the country, particularly pubs, which sit at the heart of their communities and, in many cases, are the last public space on the high street. Are your managers or lessees looking to see how they can help? Is your local high street vibrant or could your community do more? Has it applied for the multitude of government funding available? We can all sit back, criticise public policy and find reasons why our high streets are failing, namely by blaming the government – but we can also play a part in helping our high streets. At the end of the day, local leadership is the key to local success.

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  • A sector deal for tourism is essential for pubs and hospitality

    Brigid Simmonds | 12 April 2019

    A version of this blog originally appeared in Propel Hospitality. Last week was English Tourism Week. As a sector that directly and indirectly contributes £106bn in GDP and supports 2.6 million jobs, it was a fitting occasion to recognise the vital contribution tourism makes to the UK, both economically and culturally. The Tourism Alliance, which represents more than 50 trade associations crucial to England’s tourism offer, including the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), kicked off English Tourism Week with an annual conference I was privileged to attend. The highlight of the conference was hearing minister for tourism Michael Ellis speak so highly of the sector and the importance of investment in businesses that drive visitors to popular tourist destinations, whether staycationers or from overseas. Michael noted how the Discover England Fund has an important role to play in this, as do the Coastal Communities Fund and Future High Streets Fund, all showing the UK is open for business and a great place for tourists. On the day of yet another Brexit vote, it was fitting Michael emphasised how important our reputation for hospitality excellence is when attracting visitors from around the world. More significantly, Michael suggested we are close to getting a sector deal for tourism over the line. In a week that also saw a House of Lords Select Committee report recommend the government should press ahead with this deal, English Tourism Week was a good time to announce this. The perennial elephant in the room when it comes to tourism and hospitality businesses is, of course, business rates so it was fitting we held a panel session during the conference to discuss its impact. From pubs, restaurants and hotels to historic houses and leisure attractions – the businesses key to English tourism’s success story all require physical properties to operate and face an unfair business rate burden. Numbers surrounding the business rates that tourism and hospitality businesses face make uncomfortable reading. Following the 2017 rates revaluation, South West Tourism Alliance saw a rates increase of between 43% and 71% for professional self-caterers with more than 13 beds. BBPA research reveals pubs pay 2.7% of the entire business rates bill despite accounting for only 0.5% of business turnover. The current business rates system is clearly obsolete and needs a complete overhaul. The damage it is doing to our pubs and the wider hospitality sector – particularly when combined with other major tax burdens such as beer duty – is a huge concern for what is a crucial part of England’s tourism offer. At the end of English Tourism Week I settled down for a pub lunch with Mims Davies, minister for sport with responsibilities for gambling and tackling loneliness. At the Good Companions in Eastleigh, a wonderful example of an English pub, the struggle against the tax burden hospitality businesses such as pubs face felt real indeed. Dan and Claire, who lease the pub from Star Pubs & Bars, offer exceptional food and drink. Dan was recently elected to the board of the local Business Improvement District to ensure a vibrant but safe nightlife in Eastleigh – something that’s crucial for all tourist hot spots. Beyond this, Dan and Claire take part in various initiatives to help tackle loneliness in the community. Hospitality businesses including pubs such as the Good Companions are vital in driving economic growth through job creation and attracting visitors to an area to spend their money. Beyond this they also have a clear role in tackling loneliness, which is so important to our mental health and community cohesion. Cuts to business rates and beer duty would go a long way in helping pubs specifically but also supporting the hospitality sector as a whole and the vital role it plays in England’s tourism offer. A sector deal for tourism remains essential. Let’s hope the minister for tourism is right in saying it’s almost in our grasp.

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  • People are key to hospitality, so we should do more to support charities like Only a Pavement Away

    Brigid Simmonds | 22 March 2019

    A version of this blog originally appeared in Propel Hospitality This week, I had the privilege of attending a conference about Only a Pavement Away (OAPA) – an inspiring charity looking to help homeless people, ex-prisoners and vulnerable military veterans find work in hospitality. Greg Mangham set up OAPA after walking through Covent Garden one night with his wife, who commented that not all the homeless people they saw could possibly be unemployable.  She challenged him to do something about it (!) and OAPA was born. OAPA’s ambition is to employ 500 homeless people in the hospitality industry within its first year.  Greg’s mantra is that through employment people gain stability and if you find them the right job, they will be loyal for life. The name Only a Pavement Away comes from the fact that we are all just a pavement away from seeing homelessness and the crime and loneliness often associated with it on the streets. We are also just a pavement away from cafes, bars and hotels that are crying out for staff. The statistics surrounding homelessness and unemployment make for difficult reading. 12,000 offenders commit their first offence whilst homeless.  On average there are 5,000 rough sleepers across the UK each night. 7% of the homeless are ex-service, 33% are ex-offenders. Offenders cost the tax payer on average £46,000.  Average life expectancy on the streets is just 46 years old. 92% of service personnel leave the services in good health, but 48% of leavers are unemployed 6 months later. A third of prison leavers have no-where to stay when they leave prison (but say they do to ensure they are released). 25% of the population have a criminal record. Now just imagine what a difference we as hospitality businesses – whether it be pubs, bars, cafés or restaurants – could make if we opened our doors to this untapped talent pool? OAPA plays a key role in enabling this, by acting as conduit between charities like Crisis, Centre Point and The Clink, and hospitality businesses or sector representatives like ourselves. It helps overcome potential hurdles by ensuring that prospective employees come via a charity or association prepared to continue their support into employment. As Kate Nicholls rightly points out, the hospitality sector is faced with critical recruitment and retention challenges. I firmly believe it is schemes like OAPA that will help us make up the shortfall we face in talent, combined with our focus on wellbeing for employees, best in class employment packages and flexibility. The first movers who have taken on Only A Pavement Away candidates are already seeing the benefits. Abi Dunlop from Young and Co spoke passionately at the conference of the benefits their business has had from the scheme, which far outweigh the additional time and investment it took to get it up and running. The role of the charities in providing ongoing support to candidates is absolutely key according to Abi, but we as a sector need to keep our side of the bargain by showing candidates the opportunities we provide through OAPA. Of course, even more important than the talent pool OAPA opens up for our sector is the fact that it is helping vulnerable people in real need of support. Just how vulnerable some of the people in the OAPA network can be was illustrated by Ed Mitchell at the conference, a former journalist whose marriage had broken apart. This, combined with an alcohol problem, had resulted in him living on the streets.  His story of how he came out of this situation with help from charities and OAPA was touching and a real inspiration for hospitality businesses to get involved in OAPA, although he was the first to admit that he still felt very vulnerable. Tim Foster of Yummy Pubs – another pub operator working with OAPA – summed it up best: the success stories of those who come from OAPA far outweigh the failures, and at the end of the day, people are at the core of our businesses, embracing them is vital. OAPA is certainly a charity we should all support.  Many are doing so already and should be commended as such.  Without doubt there will be challenges to make it work, but we all need to remember the brilliant employee we will have at the end and the wider benefits of providing vulnerable people stability and support through employment.

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  • Pubs and brewers are leading the way in apprenticeships

    Brigid Simmonds | 15 March 2019

    This article first appeared in the print edition of The Morning Advertiser    The 4th to the 8th of March was National Apprenticeship Week 2019. Now in its twelfth year, National Apprenticeship Week offers both an opportunity to celebrate our fantastic apprenticeship schemes, but also promote their importance to pubs and the wider hospitality sector. I am one of the many advocates of apprenticeships. I did not go to university myself and after working in the hospitality sector for the best part of 25 years I have met, know and admire many people for whom the apprenticeship route into employment – or during their employment – opened the doors to an exciting and rewarding career in a pub or other hospitality business. It is one of our sectors best kept secrets that you can be running an exciting business at, or even before, the age of 25. For entrepreneurs who enjoy working with people, it simply offers one of the best possible careers out there. The success of apprenticeship schemes is in part down to sectors like our own leading the way in embracing them. It is also essential, however, that everyone across Government and in educational establishments recognises the apprenticeship route into employment, so they are not seen as second best to university degrees. The Hospitality Showcase event on apprenticeships hosted in Parliament during National Apprenticeship Week is exactly what industries across the UK should be doing to promote apprenticeships. I was proud to see so many pubs and brewers at the showcase event, demonstrating the enormous breadth of training and apprenticeships we offer. The Leisure PR team did a fantastic job to encourage thirty organisations to set up stands in the House of Commons. Pubs alone employ around 600,000 people and there is a real need for us to attract and retain great employees who inspire customers to come to our venues and be so impressed that they return for more, again and again. Apprenticeships have a key role to play in this and in hospitality and catering there are currently 14 different apprenticeships standards, from bar supervisor to commis chef. Between 2013 and 2018, 165,000 people started apprenticeships in hospitality and catering – many of them in pubs. As we prepare to leave the EU, we may start to see some challenges in recruiting overseas workers. We must start attracting even more UK talent to work in our pubs, but with almost full employment that’s not going to be easy. It’s clear to me that as an industry we need to do more to convince people of the future of pubs and hospitality and the great careers they can provide. Continuing our great work with apprenticeships and promoting our careers in schools and colleges is key achieving this.

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