As I journey around the industry, I am fascinated by who is successful and who is not. In particular, I love to see the success that single sites can have. My sister and her husband run a very successful single site near York (The Alice Hawthorn for those who know it – John is an amazing chef!) I was even more surprised when my sister said that she enjoyed reading my articles – and not just because she never compliments me! It is true that some people are just great single site operators – they have their own procedures and routines, and for the most part, tend to stick to them.  

I have recently been talking to another single site operator quite close to me in Harrogate. They have no wish to be a multiple, either because they earn enough money, or are settled in how their lives work, hopefully it is both. As I observe single sites though, I find that their biggest challenge is how they avoid getting set in their ways, and how they seek out best practice.  

Reading, attending conferences, and having a good network of similar local business is important, and should never be underestimated. So is using suppliers and even the ‘dirty’ word, consultants. Some of the above are free, and some cost money, whether that is time away from the business, or the cost of employing someone else. 

The hard bit when you are a single site operator is challenging yourself to get better, to try and change, and try things that might not work. The danger is that slowly but surely you become less competitive and less profitable until it is too late and the cash to be brave has run out. And, sometimes, this should also happen right at the start of your journey.  

I am constantly frustrated by newcomers to the industry who listen too much to their head chef, and run a menu and a cost structure that doesn’t work! These are probably two of the biggest risks for single site operators: going into a business with some key skill gaps and relying on the wrong people, and then having a successful business and not initiating enough change. 

We want to help operators recognise where their operations may need to be adapted and show them the best ways to enact these adjustments. This is why we decided to launch an operational excellence programme on labour management for single sites. We are also keen to help facilitate more programmes on the subject matters that we are not experts in, because we understand the value of shared knowledge. We are constantly learning new ways to help operators to be their best and plan to continue doing so.  

I really hope that we can help a nation of single site operators become better and better. 

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