What we Learned at the Propel Multi Club Autumn Conference

On Wednesday we were fortunate enough to sponsor the final Propel Multi Club Conference of the year. With industry leaders and entrepreneurial talent from a range of sectors scheduled to speak, we were eager to hear what they had to say.

With an abundance of knowledge in their respective areas, we were provided with real insight from each speaker during the day, and their enthusiasm and passion shone through. Supplemented by thorough, intelligent questioning from Kate Nicholls (ALMR), James Haycon (Thai Leisure Group), and Propel’s own Paul Charity, we ended the day with plenty to think about. Here are the key messages we took home with us.  

Investing Wisely Breeds Success

Capital investment company Imbiba’s portfolio includes a number of S4Labour clients, and it was fantastic to hear about their thorough investment process from an energetic Darrel Connell. Creating an upmarket home-from-home with a comfortable yet exclusive atmosphere is a key feature of Imbiba-backed venues. This echoes the wider industry trends for premiumisation. The thought and tactical planning behind Imbiba’s investments was clear to see and their existing investments are shining examples of their success.

Ron Pearson of Bowmark Capital delivered an astute insight into the world of private equity investment. Bowmark are supporting the hospitality industry through strategically selected investments such as the Drake & Morgan bar and restaurant brand. S4Labour have been working with Drake & Morgan for a year and a half, during which time they have seen significant expansion and acquired the Corney & Barrow brand. The scalability of Drake & Morgan is evident, with their success driven by great leadership and consistency across sites.

Differentiation is Key in a Competitive Market

Sameer Shetty of Hubbox takes to the stage

Sharing secrets of how Hubbox have found an edge in a competitive market was their head of operations, Sameer Shetty. Standing in for MD Richard Boon, Sameer did a brilliant job conveying the huge amount of passion driving their business forward.

With Hubbox’s offer focussing predominantly on burgers, it could be argued that this market has become saturated in recent times. Hubbox’s answer to the competition is to leverage their Cornish roots. Located in a region with an abundance of high-quality produce, Hubbox have developed fruitful relationships with local suppliers and sourced fantastic ingredients, making them truly stand out from the crowd.

It is always brilliant to see one of S4Labour’s newer customers thriving. Having initially been introduced to Hubbox by their new chairman, Alex Reilly, we are certainly looking forward to working with them more, especially with such passionate individuals at the helm.

Invest in People

Fuller’s Inns are an industry leader when it comes to food and beverage delivery. Managing director Jonathan Swaine provided us with an overview of how Fuller’s are leading from the front. Jonathan’s enthusiasm for people was clear to see, and it was fantastic to hear that this has been translated into new ‘people-driven’ initiatives and development programmes. Fuller’s have responded to the increasing demand for fresh food and the comparative sparsity of quality chefs by investing in kitchen development schemes. Other leading operators would certainly be wise to follow suit.

Fuller’s Inns certainly have a lot to be celebrating, and Jonathan himself will have been in high spirits as his beloved Brentford F.C. recorded a 2-0 win over Birmingham City later that evening. We look forward to seeing how Fuller’s continue to lead from the front and challenge the status quo.

Experiential Hospitality Concepts are Blossoming

Matt and Jeremy in full swing

Jeremy Symonds and Matt Grech-Smith, founders of the Institute of Competitive Socialising, gave an engaging presentation about the journey of their crazy golf, food, and drinking concept, Swingers. Throughout their presentation, it was clear to see the passion both individuals had for their budding business, and with a new site opening in the West End in 2018, they are expanding on the back of their success. Both individuals have a background in branding, and have used this to their advantage, creating a sustainable business model and ensuring Swingers is not just a fad. The success of Swingers has demonstrated the demand for experiential hospitality concepts.

Another thriving experiential hospitality offering is Lucky Voice. Nick Thistleton, founder of the karaoke bar business, spoke eloquently about the story of Lucky Voice whilst giving us an insight into his personal journey along the way. Within the challenges and distractions that Lucky Voice experienced during their early years lies an important message – focus on your core offering and play to your strengths. The Lucky Voice concept is simple yet brilliant, and by sticking to what they do best, their continued success has been achieved.

Communication is Key

A consistent strength of Propel events is the variety of the speakers. Mark Sheasby of Impress Performance gave a gripping presentation on methods and techniques used within his role as a performance coach.

Drawing on his experience within the police hostage negotiation department, Mark shared both entertaining and traumatic stories in a truly immersive performance. He challenged the audience to consider how they communicate with customers, and how we can all develop our communication skills to improve service levels and customer satisfaction.

A Loyal Customer Base Provides Stability

Eric Partaker, co-founder of Mexican restaurant Chilango spoke candidly about the story of his brand and the challenges they have overcome to be in the position they are in today. With 11 sites in prime locations, Chilango’s offer can be summed up in one word, vibrancy, and Eric certainly epitomised this during his presentation.

Chilango have maintained a loyal customer base throughout their existence and this has paid dividends in the long run, with crowd funding campaigns and the innovative ‘Burrito Bond’ raising money in times of need. Chilango’s ability to earn a passionate following has been a key element of their success, and, judging by Eric’s optimism, there’s plenty of opportunity for Mexican restaurants to thrive in the current climate.

Embrace Technology

Simon Chaplin, Head of Pubs & Restaurants at Christie & Co gave us a detailed rundown of current property trends within the hospitality industry. Simon provided insight into the operational headwind we are currently facing, and explained how operators are finding success by embracing new technologies such as intelligent scheduling systems. When questioned about exit multiples, Simon ensured to differentiate between selling assets site-by-site, as opposed to in bulk. The resulting message was that selling multiple sites will yield greater success, with potential buyers believing they are acquiring a bigger prize.      

Delivery is on the Rise

Hays Macintyre and Propel’s collaborative survey provides a helpful industry benchmark. Gareth Ogden presented this year’s results and delved into the trends behind the numbers.  Gareth discussed the increasing impact delivery services are having on the food and beverage sector. Using delivery services provides customers with a more varied offer, however this may negatively impact margins for operators. Delivery reduces opportunities to up-sell products within the venue and typically no alcohol is sold. This leads to lower margins and therefore must be considered when promoting delivery.

Follow Your Feelings

Roger Wade discusses Boxpark

Drawing proceedings to a close in a forthright manner was Roger Wade, founder of the ingenious shipping container food and beverage offering that is BoxPark. With a background in branding, it is no surprise to see Roger putting his stamp on BoxPark and creating a truly unique experience for customers. At the core of Roger’s talk lay an underlying theme – trust your feelings. Modern systems provide operators with unparalleled analytical insight, which considered in tandem to the instincts of an experienced professional is a likely formula for success.

With a new BoxPark site opening up in Wembley, this immersive hospitality experience of food, beverages, and events will be sure to attract a crowd.


At S4Labour we’re dedicated to helping the best get even better by helping them control costs, maximise efficiency, drive sales, and save time. This provides a framework for long-term success that allows operators to pursue their passions and make their visions a reality. Click here for more information on how S4Labour could help your business. 

It was a privilege to spend the day in the company of so many inspiring hospitality professionals. The talent and diversity within our industry was evident to see. We will look forward to hearing from more of the best in 2018.


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