Champions Round Table
Food and Drink
With the annual Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards taking place on 31 October, the town’s food and drink sector was put under the spotlight in this month’s round table.
Now a key date in the town’s diary, the growth of the awards has mirrored that of the sector. With new restaurants, cafes, bars and restaurants opening regularly, visitors to the town now have more choice than ever.
96% of the town’s food and drink sector is made up of micro to medium-sized businesses. More bars and restaurants are set to join the town’s offering with the opening of the Premier Inn in the former Co-op early next year on Elder Way. Six bars and restaurants will open on the ground floor of the building. Described as in ‘integrated leisure hub’ developer Jomast is currently in the process of marketing the restaurant space to investors.
With more restaurants and bars set to come on board over the next 12 months, a key discussion point in this month’s round table was how we attract more young people to this growing sector.
Hosted by Hotel Van Dyk, this month’s round table, organised by Destination Chesterfield in conjunction with the Derbyshire Times, brought together key figures from Chesterfield’s food and drink sector.
PB – Phil Bramley – Editor, Derbyshire Times
NT – Neil Turner – Owner, Crafty Dog
CW – Claire Wood – Owner, Stephenson’s Tea and Coffee House
SD – Simon Davidson – Owner, RP Davidson Cheese Factor
AW – Adele Walker – Corporate Sales Manager, Hotel Van Dyk
AR – Anthony Radford – Arts and Venues Manager, Chesterfield Borough Council
JE – Jon Egley – Digital Growth Manager and Digital Consultant, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire)
DS – Dom Stevens – Destination Chesterfield Manager
How has Chesterfield’s food and drink sector changed over the last 10 years and what further developments could improve this?
NT – Things have definitely changed. 40% of what we do at Crafty Dog is now food-related, whereas it would have reflected about 10% of a business six or seven years ago when I was operating other bars in Chesterfield.
CW – The competition in Chesterfield is very healthy. We are very lucky to have so many independents and diverse food and drink places in town.
AW – We rely a lot on feedback to change and keep our clientele. We’ve just changed all our menus based on feedback we’ve received from customers. At lunchtime we get a lot of older customers coming in wanting smaller portions, so we now offer everything on the menu as a ‘light bite’. It’s quite amazing how a small change like that can make a big difference.
SD – Younger people are getting more into artisan food. I see a lot of younger people coming into my shop interested in cheese than I have done before. I think that’s partly because of food programmes such as The Great British Bake Off.
AR – The one thing that strikes me as something that’s changed is the number of branded restaurants, there are far more nowadays.
NT – While online shopping is having a negative effect on the high street, the money it is saving people is enabling them to go out and eat and drink more.
DS – A lot of people call Chesterfield a gateway town, where people will just come through it and explore the Peak District, but we want to be a base for that exploration. We’ve seen huge growth in bed spaces, which, combined with Peak Resort, means we should look at changing what we’re able to offer.
NT – I agree, we don’t just want to be the gateway to the Peak District, we are our own town. On Chatsworth Road where we are, around 21,000 cars a day drive past. One thing that I’m looking at doing is installing some bike racks at our place for people on biking holidays, having a place where people can store their climbing equipment and to accommodate people looking to explore the Peak District.
JE – Maybe we should look at something like the Peddlers Market in Sheffield. It’s in a big warehouse with live music, there’s different breweries and stalls for food and it’s really successful.
NT – When I get groups of people booking to stay with me, I start talking to other pub owners in the area to try and develop a map of where they can go for good beer and how they can get there. It takes a lot of hard work doing that, but once we have it really does get things rolling. If we can manage to do similar things and build maps for things like cycling and climbing it’ll be great.
How have the annual Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards helped elevate the hospitality sector locally with businesses, residents and young people?
CW – After winning an award, you just see a massive difference in trade. With the new categories being introduced to the awards this year, it just displays how you can’t stand still with events and businesses. We’ve been fortunate to be nominated or win something every year, but you just can’t be prepared for what’s to come after the awards.
DS – We started the awards to help achieve a more positive profile of the town, to promote the town’s food and drink sector and to give young skilled people that opportunity to showcase their talent at the awards. It’s continued to grow, and I think it definitely shows the talent those young people have as well as the growing number of quality food and drink establishments in the town.
CW – Some of the students that work and serve at the Food and Drink Awards have only been at Chesterfield College for six weeks. That’s got to be one of the biggest CV boosters you can get.
DS – One of our main objectives with the Food and Drink Awards was to develop the relationship between the college and local businesses.
How do we encourage people to take up careers in the food and drink, hospitality and tourism industry?
CW – Up until this year, I’ve found recruiting people incredibly easy. However, at the minute I just can’t find the right people when I’m looking to recruit. I don’t know if it’s got anything to do with young people having to stay in education until they’re 18.
NT – Apprenticeships are quite tricky because our Head Chef is still trying to develop the menu and he doesn’t have a lot of time to spend with a young person.
AW – More women seem to be getting into the sector at a management level. We need to make sure it’s an appealing sector for women. When you think about catering, there are so many career routes to follow.
Destination Chesterfield is part funded by contributions from local businesses, Chesterfield Borough Council and the European Regional Development Fund. The project is helping to improve the economic prosperity of the town through a campaign to promote Chesterfield.
The local business community plays a central role in its success by both leading an independent Board of Directors for Destination Chesterfield, as well as businesses pledging their support to become Chesterfield Champions.
For more information about becoming a Chesterfield Champion, visit https://www.chesterfield.co.uk/destination-chesterfield/champions/sign-up/