Champions Round Table
Food & Drink
With the seventh annual Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards taking place on 23 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.
With the growth of online shopping, Chesterfield’s food and drink sector has become increasingly important in driving footfall to the town centres.
96% of the town’s food and drink sector is made up of micro to medium-sized businesses and more bars and restaurants are set to join the town’s offering following the redevelopment of the former Co-op building on Elder Way.
The continued growth in the town’s food and drink sector has opened up employment opportunities. But how do we recruit young people to the sector and encourage them to develop their careers in Chesterfield.
PB – Phil Bramley – Editor, Derbyshire Times
LG – Luke Gregory – Resident Manager, Casa Hotel
PS – Paul Stuart – Head of Enterprise, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire)
EC – Ewan Crilley – Head of Discipline Culinary Arts and Food Development, University of Derby
CS – Christian Sarginson – Brand Controller, Global Brands Limited
Are we doing enough to showcase Chesterfield and North Derbyshire as a leader in the food and drink sector?
CS – As a business we do a lot to promote our products across social media but people probably don’t know that the products come from Chesterfield. Social media is a very important tool in our marketing. Some of the canned cocktail products we have developed recently have been made specifically with Instagram in mind. We should be sharing products that are produced locally across social media.
EC – Social media is a very powerful tool for businesses in the food and drink sector to market to students. Students are now using their student loan to become foodies, visiting quirky cafés, drinking craft ale and eating at Michelin-starred restaurants. They want to be seen tagging into cool places and taking pictures of what they’re drinking and eating. So, you’ve got to start thinking about what Chesterfield has to offer. Bakewell has the pudding, but what can Chesterfield offer?
CS – If you think about the USP for Chesterfield, it has to be the Peak District. I took the dog for a walk at the weekend in the Peak District and I actually found a top dog walks article on the Derbyshire Times website, but there was hardly anywhere to go and get a drink or some food around that area. Where is the capitalisation on that market? With Chesterfield being on the doorstep, the businesses in the sector should be shouting about their convenience and proximity to day trippers.
PS – The way people are choosing holiday destinations these days is changing. People now book restaurants first because that is the most important part and then go on to book hotels and places to stay after that. The food and drink offering of an area is becoming the driving force in people selecting a destination for a holiday.
LG – I believe that if a business knows what it’s doing and puts quality out there, it will do well. Some places are badly managed, they haven’t quite done all the homework or they don’t have the quality offer and ultimately fail.
How can we develop talent in the local food and drink sector?
EC – We have Chesterfield College with a number apprenticeships coming through with the standards incredibly high. This is a massive positive. But a lot of the levy payers aren’t using it, so the money is just sitting there waiting for people to take it and train apprentices. There’s a real opportunity for us to use apprenticeships and really drive the sector’s workforce forward.
LG – When people decide to work in hospitality, they’ve already made the decision and accepted the fact that they are going to be working long hours but the problem is, there are a lot of places out there that don’t treat staff in the right way.
PS – That’s where good managers come in. They realise what different members of staff like, and reward them with things tailored to their likes.
EC – If you look after your staff, there’s a good chance you’ll keep them. I’ve got students that are going on placements for free too, because they’ve seen that they are going to develop, they’re going to learn and there’s something at the end for them.
CS – The key thing really is what people define as success – different things make different people happy. If you ask people in their mid-30s and older, they’ll probably say money, but if you ask people in their early 30s and younger, they’ll probably say happiness.
EC – Local salaries provide a challenge when it comes to keeping your people here. Local employers are competing against London and international salaries. The University has students out in America doing their placement and they’re all on circa £28,000 – £35,000 a year with living accommodation and food included. I’ve got others that have gone down to London and are working for Gordon Ramsay – the hours are crazy but they’re on £28,000 per year. There are Head Chefs in this area that aren’t getting that sort of money. This is partly why we struggle to keep students in the area.
PS – When you look at the smaller businesses in the area, they’re not going to have those big amounts of money to offer staff. Instead they have to make sure it’s a great place to work.
LG – Regular appraisals are really key to retaining staff. – have them and have an honest conversation with your staff and find out what they want. It may be as simple as money, additional responsibility or training.
PS – A lot of small businesses say ‘what if we train our staff and they leave?’ but we always go back to them and say ‘what happens if you don’t train them and they stay’.
What are the growth areas in the food and drink sector currently?
EC – There’s a real opportunity to target the over 55s market. It’s about finding the right balance for both markets and creating a good destination for them.
CS – Convenience is such a huge thing for people. That’s why sales of canned products of spirits and mixers are on the increase in supermarkets. Interestingly though, when people go out they will pay £10 for a gin and tonic even though they can get that drink for £1.50 in the supermarket. It’s all about the quality and the experience.
LG – The Franklin’s soft drink range is a good example of this. It’s the first soft drink range to make a real effort to be presented above and beyond any other soft drink.
CS – Soft drinks are a huge growth area. People are really concerned about getting caught out on social media drunk and in a state, which is stopping a lot of them from drinking alcohol.
EC – Experience is key, particularly for the younger generation. They want to show off where they are eating and drinking. Businesses should be Instagram-ready to attract younger people.
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/