Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Profile: Rufus Hall, Orchid Group

01 July 2011 by
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Profile: Rufus Hall, Orchid Group

Overall ranking: 65 (ranked 65 in 2010)

Pub ranking: 5 (ranked 7 in 2010)

Rufus Hall: Snapshot

Rufus Hall is CEO of Orchid Group, which was created in 2006 through the acquisition of almost 290 managed pubs from Punch by private equity group GI Partners. Subsequent expansion has included the Premium Bars & Restaurants group, acquired at the end of 2009.

Orchid's four operating divisions include Contemporary Carveries, the fusion of Thai cuisine and the English pub known as Dragons, and the Oriental Restaurant Group, a clutch of the City's best-known Oriental restaurants.

Rufus Hall: Career guide

Born in 1961, Hall's career includes periods as operations director with Scottish & Newcastle, managing director of Rank Group's Tom Cobleigh pub business and managing director, operations, with Punch Retail. He ran the Ha!Ha! Bar & Canteen business (then part of Yates Group) before being headhunted to lead the newly created Orchid business in 2006.

Rufus Hall: What we think

Few pub executives have been invited to address the United Nations, as Rufus Hall was in June. The CEO of Orchid was invited to present at a United Nations partnership conference on the issue of corporate social responsibility.

Proof that Orchid Group's people-focused approach continues to pay dividends continues to pile up. This year has seen the business placed at number 5 in The Sunday Times' list of the top 25 companies to work for, while both Rufus Hall and Orchid's commercial & people director Simon Dodd are short listed for the HR Excellence Awards 2011.

Perhaps more important is the fact that employees are putting their money where their mouth is, so far investing more than £500,000 of their own money in the Orchid Investment scheme, which gives them a stake in the business.

It's a far cry from the summer of 2006, when Hall thought he had been headhunted to run just 21 pubs and restaurants which had been part of the Noble House group. GI had spent £20m to acquire this package in May 2006, which included the Jim Thompson's brand and London restaurants including the Sri Thai, Pacific Oriental and Imperial City.

Punch Taverns to buy 290 managed pubs. A management team had to be assembled quickly, a task that Hall's track record helped with, and the creation of The Orchid Group in June 2006 is still officially the fastest ever roll out of a company in the sector.

The key to the formula has been strict segmentation - Orchid's pubs all fit into one of the group's template, which include 'independent local', 'modern British', 'freehouse local', 'British carvery' and the 'Dragon' concept, which combines a British local with authentic Thai food. Food is also seen as essential to the mix, whether it is pub food classics in a previously drink-only local, or the Red Tractor approved, locally-sourced British meat served in the carveries.

Continued accolades for the group's success in motivating its people reflect the importance that Hall places on recruitment right through the business. Hall's management team ranges from long-standing colleagues such as Dodd - the two worked together at S&N - to new blood such as operations director Paul Cutsforth, recruited last year from Peach.

Training focuses on service and high standards, again reflecting Hall's belief that these are what will differentiate successful pub businesses in a contracted market.

Rufus Hall's ranking in the 2010 Caterersearch.com 100 >>

Orchid 5th in 25 best companies to work for >>

Orchid CEO invited to address UN >>

Orchid Group 'reinventing pub dining' >>

Orchid website >>

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