The Caterer Interview: Anthony Pender, BII chairman

27 February 2015 by
The Caterer Interview: Anthony Pender, BII chairman

At 32, the new British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) chairman Anthony Pender is the youngest to take the role. So, will his experience as founder and director at Yummy Pub Co and vice-chairman of the Perceptions Group herald a new era for the professional body? Rosalind Mullen finds out

Remind us what the BII does

The BII has charitable status. It's about helping people, raising standards and progressing careers. Its members' arm provides workshops, events and talks to support soft skills as well as group purchasing, mentoring, legal advice and best practice tips on managing finance, employment and so on.

The qualifications awarding arm, the BIIAB, provides accreditation for training providers and has taken on more centres. The awarding body is doing well, delivering 80% of accreditations for personal licences. And at the BII we have an online training portal now, so we can deliver more training for less money.

How do you see your new role as chairman?

I work alongside CEO Tim Hulme to make sure the board fulfils the BII's vision. But I also bring a fresh perspective. I am not here to
just govern. My strength is that I listen. I look at the long-term values. The CEO delivers a three-year plan and KPIs, but he hasn't worked
in a pub. I bring in the operational experience.

From the start, I've said that we will be transparent. I have decided that as chairman I will have a four-year tenure and then be re-interviewed.

So it is time to usher in a new era at the BII?

For the past 18 months, the business hasn't moved forward and people have forgotten why it is relevant to them. We're now adding value
to the £185 per head full membership. We want to drive growth. We have nearly 9,000 members, but we want 19,000 by 2018. By 2020, we want to have 55,000. To achieve this, we will draw from employees of current members - part of a team that is probably already using our material.

How will you add value to the membership?

In particular, we want to strengthen the legal helpline. The BII supports members through the whole legal process, not just giving the first hour free like some organisations.

Mentoring from senior members is a major provision, too. We also give help with insurance, group purchasing deals, finance and so on. And at the tail end of March we will launch a new website with an improved database.

For the first time in years it feels as if we are exceeding the expectations of members.

How has the licensed retail sector changed?

A lot is expected from pub staff nowadays. They have to produce first-class food, be great receptionists, baristas and know how to look
after ales.

A visit to a pub is experiential today, so we also need to think about premiumisation and presentation. Between 2005-12, it was all about
provenance. The new challenge is about getting the lighting, smells, colours and ambiance right. It all affects how you think about the food, it's about psychology. We offer these insights to businesses…Who would think pubs would get this far?

Nowadays licensed retail faces competition from retail and cinemas, and consumers now purchase more alcohol from the off-trade. Social media is increasingly important for marketing, but it's ridiculous how many pubs don't have a website yet. Guys in this industry are consumed with day-today issues so it is hard for them get outside the business.

Why is attracting new staff so important to the licensed retail sector?

The industry has grown phenomenally. We've exhausted the regional workforces and not all unemployed people are geared up to work in licensed retailing. Many don't realise the potential of the industry. They don't realise I employ a 22-year-old manager on £40,000 who is running a £2m-turnover pub and forging a career.

So, how will the BII stimulate employment?

The plan is to dovetail the BII with the Perceptions Group, which was launched by hospitality bosses just over two years ago. Perceptions'
remit is to raise the profile of the industry as an employer by offering unemployed young people placements and training in pubs. It works
with a number of organisations, such as the Beer & Pub Association, CPL Training, the BII and many more.

The idea is that Perceptions will bring new employees in and then the BII will help employers to develop them, show them a career path and keep them in the industry.

The BII needs to offer more insight into the industry, too. I want each BII region to work with the hospitality faculties at a local university, offering work placements with members.

A lot of my work placements at Yummy Pubs have stayed. Similarly, lots of students take summer jobs. If they come for a summer, why wouldn't you train them to come back?

Does this reflect your employment methods at your own company, Yummy Pubs?

Yes, we take on work placements, many through the Neets programme for young unemployed people who aren't in education. In the summer, they can account for 10% of my workforce. They come in with no qualifications and are trained up to supervisor levels.

We also train our student summer workers. We have a seven-level training programme developed with CPL Training and we train student
workers to level two. I spend money on training them and we gain them for four summers while they are at university. Half of them stay and work for us after university. Others don't like their office job and ask to come back.

You have said you would like the BII to provide more soft training?

Yes, the industry has got better at the functional side of training. We need personality, serving flair, interpersonal stuff. We have to provide research on what soft skills are needed and how long to train people. We will work on that.

How are you raising the profile of pubs in Government?

The Government is keen on employment and we are keen to employ so we are starting to engage with more ministers. On 16 February, employment minister Esther McVey helped the BBPA, BII and Perceptions Group to launch a pub chef recruitment campaign.

This united industry initiative is designed to attract, train and engage young chefs within the pub and bar sector.

What messages are you trying to get out there?

That there are so many career options in licensed retailing. It's a massive industry and you can specialise in many different areas nowadays - barista, food, drink and reception.

You can even be a carpenter, or you can work in the HR or IT departments. It is the BII's job to help to direct people. It's important that we give workers in this industry the tools to progress their careers. And that those with a degree can see there is clear career progression for them. We need more training in the industry. As an industry, hospitality spent £2.7b on training in 2014. That is down 24% per employee, so either training is more efficient, or the industry is delivering less.

There are many uncontrollable issues affecting pubs. Tax is increasing, the cost of running an operation is increasing and so on. But staff
training is something we can take control of.

Are there misconceptions about the BII's role, then?

At the BII, it is not our job to discuss policies. We are not policemen. We are there to help individuals. We do sit on panels such as Perceptions, though. The BII is about raising standards and helping staff on a career path. That is my number one job. The industry tends to have a poor image because it trades in alcohol.

What would you say to parents who don't think young people should work in pubs?

Workers at Yummy are not allowed to drink on the premises. In fact, the manager has to ring me to sanction a team drink. A good pub supervises its customers' drinking, too, and we're not allowed to serve drunks. People don't get that level of supervision if they drink at home.

Tell us a bit more about Yummy Pubs

Tim Foster, formerly of Carlsberg, chef Jason Rowland and I opened our first pub, the Wiremill, in Newchapel, Surrey, in 2007. We now
have five pubs and a stake in a coffee shop, Gentleman Baristas, which recently opened in Southwark. I help mentor the two guys who run it. The coffee, which comes from a co-op village in Kenya, is also sold to the pubs.

Coffee is important to Yummy pubs - they open at 8am for breakfast. We've built an amazing team across the pubs. We went from four staff to 130 staff in five years and from £350,000 a year turnover to £5m.

There is a family culture and we want to grow and see everyone take something from it. Eventually, we want our general managers to take on equity. We will be expanding this year and as we have great initiatives and training systems we can go forward faster.

Yummy Pubs

Anthony Pender managing director

Tim Foster sales and marketing

Jason Rowland operations manager

Turnover £5m

  • The Wiremill Newchapel, Surrey
  • The Grove Ferry Canterbury, Kent
  • The Somerstown Coffeehouse London NW1
  • The Gorringe Park London SW17
  • The Victoria London, E3
  • The Gentlemen Baristas London SE1

The lowdown on Anthony Pender

Early career: studies for a degree in business and tourism at University of the West of England (Bristol). On leaving in 2004 becomes sales manager at Carlsberg

2007 Opens first Yummy site, the Wiremill in Newchapel, Surrey, while working at Carlsberg

2008 Leaves Carlsberg

2010 Wins three Publican Awards in one night including Britain's Best Pub Operator and from there start to grow the business

2012 Wins Top 50 Gastro Pub

2013 Named vice-chairman at Perceptions

2014 Becomes non-executive manager of Gentlemen Baristas, run by two entrepreneurs and Yummy takes a stake in the business

November 2014: Chairman of the BII

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