Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Rufus Hall, Orchid Group

06 December 2012
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Rufus Hall, Orchid Group

Overall ranking: 62 (ranked 65 in 2011)
Pub ranking: 9 (ranked 5 in 2011)

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. Following its exit from the Premium Bars & Restaurants group this year, Orchid operates around 260 pubs and bars. The business is now solely owned by Deutsche Bank.

Orchid's operating divisions include Contemporary Carveries, a 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. Turnover at the group was up to £179.5m for the year to 31 December 2011, an increase in sales of 3.7%.

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, which was then part of Yates Group before being headhunted to lead the newly-created Orchid business in 2006.

Rufus Hall - What we think
They say you should judge a general by the way he performs under fire, not during peacetime. With the pub and restaurant under continued attack from limited consumer spending power, increased red tape including the new late night levy, and increased costs driven both by inflation and high rates of duty and VAT, Orchid Group has outperformed many of its competitors, reporting increased sales and turnover, and just as importantly improved margins, in the 12 months to the end of 2011.

The past year has seen Orchid renegotiate its financial structure, refocus its estate and continue to segment and refine its target consumer, notably with the rollout of its Pizza Kitchen & Bars concept alongside its existing formats.

The market looked very different back in 2006, when Hall thought he had been taken on to run just 21 pubs and restaurants which private equity investor GI had acquired. Almost as soon as Hall was in post, GI had agreed to buy 290 managed pubs from Punch. The management team quickly assembled by hall included Simon Dodd, Orchid's commercial & people director, and the combination of skills and experience within the senior management team have kept Orchid on course in a worsening economy.
With GI ready to realise its initial investment, in March this year Deutsche Bank became Orchid's new and sole backer, and crucially made it clear that it was ready to invest in the company's pubs.

This has enable Orchid to continue its focus on segmentation, ensuring that all its pubs all fit into one of the group's template, which include ‘independent local', ‘modern British', ‘freehouse local', ‘British carvery' and the ‘Dragon' concept. The latest format Pizza Kitchen & Bars, offers a menu of unusual pizzas with global flavours, such as the Indian Banquet pizza.

In July, Orchid made the decision to hand back the 33-strong Premium Bars and Restaurants group to its private equity owners. The business, comprising the Living Room bar restaurant brand and the Ultimate Leisure collection of late night bars in the North East, never seemed an obvious fit with Orchid's core operation, and has been taken over by late night specialist Eclectic Bars.

Pubs have also been acquired, while ‘churn' of the estate has seen Orchid sell small packages of pubs to both JD Wetherspoon and north east based Wear Inns.

Hall reconfirmed this year his guiding principle that the key to Orchid's success is its continued investment in its employees. Announcing the company's results, he said: "The most important part of our business is our people "We work hard to create a demanding but enjoyable environment for our teams where they feel valued and motivated, and are provided ample opportunity to develop and progress."

Rufus Hall's ranking in the 2011 Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 >>Sales up 3.7% at pub company the Orchid Group >>

Orchid to extend its Pizza Kitchen & Bar concept to a further 25 sites >>

Eclectic takes over management of Premium Bars and Restaurants >>

Deutsche Bank is sole Orchid backer >>

Orchid website >>

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