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Can restaurant businesses unlock the power of purposeful profitability?

In economically challenging periods like today, it’s easy to cut corners and throw values out of the window in the name of survival. A key focus of the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator event this year was purpose and what it means to be a responsible business, with an array of speakers from across the industry expertly curated by Mark Stretton, of Fleet Street Communications. We had some big-hitters on stage from Burger King UK, Nando’s and Gail’s Bakery, all reinforcing the message that it’s not a case of choosing between profit and purpose as businesses need to deliver on both.

Colin Hill, chief executive of Nando’s, talked about the importance of having values and using them to guide your business, while also focusing on how important it was to team members, who see it as a vital part of the decision-making when choosing an employer. He touched on the importance of having clear key performance indicators, which is something Tim Doubleday, chief financial officer of Burger King UK, (who also chairs the sustainability committee for UKHospitality) talked about extensively, ensuring you minimise the number of core metrics you are monitoring and focusing on, but ensuring they include the ones that make you a more responsible business.

There was a general consensus that while consumers expect to see more responsible businesses, it was really the role of the businesses themselves to set the agenda and be moving beyond a response to customer expectations. On a more tactical note, around site fit-outs and designs, Brett Parker, the property director at Gail’s Bakery, shared how the business was adapting design to reduce the amount of new materials it used, salvaging more and upcycling, highlighting that customers and teams loved hearing of furniture that had a story to tell. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, shared how sustainability shouldn’t be a competitive edge and something we hide from others, but an open book and an industry-wide collaboration. When it comes to making the world a better place for the long term, we all win.

A key question that needs answering is who takes responsibility for this area. It touches almost every department yet has no natural home, and without accountability, we know that change is slow. With marketing, it risks being seen as virtue signalling and reactive to consumers. With finance, it’s potentially at risk of being overshadowed by profitability. With operations, it’s likely to get lost within business-as-usual. One thing for sure is it needs to be the responsibility of someone senior who is willing to disrupt, with sway in the business and the full support of the chief executive and board.


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