My Shout: Simon Longbottom, CEO, Stonegate Pub Company

By Simon Longbottom

- Last updated on GMT

Simon Longbottom, CEO, Stonegate Pub Company
Simon Longbottom, CEO, Stonegate Pub Company

Related tags Stonegate pub company Public house Following General manager Stonegate

Our industry is facing unprecedented inflationary and political challenges, and many are in the area of people and employment, the national living wage, the apprenticeship levy and the potential post-Brexit shortfall in labour to name but three.

As a result, more than ever before, attracting and retaining great people must be central to our business agenda.

But even if these pressures didn’t exist, this would still remain critical to us at Stonegate, for the following simple reason. Ever since I pulled my first pint in a pub as a general manager in the Old Vicarage in Bournemouth in 1994, I have been convinced that there is one thing above all else that gets customers returning and spending their hard-earned cash – authentic, genuine service. And you simply can’t deliver this unless you have a stable, engaged team that believes they have a future with their employer.

We’ve made great strides in this area over the past few years, and have seen improvements in customer satisfaction and bottom-line performance, and I firmly attribute this to having a successful ‘people strategy’ firmly in place. I’d highlight the following critical elements of our ‘people plan’:

Outstanding attraction and induction tools. We now ask every prospective employee to take a 10-minute ‘quiz’ to assess their ‘fit’ with Stonegate, and then ensure all new hires get a thorough induction. Gone are the days of ‘hand over your CV, have a chat and start tomorrow’.

Benefits that are relevant to our people – including a 25% discount in all 700 Stonegate businesses on both food and drink, and discounts in many other high-street brands.

Above all – best in class training and development via our award-winning ‘Albert’s Theory of Progression’, which enables emerging talent in our pubs and bars to develop quickly to become general managers (GMs) and beyond. We now have 150 GMs who have graduated from our Accelerator programme.

Our internal talent development in particular has far-reaching positive implications for our culture. Yes, of course, it feels great to see people progress, but the business impact is much more profound. Firstly, our existing GM population gets a huge buzz out of developing its teams and seeing them succeed. Secondly, our internally promoted people ‘get’ our culture and values – they’ve grown up in our business and understand what makes us tick. Furthermore, they become passionate advocates for our culture and, in turn, will focus on developing the next generation of talent. It really is the ultimate virtuous circle.

This strategy has served us well over the past three years, and gives us some protection from the inflationary headwinds now facing our sector. Indeed, such has been the success of our investment in our people, that we are further increasing the scope of Albert’s Theory of Progression so we have more of our team progressing through formal learning in the business.

Yes, it will mitigate some of those external pressures, but more than that, it will go a long way to guarantee that Stonegate customers get a great experience in our pubs and bars.

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