What operating in Cardiff is really like

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

City insight: Rob Toogood, Nick Newman, Bradley Cummings and Caroline Brownell on the realities of operating in Cardiff
City insight: Rob Toogood, Nick Newman, Bradley Cummings and Caroline Brownell on the realities of operating in Cardiff

Related tags Multi-site pub operators Craft beer

Operators from across Cardiff explained the opportunities and challenges of trading in the city.

The panel at The Morning Advertiser​'s MA Leaders conference at Sophia Gardens Cricket Ground last week (Thursday 16 May) included Tiny Rebel’s Bradley Cummings, Cardiff Licensees Forum and Croeso Pubs’ Nick Newman, For Cardiff’s Carolyn Brownell and Fuel Rock Club’s Rob Toogood who gave their perspective on what operating in Cardiff is really like.

Newman said: “Starting work in 1982, in the night-time economy/hospitality sector gives me a fair perspective on it. It’s the best city in the world to run a bar pub, nightclub or restaurant.

“[We have the] friendliest people in the world in Wales, Cardiff in particular.

“The Principality Stadium has been a central feature in Cardiff city centre life, particularly for pubs, clubs nightclubs and restaurants.

“On a match day when Wales is on the for grand slam, it’s extraordinary, the number of people who come to the city centre for those occasions. These events have raised the profile of the city.”

Tiny Rebel’s Cummings also outlined his thoughts on what he has seen in the city over the past few years.

“I’m 36 so I’ve been coming into town for 20 years and have seen it change massively over the years,” he said.

“Now it is the most exciting it has ever been in terms of diversity across restaurants, independents, experience-led venues. There’s so much choice out there now in Cardiff it’s thriving in that respect.”

City challenges

However, one hurdle outlined by the panel was dealing with the peaks and troughs of having such large-scale events in the city.

Brownell said: “One of the challenges is we punch above our weights in events and it’s a feast or famine. Cardiff is on the up but there’s a challenge when those events aren’t on.”

Toogood was optimistic about the fact there are many events in Cardiff and the variety on offer.

He said: “When it’s a stressful day with the rugby, I like to sit in the cellar and listen to the pumps clicking.

“The castle schedule this year, we have never seen the like of it, [there are] lots of bands such as Smashing Pumpkins and Avril Lavigne. The more that comes to the centre the better.”

While these events are important, the times of the year they aren’t on are just as important as it acts as a change to plan and regroup, according to Newman.

“There’s no such thing as kicking back and breathing a sigh of relief in January as it’s looking to the Six Nations,” he said.

“The thing we get all the time in the city centre is tourists. There are very few times when the tourist footfall dies off.

“The high street is now almost exclusively licensed premises, big operators such as Flight Club, Botanist, brings jobs and people to the city.”

Changing consumers

When it comes to macro trends, competitive socialising is on the rise in the Welsh city, according to Brownell.

She said: “The massive upturn I’ve seen is the experiential side of things. Apparently, Cardiff Flight Club is the second most successful Flight Club. [These are great for the] hen and stag do market but also people are wanting to move away from vertical drinking. We’ve had a glut of those venues in recent years.”

Tiny Rebel’s Cummings highlighted how he has seen consumers change in the time he has been operating in the city.

“When we opened our Cardiff bar, the concept was craft beer. It was the first fully independent craft bar in Wales, that was back in 2013 so it’s changed a lot.

“The people who come through our door, what they want and what we offer has changed. We do the same range of craft beer but we’ve had to up experience.

“We show acts such as music, comedy nights. We’ve had to evolve and refresh that offering to get people through the door. People aren’t just going out for beer now, they want something a little bit more unique.

“Food offering now is so important, we aren’t a food-led venue, we probably have an 80/20 split (in favour of wet) but still need a good quality offering. You can’t back all that up without good customer experience. Staff training can make or break a venue.”

Related topics MA Leaders Club

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