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Mike Gibson landscape
The journalist and content strategist on telling compelling stories, the future of restaurants, and sustainable eating and drinking
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The journalist and content strategist on telling compelling stories, the future of restaurants, and sustainable eating and drinking

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In conversation with Foodism's Mike Gibson

What were you doing before Foodism, and how did your journey lead you to write about food? Is this something you’ve always been passionate about?

You could say I took some time to find my niche. After I graduated with a film degree I was working as a freelance videographer. This is how I came to be at my old publisher, Square Up Media.

They were publishing Square Mile and Hedge at the time and were just about to launch Escapism. So when the chance came up to start writing some small features for the magazines and websites, I took it.

Fast-forward a few months and the company was keen to launch a food title. I was asked to launch Foodism as a weekly newsletter and website. All overseen by my old editor Jon Hawkins.

I loved food, wine, and cooking already. And was keen to get stuck into an industry that I had always thought was exciting. In a city with a world-leading food scene.

A year after that we launched Foodism as London’s biggest food and drink magazine, I worked my way up from editorial assistant to associate editor. And then from deputy editor to editor in 2018.

There are loads of brilliant people who’ve contributed to Foodism’s success over the years. But it’s nice to be able to say I published the first words on its website. And worked on every single one of its 42 issues. It’s very close to my heart.

Foodism relaunched late last year after a year out of publication. What were you most excited about and what can readers expect from the revamp?

The last decade or two haven’t been kind to the publishing industry. There are so many great magazine brands. Many went out of business through circumstances totally beyond their control. Some at a time when they were arguably at the top of their game.

Early 2020 was a difficult time. Square Up Media ceased trading and the future of the brand was up in the air for a good few months.

But I’m pleased to say that what could have been the end was just a few months’ hiatus. Along with its sister title Escapism, it was bought by some of my old colleagues at Threadneedle Media.

They'd taken Square Mile and Hedge. Steering them through the choppy waters of the pandemic.

The setup isn't as it was before. And whilst the team’s a little smaller, it’s great to be working on Foodism again. And with a few of the people who were there from its inception.

I’ve also got my old mate and colleague Lydia Winter with me. All being well, she'll be overseeing a similar relaunch of Escapism later this year.

It’s great not only to have helped turn another negative story for the industry into a positive one. But also to prove that magazine publishing is still a viable business.

People still want to seek out great content. In print as well as online.

In terms of the magazine itself, it’s had a design refresh and I’ve commissioned some new writers. We’re working with some exciting new partners and advertisers who've been brilliant with their support for the relaunch.

Aside from that, it’s been great to use the magazine as a way to show support for the hospitality industry. Encouraging readers to support their favourite venues even while their doors are closed.

I can’t wait to be working on Foodism when restrictions have lifted and Londoners are eating and drinking out again. The industry’s been incredibly resilient and the at-home stuff’s been great. But getting in amongst it is what it’s all about.

Outside of Foodism, you’ve been busying yourself with some freelance content and strategy work. What have been some of the highlights over the last twelve months?

It’s been a period of adjustment. 15 months ago I was very much a magazine editor who never had the time or headspace for freelance work. Now I’m very much a freelancer, editing a magazine around my work in content strategy.

One good thing about the role of a modern magazine editor is that hands-on work with some of the biggest brands in the business goes with the territory. Especially at a publication that’s funded totally by advertising.

After I’d been editing Foodism for a while, we’d expanded into sub-brands, event platforms, branded content, and large-scale commercial partnerships. So my day-to-day was as commercial as it was editorial.

That put me in a great position to approach brands as a freelancer. Working with them to connect with their audiences through engaging content. Which is the niche I’m carving out now.

The sweet spot between brand comms and editorial is where I’m seeing the best results. I’ve done some fun work with food and drinks brands in the last year.

From e-commerce projects for drinks brand owners to working with wine regions on their marketing materials. I'm also working on content strategy for soon-to-launch hospitality platforms.

Then in addition to my freelance work, some friends and I started High Water. The creative agency - run as a collective - acts as a structure for direct branding work. From visual identity and design to tone of voice and positioning work, consumer-facing brand copy, and published products.

It’s still in the early stages at the moment. But it’s been really fun to build something bigger than just me outside of Foodism.

How do you think the restaurant and food worlds are going to change over the next twelve months? Do you think we’re in for the roaring twenties, or continued hardship?

Hospitality is an amazing industry. Shortfalls need to be made up for and rent is an issue - now more than ever. But it’ll start making money again from the moment the restrictions ease.

Outdoor dining is already booked up across the board. Even before places have opened back up. So I think operators can expect full venues from the word go.

I do think that carries with it an implicit danger, though. We're unlikely to have a clear picture for a while. And whilst the first weeks and months after lockdown may be buoyant. We mustn't overlook the long-term effects of the last 12 months. Consumer behaviour may have changed forever.

Having said that. A lot of people attribute the growth of street food and the casual-dining sector to the 2008 financial crash. It forced a rethink of the way hospitality wanted to function. Creating space for talented people in grassroots businesses.

Success stories like Franco Manca and Dishoom are testament to that.

I’d be surprised if in a decade we’re not looking at some really interesting and valuable developments in hospitality. Future success stories themselves that sprung from the effects of the pandemic.

Healthier eating, sustainable food systems, and regenerative agriculture are all big talking points right now. How do you see these continuing to develop and proliferate in the short and medium terms?

I’ve always been passionate about sustainability in food, drink, and agriculture. Foodism has put out cover-to-cover sustainability specials every year since 2015. We’ve worked with some market-leading brands in that time. And put on an awards initiative based around it, too.

I think much of it comes down to how much consumers want to put their money where their mouth is and demand change. What’s abundantly clear is that if we keep consuming as we have been, it’s game over for us as a species. It’s as simple as that!

If it’s a scary thought, then good. It should be. Ultimately, if someone begins to let their behaviour be guided by their ethics, whatever choice they come to is a good one.

In food terms, if someone believes eating animal products is wrong and they go vegan, that’s great. If they believe the problem is factory farming and buy high-welfare, traceable meat from a quality butcher, that’s great too.

It’s easy to exist in the echo chamber and believe everyone cares as much as you do about this stuff. It’s clear the average consumer is better informed about this stuff than a decade or so ago. That’s a good start, but that’s all it is at this point.

I mentioned this in one of your Clubhouse sessions. I’m a big fan of the term “regenerative” when it comes to food and agriculture.

In its essence, it accepts that damage has already been done. And that this damage needs to be undone before we’re on an even footing again. This is a crucial concept for consumers to understand.

There’s still so much work to be done when it comes to the language of sustainability. And the key is better education. Things like greenwashing will become less of a problem, as the average consumer becomes better informed.

What advice would you give to restaurants when it comes to creating PR-able stories? How can they stand out from the crowd?

Foodism might be an outlier. In that outside of the odd piece on the website, we’re not what a PR would consider “listings press”. We’re much more about long-tail, in-depth stories than events or news.

That means that I don’t respond too much to “The UK’s first [insert gimmick here] restaurant,” or similar. For me, it’s about telling stories of great people and businesses in hospitality, food and drinks, and I don’t need too much of a hook beyond that.

Our regular Five Dishes feature is a testament to that. The conversation might start from a PR getting in touch about a new opening or cookbook, but the whole idea of it is to talk about a chef or operator’s journey.

How they started, what drives them, their successes and failures – and get under the skin of what they’re trying to do, rather than just give the headlines of their newest project.

From an operator’s perspective, I’d say it’s all about having a genuine approach that comes from the heart. Whether that’s a certain style of cooking or influence, leading with something that’s purpose-driven or rooted in strong ethics, a talented chef who’s on their way up – and finding ways to communicate that, internally and externally.

London has restaurants that have been in business for decades. And the really good ones don’t tend to struggle for press, even despite their longevity. It’s about quality and authenticity.

Which emerging chefs or new restaurants are you most excited about for 2021?

To be honest, while there’ve been a couple of new openings over the last year, I think it’ll be a bit longer until new concepts launch. So I won’t namecheck anything right now.

I’m just hoping as many of the restaurants I love as possible will be able to reopen their doors. And when late June rolls around, people will have made up for the lost time. Throwing themselves into eating and drinking out.

On a personal note, I’m delighted to see my mates Ferhat and Sertac Dirik doing great things with their restaurant, Mangal 2. I used to live across the road from the restaurant in Dalston and got to know them well.

Over the first lockdown, they took time to reimagine and reopen it. Launching a more forward-thinking menu with a great drinks list. Some dishes are inspired in part by the amazing restaurants Sertac worked at in Copenhagen.

As a food journalist, the first time I hear about these concepts tends to be when they’re pretty much ready to open. But I was talking to the guys about their plan way before they shut and throughout the process of doing it.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a classic Turkish ocakbasi restaurant. But I’m delighted for them that they did what they set out to do and are now reaping the rewards.

The restaurant’s infamous Twitter account is a testament to Ferhat’s long-standing hatred of Dalston hipsters. So it’s nice to be able to give him shit for finally owning an East London restaurant that does sharing plates and natural wine. You absolute sellout, Ferhat.

Which three venues are you heading to first on or after April 12th?

There’ll be a few casual dinners locally and a few good pub sessions. Likely quite impromptu.

But what I’ve really missed is a proper destination restaurant. Somewhere upmarket. A tasting menu, amazing wine, and all the things you can’t replicate at home.

One of my best friends is the champagne ambassador for LVMH (yep, really). We go out to eat a lot and we’ve wasted no time getting a couple of things booked.

We’re doing lunch at Fallow’s terrace in Mayfair in April. And then dropping into my client Victor Garvey’s restaurant, Sola, for lunch in May. They've just won a Michelin star.

I’m also going to Coombeshead Farm in June with my fiancée. We went just after it opened and booked it again for my 30th last April. That didn’t end up happening for obvious reasons. So it’s been a long time coming.

Tom, if you’re reading this, I’m coming for you and your hairy pigs 😉

Ania Honey
The duo helping restaurants and their guests fall in love with natural wine.
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The duo helping restaurants and their guests fall in love with natural wine.

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In Conversation With Ania Smelskaya & Honey Spencer

You work with independent restaurants and bars to up their wine list and service game. What’s the biggest advantage of working with a wine consultant?

First and foremost, we’re front-of-house people ourselves. With 30 years sommelier experience between us.

Restaurants have changed significantly over the years. And today, not every venue needs - or can justify - hiring a sommelier or wine team. And yet guests expect an interesting list and knowledgeable people to help them navigate it.

We bridge that gap. Curating an amazing list, preparing and hosting wine training sessions, and hosting dinners. And at a fraction of the cost of an in-house sommelier.

We train each team member to be their own ‘mini-sommelier’. With a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge and the ability to talk about each wine on the list.

Our work with an array of restaurant clients means we’ve developed a highly-intuitive style that centres on knowing how to meet the guests’ needs. Ensuring they return again and again.

How do you approach training to build an engaged, knowledgeable team in the absence of a sommelier?

We believe in engaging the staff in the benefits of minimal intervention wines. And in spreading the "natural wine bug" :))

Many people working in hospitality are there because they’re curious about the flavours. We encourage this curiosity and build confidence in talking about - and serving - wine.

Creating an army of “mini-sommeliers" who discover a whole new dimension in wines. The result is engaged staff with shiny eyes. Eager to learn more and to tell the world about their new passion.

If you had to lay claim to a favourite style of wine, what would it be?

Honey: I know we can both put our hands on our hearts and say that we love all forms of wine expression.

From the wild stuff that brings up more questions than answers. To the comforting familiarity of styles long-celebrated (so long as they are not heavy-laden with chemicals).

That said we’re both fascinated with the ancient amber wines (aka skin-contact, aka orange) as they are generally so vibrant and versatile.

When food and wine pairing, imagine the thrill of being able to play with a wine that offers all the aromatics of a white with the power of a red. And yet something else entirely.

The potential is vast and wonderful. And we’re only at the beginning of discovering all that amber wines can offer.

Ania: I agree with Honey when it comes to amber wines. I absolutely love to pair them with fun (or serious) food. I’m also obsessed with everything cider (from pet nat cider to ice cider) and love matching it with different dishes.

What are the main benefits of natural wine? From the wines themselves to the benefits on the planet?

Ania: From the point of view of organic viticulture, there are so many benefits that come from not using herbicides and pesticides. Not to mention being mindful of the weight of the bottle, any unnecessary usage of the plastic, and a smaller carbon footprint.

And as a raw, artisan product, it’s naturally better for your health. Made without additives, and fermented as nature intended. It’s no surprise that there’s this rumour that natural wines don't cause hangovers!

But, honestly, it does depend on how much you drink. But I always feel much fresher after drinking natural wines versus conventional wines.

What’s the best wine experience you’ve had in your life?

Honey: I suppose for me this is more of a retrospective. But back in the first days of Sager and Wilde where we both worked, we used to pour outrageous wines by the glass that you just can’t get hold of anymore.

I remember one night in particular. We had Overnoy, Clape, and Jérôme Prévost by the glass and it felt just like a normal night. I curse myself for not taking bigger gulps that night!

Ania: Hmm. It’s hard to say as I am quite spoiled! But I do remember when I first tried natural wines paired with “fine dining” food.

It was when I lived in Stockholm and went on a date to a restaurant called Ekstedt in Stockholm. The sommelier was absolutely amazing and I tried my first Testalonga wine there.

I still have pictures of the bottles! I remember thinking that I would like to be this person one day. Speaking with a contagious passion and confidence about wine. So here I am :-)

You recently embarked on a journey to get your head around the broader topic of sustainability for restaurants? What inspired this?

Ania: Working at Silo was extremely inspiring. I discovered that it was possible to run a restaurant and avoid the waste which at the time, was a given in our industry.

It can be quite terrifying if we think about the amount of food thrown away. I read an article recently which stated that restaurants in the UK produce 915,400 tonnes of waste every year. Including 199,100 tonnes of food waste.

To work in a restaurant with a zero-waste approach was eye-opening. People were interested in my take on the wine and drinks programme. We had to establish a lot of principles. Researching the topic in order to match Silo’s ethos. It was a very interesting journey.

Achieving genuine “zero waste” took a lot of practice and discipline. But after the rules are established, it is relatively easy!

Are there parallels to be drawn between sustainability in wine and in other drinks? And even food?

Ania: The same approach we take to wine can be used to source local, organically-grown ingredients in food. And also to sourcing local beers, ciders, and kombucha/soft drinks. It’s a very similar ethos.

It’s crucial we all make efforts to support small independent companies. And make sure they are mindful of their packaging practices and their carbon footprint.

When the pandemic is over, what are your thoughts on the future of the British hospitality industry? Are we in for the ‘roaring twenties’, or has the industry changed forever?

Honey: I’ve definitely gone through phases of being certain of both.

During the first and second lockdowns - like all of our industry colleagues - there was a feeling of dread. As though choosing to work in hospitality was like opting for the leaky boat.

But I definitely don’t think that now. Seeing how businesses have pivoted in the most extraordinary ways is proof that we are a talented and resilient bunch.

Couple that with 66 million people desperate to get back to the pub and into restaurants, and we think the industry is going to see a huge boom for years to come.

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How to serve meat that doesn't [email protected]&k up the planet
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How to serve meat that doesn't [email protected]&k up the planet

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Meet Lily Bovey, founder of Haus Party Collective and GROUND Climate Positive Burgers

Last month we spoke to Rishim Sachdeva. Chef and founder of Tendril, a (mostly) vegan kitchen. If you missed it, you can find the interview here. And whilst we’re all for making veggies the heroes, we thought it only fair to talk to someone who’s committed to quality meat that’s responsibly produced, and kind on the planet.

Lily has form in food. Having spent the last six years cutting her teeth on London’s food markets and at events with her STAKEhaus business and other offshoots.

We sat down for a chat about where it all began. The journey from leaving a corporate PR job through back garden trials, to running a thriving operation with multiple brands in multiple locations.

Delving into the nuts and bolts of her new business, in partnership with The Ethical Butcher, bringing carbon-negative burgers to London and beyond.

Discovering a passion for produce

Growing up between rural Surrey and West Sussex, Lily happily admits that food wasn’t always on her radar. It wasn’t until she moved to London, forced to cook her own food, that she began experimenting with produce and ingredients.

“I don’t really come from a foodie family”, she explains. “My mum doesn’t even really cook. We ate mostly ready meals and frozen food and there were so many things I didn’t enjoy. I was a really fussy eater”.

But mum needn’t be upset. Because Lily believes this is exactly why food is now such a big part of her life. “It was a strange journey. But it led me to be more interested in food as an adult. Suddenly, you’re cooking your own food, going to restaurants of your own choosing. And really exploring all the cultures and cuisines that big cities have to offer”.

“Now, ten years, later, I’ve realised I do really like mushrooms and hummus. I used to think hummus was so weird”, she jokes.

What exactly does PR stand for?

Having left school at 18 without pursuing a degree, Lily wasn’t immediately sure what it was she wanted to do. The self-titled “Blonde white girl” envisaged a future in PR. Even if she didn’t really know what it meant.

After a handful of internships, Lily landed a job with Universal Pictures. Determined to start from the bottom and work her way up the ladder.

“I really tried to enjoy it. But I absolutely hated it. The monotony, the commute. It was killing me”.

Lily flippantly mentions “an early mental breakdown”. Being at a total loss when realising that this previously hallowed path wasn’t anything like she expected.

“All my friends were at Uni doing what they wanted. And I hadn’t found my thing yet. It was causing me so much angst”.

But from these dark times, a light was emerging. “The only thing that bought me joy was getting home and cooking meals for all my flatmates. Food was something I was good at. I was cooking for people and they were wowed by what I was serving them”.

Just go for it

The story of falling into food and hospitality is a common one. And in many ways, the typical entrepreneurial journey. Fuelled by the eye-opening cultural exposure that moving into a big city creates.

But Lily has a drive and a level of motivation that is in no way typical. It’s evident in her passion and enthusiasm for everything she does.

A raw talent was emerging from increasingly “understanding flavour and how to make things taste good. It all stemmed from there. I started putting energy and time into [developing an idea] whilst still working a full time job”.

Lily spent some time on other food stalls initially, learning the ropes and getting to know the community.

It was the golden era of street food. With the barriers to entry - and the costs - being relatively low, whilst the market was still wide open for new concepts.

“I finally did a trial run in my back garden under a Gazebo. Inviting friends and getting them to fill in feedback sheets. I just wanted to practice as much as possible”.

With the product beginning to take shape, Lily jumped at the first opportunity to do her first event. And STAKEhaus was born. However she’s happy to admit, it wasn’t all plain sailing.

“Every meal we sent out was freezing cold. And some people waited for 20 minutes”. But sure enough, future events followed and things began falling into place.

“I’ll be forever grateful to the people who supported SteakHaus in the early months. Because they allowed me to just get on with it. Get out there. And just do it”.

“Then I just quit my job and decided that this was what I wanted to do”.

From grilling to form filling

The business grew to a permanent location in Camden with Kerb, the launch of HENhaus - a sister Rotisserie concept - and a packed events calendar.

Lily went from doing a couple of markets a week to a seven day a week operation. With the staff, admin, and responsibility that comes with this. Increasingly splitting her time between the grill and her laptop but still loving every minute. This was the second steep learning curve in her burgeoning career as a food entrepreneur.

SteakHaus continued to go from strength to strength, HENhaus was offered a permanent spot at Streetfeast in Woolwich. And before she knew it, Lily’s thriving business celebrated its sixth birthday.

But with a sense that STAKEhaus had hit its peak - considering the proliferation of new entrants into the market and that six years is a phenomenal stretch for a street food business - lockdown was looming. Lily had her sights set on another sister business.

Green Red Meat

Talking to Lily, it’s easy to take her casual modesty in a happy-go-lucky kind of way. But there’s actually a real sense that she’s carefully considered, diligent, and detail-oriented. And like many creatives, she’s able to visualise something as it emerges from just a seed of an idea.

“I was hungry for something else”, Lily explains. “I was chatting with The Ethical Butcher guys about finding a buyer for their burger meat. Their steaks were selling out but they wanted to minimise waste by using as much of their animals as possible.

But as it turned out everyone’s loyalty with their existing suppliers - and the high regard in which they hold their recipes - meant that her search was unsuccessful. And after a few further conversations, a partnership emerged and GROUND was born.

“I was selling a lot of meat and was hearing more and more about the impact beef production has on the environment. I wanted to understand how I could make STAKEhaus better and more sustainable. There was definitely a part of me that felt guilty about this”.

Lily began researching regenerative agriculture. And discovered that if executed properly, cows can play a vital role in repairing the damage done not only by industrial farming practices. But by common approaches to farming, too.

“Cows and other livestock play a crucial role in the success of regenerative farming. And the practice is totally different to even pasture-fed cows. It’s part of an entire system. The beef needs the farmer and the farm needs the cattle.

“The cows serve a purpose. Bashing in poop, pee, and seeds into the soil. This has untold benefits for the soil”.

Beginning a conversation

GROUND will trade from their freshly-kitted out van, and at food markets across the UK. And Lily and the team are shortly releasing their “Covid-proof” burger kits.

But their focus is ultimately on creating a retail product that fills a gap in the market between existing meat and meat-alternative burgers. Promoting regenerative agriculture and its benefits to the consumer and the planet.

Turning to our friends and collaborators at Dapple Studio, they began work on the brand’s narrative and visual identity.

“The brand needed to be fun and accessible, but above all, a real conversation starter,” says Lily. “We wanted to help the regenerative farming cycle to make sense”.

GROUND carries a strong message and wears its principles on its sleeve. But this is precisely the point.

This article from this month’s The Rebel Post covers the topic in more detail, as it vies for attention with Veganuary, in the form of the now-controversial Regenuary. And GROUND deserves to be at the heart of the discussion.

“We want to make choice easier, provide better value, and communicate that there are options out there that don’t have the negative impacts customers are used to hearing about”.

But Lily isn’t delusional about the fact that people eat too much meat. “We’re offering an option where customers can understand all the conditions surrounding how what they eat was produced. And make an informed choice from there.

“Regenuary isn’t about excluding people from doing the vegan things. Rather asking people to generally look where your food comes from. But it’s unrealistic to expect the world to turn vegan any time soon. So while in that space, why can’t we provide a product that’s filling the gap?”

With GROUND, Lily is aiming for a proper standard of zero waste and carbon neutrality. But is realistic about growing into those aspirations.

For now, happy that the fledgling business is pushing an agenda out there that’s been building. And bringing into people’s eye view.

“It seems obvious if you’re in the industry. But the wider public isn’t aware. Mainstream food isn’t pointed towards carbon emissions or its environmental impact.

“You can’t expect someone who’s struggling to feed their children to start questioning what food they’re buying. Or buying more expensive produce because it’s coming from the UK. Let alone from regenerative farms.

“What we can do is start influencing those who are in the middle and have the ability to buy better. Then hopefully things trickle down from there”.

A controversial but bright future

Lily’s enthusiasm and energy are infectious. And she’s clearly completely committed to her business and the wider cause. Her “you have to start somewhere” attitude is laudable. And whilst she’s focused on the pursuit of perfection, it has never stopped her from going out and doing things.

“I believe you’re better off just going for it. And apologising afterward”.

GROUND is a new business championing a little-known approach to an industry mired in misinformation and complexity. And controversy and virulence will inevitably follow.

But something tells us that Lily will relish the challenges. And that the business she’s backing with her heart and soul will do very well in the process.

Follow GROUND’s journey at @greenredmeat

Sheep in Field 1
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Can regenerative farming create a sustainable future that doesn't involve quitting meat?
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Can regenerative farming create a sustainable future that doesn't involve quitting meat?

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Hospitality can lead the way in promoting better ways of eating

If one good thing comes out of the last twelve months, it will be that many folks rediscovered the joy of shopping locally. Buying from independent stores or by supporting their favourite food businesses online.

And it goes without saying that much depends on this shift in behaviour not only outliving the pandemic. But continuing to proliferate.

Food businesses and brands continue to evolve at a pace. As competition increases and consumers demand more. We’ve seen a shift, possibly accelerated by Coronavirus, in two specific areas.

Health. And veganism.

But somewhere along the way, it seems that - aside from some notable ‘vegan junk food’ exceptions - the two became implicitly conjoined.

A Rush to Save the Planet

This year, ‘Regenuary’, a growing movement, is vying for attention - and eating habits - on the merits of regenerative farming.

A practice that seeks to farm more holistically. Promoting soil health, biodiversity, and the environmental benefits that follow.

The crux of this argument is that meat production can be a sustainable - even carbon negative - part of the system.

Veganuary got Cancelled

This unintentionally provocative Instagram post was where it all began. Debunking Veganuary’s claims that any vegan diet is better for you and better for the planet.

And then the inevitable happened. A polarised argument ensued.

In these times of “cancel culture”, I asked the author, Glen Burrows, from The Ethical Butcher if the strikethrough, in hindsight, was slightly misjudged.

“I’d use the same graphic [if I had the chance again]. But would change some of the wording. I think speaking in absolutes was dangerous.

“We didn’t expect it to be quite so incendiary though. I thought people might be a bit upset, but wanted to start a conversation”.

From a strategic standpoint, this presents an interesting case study.

Provocation and polarisation can sometimes work in a brand or movement’s favour. In the sense that it talks clearly to a specific audience and gets a message out there.

But it’s often better to take a gentler approach. One that promotes healthy discussion and education. I sense from our conversation, that this was Glen's intention.

When asked if he’d be happy to join forces with Veganuary, he was very open to the idea.

“I’d love to and would happily talk to them. Because we should agree with 95%. But they need to change their tack and retract their key statement.

“They need to concede on the point that ‘not eating meat is the only way to save the world’."

The Misinformation Machine

Veganuary’s key messaging is undeniably factually incorrect.

In an age of transparency, consumers expect trust from the brands they support. Veganurary are in position of responsibility. And they’re going to want to re-look at their positioning if they’re going to increase their reach.

“Our vision is simple: we want a vegan world” the website states.

“A world without animal farms and slaughterhouses. A world where food production doesn’t decimate forests, pollute rivers and oceans, exacerbate climate change, and drive wild animal populations to extinction.”

“For almost every animal-derived ingredient and product, there is now a vegan alternative, and this means that a vegan’s meal may look and taste exactly like a non-vegan’s meal, it just doesn’t come with the animal suffering or the same environmental impact.”

To use a technical term. This is bollocks.

Ok. Let me qualify that slightly. From the perspective of animal cruelty and welfare, there’s no argument here. And if that’s your reason for going vegan. Good on you.

But. Don’t for one second be misled by the statements on health and environmental impact. These have nothing to do with being vegan.

According to their own website, 56% of Veganuary supporters cite health and the environment as drivers for participating.

You don’t have to look hard to realise that a vegan diet that doesn’t question where and how food is produced, is much worse for the vegan and the planet than an omnivorous diet that does.

This misleading oversimplification must not be overlooked.

The Middle Ground

To be clear. I’m not criticising all elements of Veganuary’s mission. Nor the genuine care and passion that is at the heart of the movement. Neither am I criticising veganism itself.

The two sides may be polarised on the animal vs. no animal argument. But there’s plenty of common ground which is where the conversation should be focused.

Whether you’re a Veganuary advocate or a budding regenerative farming supporter. The mission here should be simple. Produce food in a way that not only protects but repairs the planet. Whilst protecting our own health, too.

It’s unhealthy to obsess over - and be critical of - something that’s inherently better than the current alternatives.

Dig Deeper. Just dont Disturb the Soil

In terms of the overall climate crisis. If we stopped 100% of greenhouse gas emissions today, we’d still have to deal with the "legacy load" of 1,000 billion tons remaining in the atmosphere. Continuing to heat the planet for decades. Possibly even centuries.

To address this. We need to look at a cyclical, not linear, consumption model. In every area of our lives.

In this interview, Nick Jeffries from The Ellen McArthur Foundation made the point that “we can’t expect our economy to continue to thrive if it relies on the continual consumption of finite resources. We’ve got to decouple from this”.

Regenerative agriculture seeks to do just that. Rolled out at scale, we could see a large part of our legacy load sequestered back into the soil as part of a process called Carbon Drawdown. The potential for positive impact is quite extraordinary.

I’ve listed some resources for further reading at the end of the article, but here’s the situation in a nutshell -

Poor farming practices decimate soil health. Leaving enormous swathes of land uncovered and unable to capture and store carbon in the atmosphere.

As soil health deteriorates, more and more chemicals are needed to grow crops. Over time, the soil dies. Every year, a landmass the size of the UK is abandoned as it become completely useless.

The cost of farming increases due to the quantity of inputs (pesticides and chemicals) needed to produce a crop.

Government subsidies go towards supporting industrial farming when they could (and should) be used to support better practices.

"Only 1% of the $580bn of US farming subsidies is spent on good things”, according to Nick.

Amongst other things, this leads to food poverty for the very people who produce what we eat.

Then. As we move onto virgin wilderness, we damage more land and destroy its biodiversity. It's become a vicious cycle.

The Cycle Continues

Regenerative farming has the potential to change this. And do so now. Whilst there is a degree of complexity involved for the geeks amongst us. The principles are very simple -

1. Don’t disturb the soil (and release the carbon) through tilling and ploughing

2. Keep the land covered all year round to allow for continuous photosynthesis

3. Replace mono-crops with rotational crops

4. Re-introduce and nurture biodiversity (yes, including livestock)

Healthy soil with cover crops captures extraordinary amounts of carbon. Fast forward 26 minutes into film Kiss The Ground to find out just how well.

Properly managed regenerative farms are actually reducing the greenhouse gases in the environment. And need no inputs either. The soil is so healthy and full of organic matter. Growing thriving plants and feeding healthier people.

And as part of the right rotation, livestock plays a huge part. Grazing, trampling, and peeing and pooping as they go.

The Task is Surmountable

Where we stand today, the entire food system is out of sync. We must align farmers’ decisions with ecological and profitable ones.

Only 5% of farming is currently done regeneratively. This means 95% is actively damaging in some way.

The UK government provides our farming community with 60% of its income, just so it can remain competitive. We can’t have regenerative agriculture without regenerative business.

Statistics around industrial agriculture make for more positive reading. Contrary to popular belief we don’t actually need it to feed the world. We need it to feed animals.

Madelyn Postman from Grain Sustainability confirms this. “Only 30% of industrially-farmed products end up on our plate. The rest goes to animal feed and biofuel”.

Madelyn believes that even the most committed omnivores need to be reducing their meat intake. And focus on quality.

Going on to say that “there’s not enough ethically produced meat to feed the world at the moment. So the only answer is for people to cut back. We can’t have chickens that cost a pound or a market that expects this”.

The world is less reliant on industrial farming than we think. With 70% of the foot eaten globally coming from farms under ten hectares.

And whilst this is likely to vary dramatically between countries. On a global scale, the conversion is possibly simpler than on initial inspection. Especially when you consider that eliminating the need for inputs dramatically reduces costs.

As ever, the change will be driven by consumers. With governments around the world slow to act on the climate crisis. This requires the right information to be out there so people can make informed choices.

Madelyn believes that improved labeling would be a great place to start. Allowing consumers to understand the effect their food choices have on the planet. As well as their health.

“You could easily be a vegan and have a higher carbon footprint than an omnivore.

“Food labeling is a big issue. Whilst you can see from the label where the food is from, and make an assumption about how it’s been processed and transported, you can’t be sure. It requires consumers to dig a little deeper.

“I love the idea of labeling so that you can clearly see the impact the products you’re buying [have on the planet]. The key will always be to eat seasonally, locally, and organically as much as possible.”

Beware of the Bandwagon

Veganuary is being exploited by the food industry. As supermarkets increasingly stock mass-produced, processed, and unhealthy foods. Selling these to an uninformed audience.

None of this deals with the underlying issues and messaging that it’s not meat production that’s bad. It’s how that meat is produced. And that the last thing we need is more processed food in our diet.


Want to go vegan? Great. Caps doffed. But look further. Look deeper. Ask more questions and do more research.

Because a blindly vegan diet, devoid of the facts about how and where that food is produced, is not going to do you or the planet any favours.

And if you’re going to continue to eat meat. That’s fine, too. But do it less and do it locally. Make sure the animals you’re eating were reared as part of a cyclical, bio-diverse, and regenerative process.

And then whichever camp you’re in, you’ll be going a long way towards a healthy planet. Creating a positive effect on the climate through the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Not just halting future emissions.

Nick Jeffries put it succinctly as part of his closing thoughts for this webinar.

“For the first time in our lives, we saw supermarket shelves empty and that should be a wake-up call.

“We can’t rely on global supply chains and big business to deliver everything we need. We don’t all need to become vegan. But we do need to understand how our food is produced. To over-simplify things is to miss the point”.

Maybe Veganuary should have more in common with Regenuary than they do? If they get their facts straight, their message right, and come in from the extreme of the argument.

Because questioning the ethics of eating quality meat a couple of times a week vs being vegan asks the wrong questions. Imagine what could happen if both sides worked together.

Most of us will remember the time when the food and hospitality buzzwords were fair trade, organic, seasonal. Could 2021 be the year regenerative farming becomes common parlance?

The basis of conversations with guests and customers. Eager to understand more and how they can support the movement.

And who knows. Maybe January 2022 will be the year when folks can support both Veganuary and Regenuary at the same time.


Glen is a fountain of knowledge and statistics when it comes to both reiterative farming and the part animals must play in this. Read on to learn more.


Rishim Sachdeva
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The (mostly) vegan kitchen helping London eat less meat
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Interview with chef and founder of Tendril Kitchen, Rishim Sachdeva

The early years

Rishim grew up in a large family where every meal was an occasion. Cooking with his mum at eleven or twelve, he was making full-blown dinners at thirteen. Realising at this early age that he was going to be a chef. “There’s nothing else I would even consider doing”.

He graduated with a hospitality and tourism degree from Oxford Brooks University (parental pressure over a passion for the classroom). Before moving to London to take a junior position at The Oak Room with Marco Pierre White.

“This was when I realised that this is what I want to do my whole life”.

Rishim has always been passionate about travel and exploration. And this comes through in his cooking. His food is inspired by many places and cultures but remains grounded in technique.

“At The Oak Room, I realised that French food really is the foundation. I spent the first six years of my career perfecting this.”

Becoming increasingly experimental and ready to explore his next challenge, Rishim set his sights on The Fat Duck. “I got rejected for a stage eighteen times”.

But he didn’t give up. “Applying was part of my monthly routine. I’d rework and improve my application and try again”. And two and a half years later his persistence paid off. Rishim was offered a six-month stage and two years later, a junior sous chef position.

Progressing through the ranks was an incredible experience for Rishim. Experimenting with ingredients and techniques on the one hand. Pursuing simplicity on the other.

The pursuit of simplicity

With a growing passion for being close to nature and understanding the seasons, a move was on the cards.

“I set about finding restaurants that were mastering that”.

Rishim joined the brigade at Almeida and worked there for two years. Including a few months under Robin Gill. The two hit it off and Rishim followed Robin to his first solo venture, The Dairy in Clapham, shortly after opening.

The death of Rishim’s mother prompted a return to India where he spent eight months discovering the country’s evolving culinary landscape. Having left the country at seventeen to pursue his career, he’d never known the restaurant industry there.

Returning to London to continue learning and developing his nascent personal cooking style, Rishim took the sous chef role under Nuno Mendes at Marylebone’s Chiltern Firehouse. Followed by a second stint at The Diary.

“We were playing with textures, flavours, and techniques. Watching Nuno create dishes is an experience in itself. A humble zucchini gets layers and layers of memories in a bite. I can still taste it and crave it."

Returning to his homeland

Rishim’s brief time in India had been on his mind. With so many brilliant restaurants opening in Delhi and Mumbai, he felt compelled to get a piece of the action.

“Going back to India was a complete culture shock! I’d never worked in the country. I was still figuring out my style but I knew that I wanted to work with the seasons and with local growers and producers”.

It was at this point that the vegan seed was sewn. “Until now, vegetables were always a second thought for me. The emphasis was always on meat, whilst vegetables were taken for granted.

“In India, 60% of the population is vegetarian so you can’t get away with second rate dishes. People started coming back for my vegetarian dishes. Even the meat-eaters”.

Rishim was executive chef at the multi-award-winning Olive Bar and Kitchen in the trendy neighborhood of Bandra, Mumbai. Owned by arguably the country’s most revered restaurateur, AD Singh, it was a brilliant platform to both showcase and refine his approach to cooking.

A hit with the discerning local audience and the media, Rishim won many awards, making a name for himself as one of the country’s most exciting chefs.

“The culinary genius behind the restaurant is sourcing organic produce from across the country, local artisan cheese, and working with techniques such as fermentation and preservation to extract unique flavours and textures.

“For blurring the boundaries between the traditional and modern, chef Sachdeva won the Johnnie Walker breakthrough chef of the year award” - Conde Nast Traveller

The decision to go vegan

In late 2018 Rishim was newly married and expecting his first child. Thinking long and hard about what he wanted his life to look like and where he wanted to settle. The couple made the decision to return to London and it was at this point that the idea for Tendril Kitchen was born.

Shortly after returning to London, the self-proclaimed ‘hardcore carnivore’ used Veganuary 2019 to challenge himself. “Can I create food that satisfies my cravings as a meat-eater whilst also giving me satisfaction as a chef?”

The answer was yes and he’s never looked back. Under the Tendril brand, Rishim hosted multiple supper clubs and catered to several private events. Also running a three-month pop-up close to his home in southwest London. And a second in Hackney for Veganuary 2020.

A bumpy ride

A meeting with the team from The Sun & 13 Cantons in October 2019 led to him being offered the opportunity to take a slot on the roster of emerging chefs at the pub. An established platform that has launched several successful chefs and restaurants. Including Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express.

His residency was scheduled to launch in March. Just as the country was going into lockdown. He admits that 2020 has been a rough ride, but takes comfort in the fact that his food has been a hit.

Rishim has a growing collection of loyal clients who order Tendril's delivery boxes each week. And people from all walks of life have come through the door at “The Sun”. He’s excelled at converting the pub’s regulars, too.

“A couple of guys who were having a beer in the afternoon weren’t interested in vegan food. So I sent them some free stuff to try. And over the course of the next six hours as more of their friends joined, I ended up serving them 18 portions of the same dish”.

Overcoming adversity

Rishim is committed to changing the perception of vegan food. And to bring it to a wider audience in a fun and imaginative way.

But he’s all too aware of the stereotypes he faces as an Indian chef cooking non-Indian food. And how important it is to challenge this.

“The perception is that if it’s an Indian chef, it’s got to be Indian food. But I’ve never trained in an Indian kitchen. I may just about be able to knock up a curry at home, but that’s about it. I can’t cook Indian food.

“I feel like I have to get my sales pitch right in a way that British chefs don’t need to”.

And this extends to people in the industry too. “Junior chefs would come for interviews for Tendril and the first thing they say is that they don’t have experience cooking Indian food”.

Rishim relishes being part of the hospitality support system and is a great believer in the industry’s ability to evolve. And with the support he continues to receive from chefs including Robin and Nuno, he feels that things are changing.

What the future holds

There’s a certain synergy between Rishim’s desire to challenge these perceptions and his passion for challenging those of vegan food. “My cooking style isn’t bound by nationality. Vegan food is so flexible. It unites all my experience, influences, and the inspirations from my travels”.

Rishim is enthusiastic and positive about Tendril’s future. Despite the ongoing challenges that hospitality faces in the wake of the pandemic. Itching to get back into Soho, he’s keeping himself busy delivering meals three times a week to his growing number of fans.

And what’s next for the business when the residency at The Sun comes to an end in March? Rishim would rather not say. But whatever he has up his sleeve, his passion, and energy for what he does is as unfaltering as his modesty.

“At the end of the day, it’s just tasty food. I worked hard, learned from everyone around me, found what I liked, and built on it.”

After the government announced that London would come out of lockdown in tier two, the immediate future of the Christmas menu he’d been planning is uncertain. So it’s all eyes on the government’s review on December 16th.

Rishim is looking forward to launching his Veganuary menu next month in one way or another. Because after all, it’s the month that inspired him to create Tendril in the first place. And that’s certainly something to celebrate.

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Three things we learned in 2020

For many of us, December will be the damp squib that we all desperately hoped could be avoided. The government showing no signs of offering additional support. Unable to get their heads around hospitality.

With the revised tier system representing another kick in the teeth. And with insulting one time payments offered to pubs who remain closed. In many ways, it’s a continuation of the poor form we’ve seen all year. Undermining the positive actions such as the furlough scheme and VAT reduction.

With M&A activity in the sector being announced as frequently as the next CVA, the industry is in the midst of radical change. Its very viability in an increasingly unstable world is being pushed to its limits.

Whilst we can all be positive about a vaccine helping us return to some sense of normality. There does seem to be a disparity emerging between the enthusiasm and celebration beaming from the government. And the reality that the scientific community continue to reinforce. Even with a vaccine, we’re not going to be out of this for a while.

It’s been so encouraging to see restaurants such as KOL and Noble Rot Soho open to rave reviews. Filling up their reservation diaries in record time. And an early evening stroll around Soho on Friday proved that we’ll do anything to support our favourite restaurants. Even if that means sitting outside in the rain as temperatures plummet.

So what can we take from a year that has genuinely changed the world? Here are three things that we’ve observed and learnt throughout the most challenging time of our lives.

Living with Less

Overconsumption in just about every area of our lives poses the biggest threat to the planet. Whether taking unnecessary flights to unnecessary meetings, grabbing plastic-covered convenience food because we were too busy to care, or rewarding ourselves with a shopping spree.

We’ve been forced to revisit all this. Forced to find comfort in communicating online. And enjoying the simple pleasure of seeking out better produce and products with more ethical credentials.

The challenge will come when we’re faced with the temptation of going back to our old ways. Balancing this with what we now know about how much of a positive impact we can have when we really put our minds to it.

What’s been clear is that brands who stand for something above and beyond the pursuit of profit have fared better in the face of adversity. Seeing success through the genuine connections they’ve made - and continue to foster - with their audience. And this shift away from unquestioning consumerism is only going to continue.

Resilient Business Models

It’s been really interesting listening to business leaders describe how they’ve found strength and security in their businesses. In his recent appearance on James O’Brien’s Full Disclosure podcast, Tom Kerridge spoke openly about the robustness of his businesses. Putting this down to the freehold accommodation interests he has in Marlow and that he’s not allowed his TV work to take his focus away from running his restaurants.

We caught up with Chestnut Inns founder Philip Turner last week and he echoed this sentiment. Having a property portfolio that underpins their operations is clearly something which operators outside of cities see as a real benefit to their businesses.

But in urban areas where leaseholds still dominate, operators have taken to delivery and retail in the pursuit of revenue. And it’s clear that this continued diversification is going to be key to future success. Not just temporary endeavours to plug a gap. In this sense, the importance of really knowing your audience, what drives them, and how and where to reach them cannot be overstated.

Community over Competition

Great things happen when we work together. And we’ve seen this in spades throughout the pandemic. Up and down the supply chain, restaurants and suppliers have been working together to bring products and experiences into peoples homes. At times when we were starved of opportunities to support our favourite businesses.

We’ve seen education really become part of a brand’s marketing efforts. With everyone from the Rare Tea Company to Berry Brothers hosting virtual tastings and experiences to drive engagement. Building brand loyalty, and fostering a sense of community through learning.

We now look to a well-earned rest over Christmas and onwards to 2021. We see transparency, openness, honesty and genuine engagement as the driving factors for success.

Brands are going to need to work harder than ever to stand out from the crowd. To be heard over the ever-increasing noise online.

There may be a retraction in the size of the hospitality industry in the short and medium terms. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easier to reach and connect with your audience.

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Good landlords and agile concepts help independent hospitality bounce back
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The future of the high street and how operators can meet returning demand

The uncertainty that’s bought the future of our industry and businesses into question is far from over.

With the furlough scheme now extended until March, conversations this month centred on rent as the central tenement to the survival of many hospitality businesses. And how accommodating many landlords have been.

The bounce-back is likely to look very different depending on where you are. And on the kind of trade businesses rely on.

So what do some of our friends from the sector think about how the tenant-landlord relationship will underpin growth and future trading? And what will hospitality need to do to withstand future uncertainty?

Read on to find out.

Landlords and tenants need to understand each other’s businesses

Camilla Topham of Distrkt hospitality property consultancy admitted that landlords have been on a steep learning curve over the last few months.

“Transactions have always been done at arm's length and restaurants have always been a bit of an alien. A lot of landlords have never fully understood them. Getting under the skin of how restaurants actually operate has been crucial.”

Alex Moore agrees but hasn’t had the same experience with some of the smaller landlords across his estate of brands. But he understands that they’re limited by their resources.

“The bigger landlords like Shaftesbury have been fantastic and supportive. They seem to have got their head around the economic reality of the situation. The other landlords who may only have one or two sites have been a lot more difficult to deal with. They haven’t had the ability to be more flexible.”

With both parties more invested in the other’s success, the conversation seems to be turning to creating win-win relationships. Acknowledging that the future needs to be faced together.

Camilla cites the Crown Estate’s incubator on Heddon Street - currently occupied by success story Fallow - as a great example of a landlord taking a personal, and longer-term view, on bringing talent into their estate.

Harry Badham from 22 Bishopsgate developer Axa, thinks it's all about driving value for tenants over strong-arming them into long, restrictive and punitive leases.

“I don’t mind if tenants want to sign a one year lease or a 20-year lease. To me the contract is not the valuable bit. The important bit is that tenants are getting value out of using the building.

“Landlords who rely on long leases from tenants like Debenhams are only fine until Debenhams can’t pay the rent. Then the lease is worth nothing. “Anyone who thinks a lease is a proxy for stable cash flow is going to be a loser. You’ve got to create a place, space, or asset where people are getting value out of using it.”

Camilla believes that fairer terms and better behaviour now will aid landlords in attracting the best new tenants in the future.

“From the operator’s point of view, they’re looking to take spaces with landlords that have behaved themselves and behaved well and transparently. Operators are concerned how their relationship with the landlord will fare if this kind of thing happens again.”

Turnover based rents may be here to stay

Opinion appears divided when it comes to fundamental changes to the types of deals that are done.

Alex believes “they [turnover based tents] were on the up anyway. That their acceptance has been accelerated and that they’re here to stay.

“They’re a fair mechanism for both operator and landlord. I don’t mind paying a landlord more if we’re making more. But I expect them to make less when we’re not doing so well.”

Camilla agreed that turnover only deals have been a hot topic recently, but feels their wholesale acceptance may not be a foregone conclusion.

“There are still rents being paid. And what we’re hearing from our clients is that we’re brokering fair deals. In good locations and good areas, there’s still demand.

“Landlords are looking at stepped rents, perhaps with a turnover-only period, or turnover set into a base rent. Most operators are happy to look at things on a stepped basis up to a base rent they’re happy within a few years’ time. The market has not completely fallen away.”

Camilla has seen strong interest from independent operators for a recently-marketed site on Soho’s Kingly Street. Arguing that thriving areas such as Borough “are stronger than they were before.”

Growth is however likely to remain slow into next year. With concerns over future lockdowns and increased disruption causing people to hold onto cash and back from making decisions.

Could turnover based rents also help push some accountability back on to developers and asset managers, should they fail to deliver the footfall they promised into their developments? A problem that many operators we know have faced in the past.

A changing city landscape

Harry remains buoyant about the future of The City and its high streets.

“I do think that people will come back en masse. It will just be an acceleration of the trends we saw before. Variable work patterns, elongated ‘peek time’ commutes, work based on personal preference or character. Or on a job role. We’ll see people choosing different ways to work.”

Whilst he acknowledges that this is likely to result in lower densities in buildings at any given time, he’s confident that demand for quality office space is going to continue to increase. With companies giving their employees compelling reasons to come together and into the office.

“People are going to be free to dictate the time they spend in the office. But they will [be compelled to do so] if they feel that it’s a great space and if they feel that they’re getting something out of it. Whether that’s learning, career progression, or whether it’s social interaction.”

With the future of work playing a crucial role in the future of hospitality, how will other areas fare differently?

Camilla highlights the inherent differences between key London neighbourhoods and the audiences that they serve.

“Canary Wharf and The City are going to take longer to get back on their feet. With some companies reporting that they’re not expecting to be back ‘in the office’ until June.

“A shift is going to need to happen in those locations for operators to be successful going forward. Traditionally inflexible companies and their employees would have been working at home for eighteen months at least. The likelihood is that this is going to continue to the point where there won’t ever be the same volumes of people.”

“Soho is different. It’s made up of much smaller, creative businesses. It’s much more dynamic. The theatre crowd is also incredibly powerful. The market may contract over the short term. But it will build and build again. No question. In fact, it may even be wilder!

“Somewhere like Covent Garden relies too heavily on tourism. Whilst CapCo have worked really hard to reintroduce Londoners to Covent Garden, and has done so brilliantly, the makeup of the space is predominantly tourists and it’s being felt now. Lagging behind places like Soho.”

Alex agrees that we may never see a return to the same quantity of restaurants in areas that cater predominantly to office workers. “I would argue that there would be fewer restaurants. Sadly. There will be fewer bums, but there will be fewer seats.”

And when it comes to residential neighbourhoods, he’s seen a fundamental shift in the makeup of the businesses he’s involved in.

“The locations in the middle of town are now being outperformed by places like Tooting or Clapham. The West End numbers have moved out to the suburbs and the numbers from the suburbs have moved into the West End.”

From surviving to thriving on the high street of the future

So what will hospitality businesses need to look like in order to succeed in the face of these changes? As we emerge from the pandemic and look toward a vaccine.

Camilla is certain that the demand is there. But that confidence really is everything.

“The Pizza Pilgrims guys said that ‘demand is like a coiled-up spring’. Once lockdown eases, the demand is there. And people do feel safer eating out. Even now in lockdown, the confidence is there.”

“Confidence really does drive everything and the uncertainty has been the biggest challenge.”

Agile, evolving concepts and businesses will be the winners as we face a new, uncertain future. With further unpredictable challenges likely to remain a part of our lives. At least in the short term.

Alex believes the fundamental makeup of hospitality businesses has changed for good.

“We’ve survived the last nine months by constantly tweaking the metrics”.

“They used to be quite straightforward. - 30% staff costs, rent, and rates shouldn’t be over 10%, head office costs should sit at 6%, delivery of between 20 and 30% [of revenue]. It’s all changed.

Success for Rosa’s Thai Cafés was very much down to the nature of the product.

“It’s the concepts with delivery-friendly offerings that will continue to thrive. 5% of our trade at Ceviche and Andina was delivery and those businesses, compared to Rosa’s, are struggling. Thai food and delivery is a match made in heaven.”

With on-demand delivery likely to be a key part of a high street business’ model moving forward, how will the explosion of in-home meal kits contribute to the continued success of operators?

Camilla thinks that “being able to tap into your favourite restaurants at home is amazing”.

“It’s here to stay and we’re now seeing loved local brands going nationwide, such is the demand for their food and the love of the brand.”

Alex is less certain.

“Meal kits at home - a lot of people are doing it now and it was a novelty before. Will then end up being around in five years? Will it ever fill the hole of the lost office worker? Let’s see.”

He predicts that cloud kitchens that evolve with tastes and trends, will be required to offset any future disruption to the viability of restaurants.

“[The fun and innovation will be in] collaboration. Restaurants with multiple cloud kitchens. Concepts which only exist virtually. On the front door, you’ve got your main brand, and in the kitchen, you’ve got 4 or 5 different operations running virtually. I think that’s going to be a big thing that we’re going to see a lot more of. And off the back of that, some of those businesses may end up turning into physical businesses.”

Harry sees a bright future in multi-use spaces, underpinned by good design, planning, and product. Catering to a tribe but for a variety of different uses and occasions.

“I do believe - and we’ve said this for a while - that we’ve got this concept of what used to be called ‘mixed-use city centres’. Often called 15-minute cities. Shops, offices, hotels, transport hubs all working together.

“Whereas what we’ve been seeing is a move to ‘multi-use’. A train is an office, a coffee shop is an office, but also an office can be a hotel. A hotel can be an office. The idea that spaces don’t have to be static.

“They can change hourly, daily, seasonally. But what’s important regardless is ‘good bones’. Good light, good air, good space. Allowing you to use the space in different ways.

From an operator's perspective, he thinks that “the winners will be the people who can leverage up.”

“Whether that’s using scale, innovation, technology, or sheer hard work. Those who can accept that life is going to be different and can react quickly."

“People wouldn’t have felt like they could go into a Hilton because they felt that was reserved for the people staying there. The Ace Hotel didn’t feel like you’re going into a hotel when you walked through a flower shop.”

“And a lot of that is psychology and human behaviour.” Breaking down barriers to find new ways of enticing people through your doors.

A boom for independent operators

Pent up demand is being felt across hospitality.

And landlords and asset managers will be looking for ways to entice people back into their buildings and developments. Marketing a return to work to their tenants’ employees.

Hospitality businesses will play a key role in making these trips worthwhile. Even cherished.

“Landlords have to keep marketing, and tempting people into their locations,” says Camilla. “Outdoor seating, bike racks, get people there and maintain that buzz.

“Kingly Court is a brilliant example - good vibe, good outside, covered seating. Nothing is ever going to take away from being at a restaurant.”

The inevitability of vacant sites will create opportunities to meet returning demand. Much of this will be driven by the launch of unburdened independent businesses. And existing operators who have remained agile throughout the pandemic.

Camilla thinks that “now is the time for the independents! Some, but not all, of the big casual dining brands, have been suffering a lot and they’re not as agile as the smaller operators”.

Harry is also confident that a returning workforce will be quick to flock back to their favourite venues. Whilst eager to try what launches in the market.

“[Before the second lockdown] offices were empty but the ground floor of The Ned was heaving. So people are coming in to meet other people. For no other reason [other than missing human interaction].

“If you’re going to meet people, you’ll do it in a more interesting environment. Even if it costs you a bit of money.”

“A lot of the themes we’re seeing are not new. City centres are hubs for people to meet rather than a workhouse for people to come into to sit at a desk.”

A good December’s trading is in no way going to compensate for the losses accrued this year. And the beginning of 2021 is going to be a bumpy ride.

But on the other side, opportunities abound for concepts and brands that are agile and multi-faceted. Those who embrace change. Serving diverse communities what they want, wherever they want it. Be that in dining rooms, at their desks, or at home.

If you enjoyed reading this please share with a friend. And do get in touch to let us know your thoughts.

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Work From Homers are the New Millennials
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Work From Homers are the New Millennials

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And Every Hospitality Business Wants a Piece of the Action

Pre-Covid, we could always guarantee that two topics would come up in meetings with clients. Instagram strategy and millennial audiences. Whilst of course these crucial considerations remain valid today, it’s attracting the #WFH crowd that’s top of everyone’s agenda. And rightfully so.

According to the ONS, in April 46.6% of people were doing at least some work from home. Rising to 57.2% in London. Some estimates put the real number at 60%. 26% of the UK workforce is planning to work from home permanently. So it’s clear that companies across all industries are going to be doing so in greater and greater numbers.

Whilst this is bad news for businesses in commercial areas, it presents an opportunity for others. And this hasn’t gone unnoticed by the hospitality sector.

Quality of Work Doesn’t Mean Quality of Life

A survey conducted by found that 65% of workers said they were more productive at home. Whilst 83% of employees said that they didn’t need to be in an office to be productive. Employers agreed, with two-thirds reporting increased productivity amongst their teams.

Whilst good news for companies, the negative effects of increased isolation, longer working hours and loneliness must not be overlooked. A recent CNBC article quoted someone as saying “[working from home] sounds great, but they missed the informal conversations. ‘I wake up, go to my computer and work all day, teleconferencing, but don’t ever talk to people or see people’. One of the big things I heard was that ‘I miss human contact with co-workers’.” Nearly a quarter of remote workers also admitted to struggling to switch off when working from home.

With an “always-on” working culture already a part of our lives, the decisions companies of all shapes and sizes make over the coming months will be crucial to the wellbeing of their people. Not to mention the productivity of their organisations. Maybe even the success of their businesses.

Whatever happens, we must remember that the transition to flexible working won’t happen automatically. The litmus test for companies will be maintaining consistency and productivity whilst tailoring their policies to suit a variety of individual wants and needs. Fostering a culture of openness to further support employees will be central to success.

And for hospitality businesses of all shapes and sizes, this enormous market is ready and waiting to be offered solutions to some of the biggest challenges of our time. And to the largest shift in how the world works in a generation.

Here are some great examples of how businesses across hospitality have adapted to cater to this audience. Considering a number of models for how companies and their teams elect to work.

1. Flexible Spaces for Neighbourhood Working

The future is bright for businesses catering to the growing number of work-from-homers. Those looking for an alternative to their spare room or kitchen table. Whether for a few hours a day or a couple of days a week. In a destination neighbourhood that reconnects them to the world, or somewhere closer to home.

Hotels including The Stafford in St James are offering their rooms and suites to those looking for a peaceful and productive space to work. However, with rates for suites starting at £395/day - including a two-course lunch - it’s not exactly within reach of the average displaced white-collar worker. And stateside, hotel day-let booking platform Day Use is also getting in on the action. Connecting hotel rooms with local #WFH professionals in New York City including at more accessible prices.

Whether the temptations of a nap in a comfy bed, a long bath, and a day’s Netflix and chill can be overcome remain to be seen. But needless to say, we’ll be watching this all very closely.

Back in our neck of the woods and we’re excited to check out The Tramshed Project on Shoreditch’s Rivington Street. The site has relaunched as “an interdisciplinary food and working space” that “is built to outlast the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic”. With Street Feast founder Dominic-Cools Lartigue at the helm, and opening collaborations from Andrew Clarke, Zoe Adjonyoh, and James Cochran we’re confident the food will live up to expectations.

2. Working Weekenders

More working from home inevitably means more zoom calls, less movement, and less real-life interaction. Forward-thinking businesses know this and have stepped up to the plate. Offering some great solutions that combine time for work, rest, and play in one fell swoop.

Recently awarded The Times Hotel of the Year Birch give you a Sunday night stay on the house when booking in for Friday and Saturday. Guests are encouraged to “come early and leave late”. And with more spaces and activities than anyone could feasibly do of a weekend, the thought of a wellness-focused weekend sandwiched between two days of working from the rural idyl is an appealing proposition.

(just please don’t use the word Rurban - rural/urban in case you were wondering)

3. Work from Anywhere

Ed’s summer in Mallorca has opened our eyes to the possibilities that exist for individuals and teams to up-sticks and head for sunnier climbs. Doing so for regular stints without the need to join the global nomad brigade saying a permanent goodbye to city life. Judging by Ed’s recent interview by The Guardian, we’re not alone.

US co-living brand Outsite is a great example of a business looking to cater to this inevitably high-growth sector. Offering rooms and a ready-made community in a variety of downtown locations across Europe and the US. Specifically targeting remote workers and creatives.

4. The future of the office

So is the office as we know it a thing of the past? We were chatting to a large commercial developer recently who was buoyant about the future of occupancy in their buildings. However, they acknowledge that the makeup of spaces is likely to change.

Banks of desks are likely to make way for more meeting and workshop space; activities that remain challenging when done remotely. They predict this is likely to be accompanied by more ‘touch down’ flexible working spaces, lounges, hot desks, and improved food and drink offerings.

Mark Dixon, chief executive of IWG was quoted in this article as saying “This global crisis has dramatically changed the ways companies will work. In the new world of working post-Covid-19, offices will still be needed but there will be a greater requirement for more flexible space. Some of the big banks are thinking about it, Facebook – it’s pretty universal.”

A “hub and spoke” model is likely to emerge, where smaller satellite offices in suburbs and less urban locations feed a central office in more traditional commercial, city-centre hubs.

Could this also lead more corporate sectors into smaller, independent ‘micro-working’ spaces such as Dalston’s Snackbar? The east London café with two private studios to rent on the floors above. With their brilliant cafe menu delivered from the floor below, it’s easy to see how food and drink continue to be central to workspace offers and their appeal to potential tenants.

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Article / Beliefs
New Beginnings
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Article / Beliefs

New Beginnings

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Five perspectives that have informed our rebrand

Writing this feels deeply personal. Never has the tone of something felt as crucial as it does now. Balancing empathy and understanding with positivity and a belief that, in the end, we'll all be ok.

As Rebel turns five, we're just getting started. A conscious decision to down tools for six weeks has afforded us an opportunity to focus on us for the first time since launching in 2015. Something we’d never thought possible before the pandemic.

We've been brave in the changes we've made, because we knew that we had to find our footing and be the best version of ourselves. Giving us a chance at success whilst creating something we can be proud of. I know I'm not alone in feeling nervous about every move we make. This is a big moment for me, for us, and for the future of our businesses. Let's make sure we get it right.

As we reveal The Rebel Company to the world, here are five perspectives on how to move on from the events of the last few months.

1. Celebrate the journey, be bold and look forward

During our summer hiatus from projects, and as we worked on our own business and brand, it was fascinating to cast our minds back to 2015. Thinking about how much has changed and how much we've learnt. Revisiting the achievements that we've been most proud of.

It's so easy to let the significance and the impact of milestones pass you by. We're all so caught up in what's in front of us and what the future holds. Now more so than ever.

Basing a future strategy on understanding what's worked in the past is crucial. But it mustn't be at the expense of an objective view of how the world has changed around us.

And whilst there is so much uncertainty, there are also things that we can depend on. Hospitality will always be the backbone of so many people's lives. It's crucial we’re all confident in what we offer and that we tell the world about it in exactly the right way.

We've been so impressed by businesses that have formed new approaches to how they operate and communicate.

Staying true to their passions and letting their personalities shine through.

Forest Road Brewery

We particularly loved this east London brewery’s response to losing 60% of their revenue overnight. When "sales of keg beer just stopped". In this video, founder

Pete Brown talks about how they turned a small van into a mobile bar. Bringing beer to their loyal fans who could no longer get their hands on the product in traditional ways. And it was so successful, they’ve just bought a second van.

"If people can't go to the kegs. Why don't we bring the kegs to the people?

Eats Thyme, Paris

Our client, at recently launched Eats Thyme in Paris, has done a stellar job of sticking to the inspiration, heart and soul of their concept. Capturing the Lebanese spirit, personality and patriotism in new and inventive ways.

They knew they could introduce Parisians to a more authentic version of the nation's cuisine. Yet it would take a patient and more creative approach as they shifted focus to bringing the product to market. At a time when the market couldn't easily come to them.

When the Beirut tragedy happened last month, they knew that the business could be a platform to raise awareness and funds for the disaster. Since then, much of their focus has been on supporting that cause.

Celebrating win-win relationships

At Rebel, we've realised that our best work has been built on win-win relationships with suppliers and partners. Working on projects that go above and beyond making money.

We're now placing a 'purpose manifesto' at the heart of each project. Giving us all something to be proud of and to underpin a strategy that's built for success. Our new brand reflects all this, whilst presenting a confident and bold approach to ensuring future wins. We really hope you like it.

2. Values and principles are the foundations of change

Uncovering and defining your organisation's purpose and using this to define a strategy is great. But this must be built on an honest appraisal of why things matter to you. As an individual, a leader, a team or across a business.

If we're aware of the positives that have defined past success, we can be more confident in the changes that we make to our businesses. Leading with principles ensures decisions are grounded in an approach unified by shared values. If things don't work out, we can accept this together and try something else. We'll always have stability in some form. Even in an ever-changing world.

Warrens On The Pass

Over the past ten years, farmers turned butchers Phillip Warren and Sons had made a name for themselves. Supplying their Cornish grass-fed meats to some of the best restaurants in the UK. Working hard to support their customers, understanding that they win when the restaurants do.

Launching Warrens On The Pass, they made a point of linking their products to the restaurants they were originally produced for. Meaning customers could order items intended for their favourite restaurants at home.

As legendary London restaurant The Ledbury announced it was permanently closing, Warrens continued their legacy by selling their bespoke products online. While short-ribs, pork shoulders and briskets intended for Shoreditch favourite Smokestak were being slow-cooked and barbecued in gardens across town.

With restaurants now open, Warrens continue to sell directly to customers. Such has been the success of the initiative.

The Conduit Club

Looking to past examples of taking a values and principle-based approach to work. Our new partner Michael worked on the development of The Conduit
in Mayfair.

The project was an excellent example of a business placing purpose at the heart of what they do. Key initiatives included a progressive approach to hiring with London based charity partners The Clink and Beyond Food Foundation. The creation of bespoke hemp-based products, alongside Margent Farm and Cambridge University (Centre for Natural Material Innovation), was part of a drive to reduce single-use plastic.

The building centred on cutting edge sustainable technology coupled with diverse, non-Europe centric art pieces. All within a members club in Mayfair, and without sacrificing any of the now-expected luxury components one would expect from this type of business.

Defining our own values and making them stick

As part of our rebrand, we revisited everything Rebel was about. Documenting our values and making them available for clients to see was a no brainer. As was sharing our Collective Commandments with the world. It's our commitment to being jointly responsible for everything we do.

Whether a freelancer, an employee, a supplier or a client. Great things happen when we welcome and support people who share our ethics and desire to use our voices and influence to make a real difference.

3. Live and work partly in the service of others

Only time will tell whether the world will go back to its old ways. But we live in hope that there will be at least an acceleration in businesses and individuals adopting a more responsible approach to what they do.

And discussed in previous posts and on the final webinar in the Two Eds Are Better Than One series, we have both an opportunity and a duty to think about the impact we have on others' lives. Never have fairness and equality mattered so much.

There are better ways of living and most of us have had a chance to refocus over previous months. Engaging in practices and habits that have the potential to change the way we interact with the world around us.

Rethink Food

It's been incredible to see how Daniel Humm and the team at Eleven Madison Park have risen to the challenge. Using their rethink food initiative to reach thousands of individuals and families living in food poverty in New York. The initiative was so successful that a recent partnership with Dominique Crenn saw the launch of the scheme on the West Coast too.

Now on our side of the pond. Daniel has launched a similar initiative with the NHS. This time at his London restaurant, Davies and Brook at Mayfair's Claridges hotel.

Genuine Community Development

Early this year we completed work on Vernon House for developer Mount Capital. We were impressed by their uber-considered approach. Both in Primrose Hill and at their Pragovka development in Prague.

It was great to see how supportive of the local communities they are. Particularly in Prague. Contributing to the continued growth of the artistic community currently living and creating within their development. Working with them rather than against them to evolve the scheme.

This is at odds with so much of the 'gentrification' we see. As communities are forced out to make way for 'progress' in the traditional sense.

The Rebel Foundation

The launch of our charitable foundation is planned for early next month. With the ongoing support of our clients and collaborators, we're excited by the prospect of continuing to change the lives of others. Giving the people we know the opportunity to do the same.

A shout out to all the clients who have contributed to our 1% match fund over the past 18 months. Your support has enabled us to get to launch and has already done so much for the young women we've been supporting in Mumbai.

4. Be your true self online

Since the beginning of lockdown, we've seen so many conflicting opinions and approaches when it comes to managing our lives online. As the world went digital, we were under pressure to do more. To say more.

With lives on hold, it seemed like social media was a release valve from the lockdown life but did it actually just increase our anxiety? We can’t help thinking that this may have just added pressure onto us as individuals. And as businesses, the misleading perspective that the way to win is through more content. This isn't the case.

We've come to believe in a less-is-more approach. Supported by being yourself and using your influence to bring a clear message. Being meaningful with everything you say and do.

An example from across the pond

New York-based friend of Rebel, Anna Polonsky has shown that the right campaigns can be hugely successful. Coming from the heart and engaging the right partners and peers at the same time. Her agency Polonsky & Friends have launched a successful US-wide initiative, Ask Chefs Anything. Whilst their apron collaboration with Bragard USA saw chefs including Thomas Keller getting behind the initiative, spurring nationwide sales with 100% of profits going to charity.

BrewDog goes from strength to strength

For the last 18 months, we've been working with the team at BrewDog to bring a consistent brand experience to the bars around the world. Handling their graphics work, menu design and signage as they've grown their estate.

Despite a well-publicised 'fight for survival' in March, the business doubled down. Staying connected with their fans whilst their bars remained closed. It’s clear that their continued success has been guaranteed by the way they've found their voice online. Their recent carbon negative commitment is admirable at a time when many businesses are unable to think long term.

Launching our digital marketing product

All this got us thinking. And we're delighted to announce that we've developed a content and digital marketing product. Created to support the strategy and design work we've loved delivering over the years. But also to support new and existing clients with identifying and connecting with their audiences online.

If you’d like to know more about how we’re helping businesses connect to their audiences online, please get in touch.

5. Embracing change and enjoying the ride

The next few months are going to define the future of hospitality. It's been upsetting to see so many casualties over the summer. No doubt there will be more.

What’s becoming clear is that our relationship with cities is likely to fundamentally change. We've been speaking to operators in neighbourhoods who are doing better than ever. Whilst our friends in hubs such as Soho continue to feel the effects of a workforce largely working from home. Of course, tourism is yet to recover in any meaningful way.

The success of the pedestrianisation of Soho to allow for al fresco dining will continue for as long as the weather permits. And the recently-launched “Take Put” campaign in Chinatown is another interesting initiative we’ll be keeping a close eye on. Jay Rayner certainly thinks it has legs.

Even a small permanent shift in the way we work is going to have a big impact on the fabric of city centre hospitality. Particularly those predicated on high footfall, daily custom and time-poor professionals.

But in the long run, opportunities abound for businesses that are positioned to take advantage of a redistribution of the professional population. Be it in cities, in the suburbs or further afield.

Is Co-living finally going to have its day?

Operators such as Bermondsey's Mason & Fifth are well placed to create professional communities in city neighbourhoods. If life 'on campus' results in a goodbye to the daily commute, there will undoubtedly be winners and losers.

Don’t forget to have a little fun

But we're confident that the industry will bounce back in one way or another. We're an enterprising bunch and it's been reassuring to see some irreverence as we continue to embrace collaborations. Both inside and outside of the industry.

We've loved the fun being had by Gizzie Erksine and Professor Green of late. As they continue to take their Giz and Green's "Monday Night Fakeaway" idea to new heights. Copyright and trademark infringement potential aside, it's nice to see this light-heartedness in times of great hardship.

In good company

For us, the next few months are about staying focused, positive and as relaxed as we can. Embracing the ability to work from anywhere and continuing our collaborative approach with partners around the world. To this end, a departure from 'agency' in favour of 'company' seemed like an apt way to solidify this approach. Because whatever we do, we're determined to be great to work with. And a good company in every sense of the word.

Ed and Donkey
Article / Beliefs
Work From Home Is Dead. Long Live Work From Anywhere
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Work From Home Is Dead. Long Live Work From Anywhere

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5 Things We’ve Always Done To Facilitate A Better Relationship With Work.

(Note - Donkeys are optional)

Before lockdown, my girlfriend and I popped down to our regular country bolthole. My housemate's garage conversion in the New Forest. We then decided to sit it out in the rural ideal, rather than come back to London. It was a tough decision at the time. But looking back, it's one of the best things we've ever done.

The internet was ablaze with panic and talk of a "fundamental shift" in ways of working. But for us at Rebel, it was an easy transition. Because it's exactly how we've been working for years. And I now know more than ever, that we’re on the right track.

In the spirit of transparency and in the hope that this may be of benefit to companies struggling with going remote. Here are five things we've always done. Things which have helped us achieve results whilst almost never being in the same room.

Long may work from anywhere continue!

1. Let culture lead the way

Someone once said that "culture eats strategy for breakfast". The best-laid plans fall apart when imposed on people. Those who subsequently act begrudgingly when under duress. Good culture creates willingness, openness and results.

What we do is guided by the principals of an established brand. Even if we're a young, small business. Here are a few excerpts from our brand manual.

2. Select specific tools to separate competing business functions and allow for collaboration

We're constantly looking for ways to be more efficient and to deliver better work. Always in consultation with those who are going to be involved in the various processes.

I've always hated email. It's a miscellany of others' priorities. Vital to external conversations? Of course. But the best way to communicate with colleagues? Absolutely not.

There are tools out there to make life better. We separate specific areas of the business by deploying different tools to manage them. This ensures that time scheduled to be spent on a particular task is done so without distraction. That nothing else gets in the way. And don't get me started on WhatsApp.

We’ve tried pretty much everything out there. And these are our current favourite tools for remote, collaborative and results-focused working. Helping to focus on what’s important, not whats fun, exciting or shouting the loudest. (No bribes were paid in the writing of this list)

Slack - The almost ubiquitous internal messaging app for agencies and creatives, Slack allows you to manage your own engagement and working hours. Mark yourself away when you don’t want to be disturbed and your colleagues will only push through urgent messages (or give you a nudge on WhatsApp)

Asana - Project and task management. With added gantt functionality it’s the perfect tool for managing complex projects with multiple stakeholders. It’s also great for to-do lists, meeting agendas and for one-on-one team catch-ups.

Pipedrive - A new addition to our world, Pipedrive handles our CRM and automates most of our new business process, making scheduling and keeping connected personal and easy. And most importantly, brings all relevant new business email and calendar functions into one place, away from all the other distracting clutter in your inbox.

Loom - Allows you to record your screen with audio commentary and added personality through a video thumbnail. Brilliant for sharing presentations, feedback and work where a little elaboration is needed

Miro - A brilliant tool for live, remote collaboration with partners and clients. Miro facilitates brainstorms, white-boarding sessions, flow and process charts, and anything else visual that you’d also do when sat in a room together (Tip - use Apple Sidecar and Google Hangouts to make things even more personal over two screens).

3. Routine will set you free

At first, this sounds like an oxymoron. But I take great comfort in having a specific time set aside each day, week and month for certain tasks.

An example. The first Tuesday of each month is for bookkeeping and general administration. And our accounts process is perfectly honed to allow me to park the majority of both until this day each month. Each Friday morning is marketing. Oh, and no meetings on a Monday because that's a day to get shit done.

The first hour of the day is set aside for consuming interesting content, checking emails and clearing down slack. I then check in again on the latter two after lunch and at the end of the day.

By carving out time for administrative, procedural tasks throughout the month, I find myself able to focus on the important stuff. Doing great work for clients. And finding great clients to do work for.

I've found this structure vital. And every time I slip back into my old, less organised ways, everyone ends up losing out.

4. Chill the f&@k out

There are only two types of problems. Those you can do something about. And those you can't.

I always ask myself where stress comes from if a) you can control and change a given situation or b) the situation is out of your hands. Of course, this is overly simplistic and a degree of stress comes with what we all do.

But in spite of this, we must all work hard to maintain a perspective and relax a little. As leaders, we have can have a powerful impact on those around us. This can be overwhelmingly positive, or oppressively negative. And I know which kind of leader I'd rather be.

5. Let your people go surfing

Yves Chouinard, founder of Patagonia thinks this is so important, he wrote a book about it.

The importance of being flexible about when and where people work is central to this legendary brand's success. If the surf is great on a Tuesday, get out there. Because a culture that blends freedom with responsibility means that your wave-riding employee will, of course, spend Saturday catching up.

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Collaboration And Community Spirit Are Restaurants’ Vital Ingredients
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Collaboration And Community Spirit Are Restaurants’ Vital Ingredients

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Our Monthly Long Read

It's been so interesting to see how neighbourhoods feel so different from one another. Soho is a virtual ghost town. Whilst my local park Primrose Hill has been alive with socially-distanced activity.

I rode over to Broadway Market and Victoria Park recently. The contrast between residential and commercial neighbourhoods becoming even clearer.

With a gradual move away from lockdown on the horizon, it's been interesting to think about how the way we use our cities is likely to change. And whether we're looking at a temporary or permanent shift. Personally, I think the former.

It's impossible to contemplate a return to normal life until we have a vaccine. But one thing seems almost certain. Operators cannot base their model on bums-on-seats alone. Retail, delivery and e-commerce will prove to be crucial success factors in the long term. Much as they've been lifelines over previous weeks.

Moving from admirable quick fixes to longer-term strategies and broader, diversified product offerings. Thinking carefully about how to connect clientele with the products they want. And how businesses can come together to do this collaboratively.

Is this the moment for neighbourhood and community-centric operators to thrive? The death of the over-leveraged multiples? Only time will tell. But as people across the world spend more time at home and less time commuting into commercial hubs, the way our businesses operate needs to change. Meeting the needs of both our hard won fans and new advocates currently waiting in the wings.

Connecting purpose with changing customer needs

It's never been more important to heed the much-lauded Sinekism of "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it". In other words, brands need to stand for something.

Leading with a genuine purpose is as important now as it's ever been. But it's essential that this is connected with carefully-considered customer needs.

I always refer to my favourite brand purpose from our old clients and friends, Rosa's Thai Cafés. "The purpose of Rosa's is to create an inspiring environment that makes people happy". Caps doffed, Without Studio for your genius.

This needs to work inside and out. Being inspired and happy are such fundamentals for a great dining or drinking experience. But it rings true for how staff should feel, too. A guiding principle that everyone connects with.

But It's crucial to consider how purpose must evolve in line with customer needs. And these needs are likely to continue to evolve over the coming weeks and months. But there are some fundamentals.

Safety, hygiene and traceability are no longer givens. Staff and guests alike will expect reassurances to be built into brands' DNA, operations and marketing. It's essential that these become part of a brand's purpose. Not merely initiatives deployed in response to the current situation.

Reviewing and updating your brand purpose in such uncertain times will go a long way to instilling a renewed sense of direction. Executed collaboratively with teams and then built into the marketing messages going out to your clients.

Building a strategy around things that will stay the same

In an uncertain world, there are always things that never change. Whilst we've all had to change our behaviour and the way we approach our every day, many of our beliefs and values have remained constant.

Convenience, on-demand, customisation, authenticity and a desire to shop and support local have become fundamentals of our industry. These behaviours aren't going anyway. If anything, the evolution of customer behaviour in these regards have accelerated of late.

We've become more conscious of the food we eat. We want healthy without compromise. And we want to push the boat out and indulge from time to time, too.

We care about where our food comes from. We care about value. We want to align with brands that match our lifestyle aspirations. And we want to tell the world about it on Instagram.

When we double down on what we can be sure of. Combining this with a renewed purpose, focused on the changing needs of our customers. We can begin to create a plan.

Check the competition then focus on you

As part of a branding process we're doing through ourselves (more to follow on that), we've been doing a lot of work on our positioning. It was interesting to drill down on who we're playing against. Whilst this was a great source of aspiration on many fronts, it was also a great leveller as to where we are today. And to a degree, it was quite daunting when we realised just how many brilliant people are our there. Essentially, doing what we do.

I'm sure I speak for many when I say that it's sometimes paralysing. How are we going to cut through? How are we going to stand out? How are we going to capture and maintain market share? There are those with better portfolios, sexier clients and bigger marketing budgets?

And the lesson from this? Understand your market. Understand your audience. Know your competition well. And then look inward, focus on you and crack on!

Because right now, there's so much going on out there it would overwhelm anyone. Don't obsess over the problems, challenges, unknowns and over other people's woes. Work out who you are, why folks love you and do more of that. Talk more about that.

Expand on your core proposition with complementary products and services that are on-brand. And those that add real value for your customers. Balance being nimble and imaginative with ensuring quality remains on a par with the things you've been doing each day.

Strength in collaboration

There's often a great sense of camaraderie in hospitality. Fiercely competitive on the one hand. Passionately community-minded on the other. I think this dichotomy is why I love it so much.

When times are hard people come together. And it's this continued spirit of collaboration that may just get us through the challenging months ahead of us.

We've got to think about where people are going to need to be. Where they're going to want to be. And find a way of bringing them what they want then and there.

And I don't just mean a reliance on Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Because we all know their margins and fees aren't sustainable for restaurants. And that they offer a poor experience for their customers whenever things don't go well. Which let's face it, is more often than they'd have you believe.

If the industry at large is going to have any chance of survival, we need to think differently. Businesses need to understand what slice of the pie they need to be able to stay afloat. And then ensure they help others to do the same. Sharing the love amongst like-minded peers who complement, rather than compete against them.

Could pubs open up their kitchens to others for click and collect takeaways? Could coffee shops broaden their retail range of local products? Could restaurants partner with suppliers to create ready-to-heat meals?

We've seen the green shoots of this already. Now is the time to work out how we move from incidental purchases to key, long term revenue drivers. And then coming up with ways of working together to share the burden and costs of logistics. Making finding, buying and collecting the things we want to buy convenient and easy.

I'd love a world where my local pub reopens as a click and collect point for my favourite local retail businesses. I'd stop in for a pint in the garden (once allowed, of course) and bring some beer home with me too.

Learn from the namaste and don't forget the magic

In these strange times of social distancing and contactless everything, we need to find new ways of showing the warmth, love and generosity that we're known for as an industry.

The Hindu namaste greeting is symbolic both as a spiritual gesture and as a greeting. There are many meanings attributed to its use. But my favourite by far is the assertion "the best in me sees the best in you". It's a lovely sentiment that, when accompanied by sincere eye contact, exudes exactly the kind of spirit that hospitality holds at its core. And what's more, there's no touching.

We live in a mad world. We can achieve so much by focusing on each other's positives. By finding strength in people coming together and doing so gently and with respect.

Last of all. And potentially most importantly. We mustn't take our eyes off the magic of drinking and dining out. And what happens when we come together over a great meal at home. The escapism. The experience. And the joy and respite that we bring to people's lives.

In whatever shape or form our businesses take, we must remember that above all, we're here to create experiences that make lives better. And this is more important now than it's ever been.

So in summary...

  1. Refresh and update your purpose, born from a deep understanding of your customers' needs
  2. Equip yourself with the knowledge of things we can be certain about
  3. Work out partnerships and collaborations that will be mutually beneficial
  4. Do more of what you do best. Expand into other revenue streams and develop complementary products
  5. Know where your customers are and make it as easy as possible for them to get their hands on what they want, where and when they want it
  6. Bring the magic to everything you do

Inflatable pub
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Bring Your Pub, Bar Or Restaurant Experience Home
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Bring Your Pub, Bar Or Restaurant Experience Home

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Could Dark Kitchens Be Part Of The Future for Hotel F&B?
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Could Dark Kitchens Be Part Of The Future for Hotel F&B?

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Our Monthly Long Read.

Deliveruined or Deliverlighted?

Whilst analysts were quickly excited by a potential boom in orders - and therefore revenue - at the beginning of the covid-19 outbreak, it didn’t take long for a very different reality to set in; leading Deliveroo to announce that it’s axing 367 of its 2,500-strong workforce this week. The current perfect storm for a once seemingly unstoppable growth sector came at the exact time the UK competition watchdog provisionally approved a £462m investment in Deliveroo by Amazon.

It seems that, like shopping malls in the real world, online marketplaces rely on anchor tenants too. And with several high street stalwarts including Wagamama, Nando’s, and McDonald's shutting up shop, there was less of an incentive for an already worried workforce of riders to venture out to work. This puts a strain on the system and led to long wait times for those operators still trading, and sub-standard food arriving at their customers’ doors. Add to this the general nervousness about contact and transmission and it's easy to see why the fizz has fizzled from Deliveroo’s glass.

There’s a problem here which we’ve always flagged to clients in an attempt to dispel the myth that the roads riders use to whizz food to their customers’ door are paved with gold. If you’ve got a busy restaurant with excess capacity then selling via Deliveroo, Uber Eats and others can be lucrative businesses on top of the existing operation. But potentially healthy margins quickly evaporate if delivery from a prime, high street location becomes the bedrock of your operation, to the point where it’s just not worth trading. Especially in current times, when companies can furlough their staff and be done with the majority of their wage bill altogether.

Could this be why several independent operators such as Honey & Co and Borough’s Padella were quick to sign up to Deliveroo and Uber Eats, but closed down their delivery operations almost as soon as they were live?

Dancing in the Dark

So whilst the general market continues to face unprecedented challenges, the long-term success of dark kitchens seems almost certain. Even if it is in for a bumpy ride (and we don’t mean the speed bumps making a mess of your Thai Green Curry) in the short term.

Pre lockdown, the dark kitchen market in Europe was forecast to be worth $253m in 2019 and growing to a whopping $655m in 2026 so there’s no doubt that the bright side was outshining the dark, as consumers quite literally stuffed their faces via Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Postmates and the like.

According to Deliverect, one of the leading providers of software to the dark kitchen sector - “Less free time, the rise of online business models, a fixation on convenience and personalised experiences: these are just a few elements that influence almost every industry today – including the food business. The demands of digital-age consumers combined with new technologies are transforming the way restaurants operate from the kitchen floor and up”.

When you combine the efficiency of space, lower rents, simplified and de-skilled menus, and much lower overheads it’s easy to see why so many brands - and Deliveroo themselves - have invested in locations that are centrally-located, but off the beaten track. JKS Group’s Motu Indian Kitchen has been a runaway success (we’re fans and regulars ourselves) and just this week, Soho’s incredible Bao (another JKS-backed business) have launched Rice Error, a Deliveroo-only dark kitchen brand.

And whilst the skeptics were quick to point out the future of robot chefs, deliveries by drone and other dystopian culinary calamities, there is a kinder side to dark kitchens. When established, respected, successful operators diversify and set up their side hustles on city industrial estates across the world, we can’t really see a problem with that.

Hotel, Motu, Ordering In

(Pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist)

Over in the hotel sector, the land grab for Select Service hotel brands by the developer community sees no sign of abating. We’ve been working closely with Marriott on their burgeoning Moxy brand and its more established counterpart, Aloft so it’s an area we’ve come to know well.

There are both challenges and opportunities within hotels across various sectors, as they seek to satisfy their guests’ increasingly discerning expectations. The select-service model relies on low cost to build, skeleton staffing, and limited f&b. And yet generous loyalty schemes provoke repeat stays by guests who quickly tire of a one-size-fits-all model. Even full-service hotels struggle with agility and with maintaining interest and variety in their offer.

Whether they enjoy prime, city centre and neighbourhood locations or service business parks and airports, many hotels would benefit from a shakeup in the way they think about f&b. Their local communities would be better off too.

Hotels often have excess kitchen capacity outside of the space and labour-intensive breakfast service, often coupled with teams to service them. So could this present an unmissable opportunity to give local operators space from which to launch their own dark kitchen brands?

With the opportunity for multiple operators to cook and dispatch from the same space, guests may get the variety and choice that they crave from hotels not blessed with great culinary neighbours. Can hotels in buzzing neighborhoods also drive opportunities to increase revenue by serving their communities in a way they’ve never been able to do before?

At airports, where clusters of chain hotels cater to weary travelers, layovers, and one-night stays, there’s an even greater opportunity to win by servicing other hotels who face similar challenges. And in the select-service sector where kitchen equipment is kept to a minimum, companies such as Rational are working closely with operators to deploy tech-led ready to heat solutions. This is perfect for operators who have the capacity to prepare food off-site - at their restaurants, say - and utilise efficiency, simple processes, and speed to dish up meals to demanding guests in record time.

Hatch and Dispatch

On a recent trip to the US, we were impressed with White Lodging’s Zombie Taco taqueria at the Moxy Chicago Downtown. The simple, open kitchen perfectly integrated with the in-house, brand-standard food operation, and some cleverly placed merchandise. Throughout the day and late into the night, a hatch out on to the street serves hungry passers-by, late-night revelers looking for a tasty settler before they head home, and delivery service riders too.

With a proven model, it’s easy to see a scenario where the identity and product could be flipped simply and cost-effectively at the whim of the operator or at the request of the guest. Surely, it’s a win-win for everyone. And as the world shows signs of a gentle reopening after Lockdown, we need to be looking after each other more than ever.

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Gut Health During #WFH
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Gut Health During #WFH

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As we adjust to working from home, we’ve never been more conscious of our eating habits. Fortunately, there are some brilliant solutions to maintaining a healthy diet during lockdown.

We recently completed work on a project that delivers nutritionally endorsed ready-to-heat meals and snacks directly to busy professionals across London. Dedicated to empowering us to take control of our lives through food, now more than ever Kurami is a brilliant solution as our busy lives show no sign of slowing down, just because we’re confined to our homes.

Eating for a healthy gut is a key nutritional focus of each of the brand’s meal paths. So important is our gut that it is even considered the ‘second brain’ of the human body. It’s also well established that the bacteria present within our guts plays an integral role in many fundamental functions, especially immunity.

Micro-organisms that exist in the gut can even influence behaviour, with some research suggesting beneficial microbes even impact mood and anxiety levels.

Conscious of our dietary habits now more than ever, we’ve been inspired to look at some of the ways we can ensure our diet takes care of our gut as we cook from home. So, here are our top 5 tips to eat well for your gut health.

The community of microbes contained within a healthy gut is complex and diverse, so it makes sense that to satisfy and optimise the health benefits they offer, our diets must be varied too. Incorporating a wide range of veg into your diet is a super-simple way towards having all bases covered. Order a whole box of London’s freshest produce straight to your door from local suppliers through FoodBox London and support the community from the comfort of your own home at the same time.

And if you live in Surrey, Buckinghamshire or Berkshire, then we’ve recently developed and launched Fe2Go, an online store for our favourite suburban clients, Fego - delivering their a la carte dishes alongside ready-to-heat meals, groceries, provisions and fresh produce boxes. Go check them out! For every delivery they make, they’re feeding a key NHS worker.

2. Eat Fermented Foods

Whilst you might be struggling to get hold of some of the basic essentials in supermarkets at the moment, the good news is that some of the lesser known ingredients are likely to be readily available - as well as being a natural source of beneficial probiotics too. Our favourite fermented food is Kimchi - check out BBC Food for some brilliant recipe inspiration to cook with it at home.

And if you’re looking for a small, independent brand then Eaten Alive should definitely be your first stop.

3. Sip On Kombucha

Kombucha is on the up! We saw it frequently feature in restaurants across the UK and it’s now well and truly entered the mainstream, due to its undeniable health benefits.

This fermented tea-based drink is a brilliant source of powerful antioxidants that boost immunity. A brilliant way to support independent business at the moment is to order some directly to your door, enjoying it in the knowledge you’re taking care of your gut health at the same time.

London-based Wild Fizz offer some brilliant flavours through their website, where you can even read about how to make your own Kombucha at home. As if that wasn’t enough, they’re offering discounts to NHS staff throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We were particularly excited by the flavour combination of ginger, turmeric and black pepper - ours is on the way already.

Our friends over at Dapple Studio created the brand identity for Jarr, one of our personal favourites. Order this online from many places, or drop the good folk at Sourced Market online, who stock the product in all of their stores.

4. Add Yoghurt

We’re big fans of starting our day as we mean to go on and in this instance, as un-rebellious as it may be, we never skip breakfast. Adding yoghurt to fresh fruit and granola is an easy way to introduce probiotic cultures that could promote good bacteria in your gut.

Preparing and eating breakfast is also a brilliant way to get into the habit of introducing routine as we settle into remote-working, so by waking up with bowls like these you can win on many fronts.

5. Make It ‘Garlicky’

Beyond flavour alone, garlic brings some brilliant health benefits to the table when it comes to taking care of your gut. It contains a hefty nutrient content , packing a punch far beyond the elevation of taste. Throw some into your weekly shop - if ever you needed a reason to excuse your garlic breath as you boost your immune system, it’s this.

As we all find ourselves balancing the demands of a changing world right now, you’d be forgiven for wishing nutrition could be taken care of for you. Head over to to see how you can order delicious, nutritionally-endorsed meals directly to your door.

We can’t think of a better way to support an independent business and local suppliers, all whilst having our dietary health covered and one less thing to think about. We’re also quite proud of the project, and therefore unashamedly biased.

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A Letter From Me, To You
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A Letter From Me, To You

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Do We Even Do Long Reads Any More?

Thanks for joining me.

As the founder of a small business that works closely with other SMEs, I wanted to share a little more information that will hopefully be insightful and useful to anyone who finds themselves a little ‘rabbit it the headlights’ right now. Because I can assure you, you’re not alone.

Time On Our Hands.

The shut down of the industry we live for and love could never have been predicted. We do what we do because we really like people. We like getting a bunch of good folk together, looking after them, cooking brilliant food and serving delicious drinks. We love understanding how to add value to those our businesses serve; seeking out their wants and needs, and constantly finding new ways to engage, excite and keep people coming back.

But we also like innovating. We like big ideas, bravely but sensibly evolving, reacting to the rapid pace of change and the constantly moving goalposts. It’s why we do what we do. We live with many balls in the air, fighting for diary space and wishing we just had a few more hours in the day to make those improvements, drive through change, and be louder and more visible in the way we market our businesses.

Whilst we’ve got no customers to take care of, once we’ve battened down the hatches and gotten our ducks in a row, now is the perfect time to be stepping back, looking under every stone and in every corner, to work out how we can come back fighting when this nightmare is over and we can resume doing the very things we set our businesses up to do - surprise, delight and make people happy.

So much is out of our control right now. And there are only two types of problems after all - ones we can do nothing about, and ones we can. So what can we do about the latter? Place the thought, focus and attention there.

Here are five things that every business needs to be looking at right now, if you’re going to come back quickly, stronger and more focused on the other side of this.

1. Going Digital

I saw this image on my LinkedIn feed and it couldn’t be closer to the truth. In the thick of looking after our clients, our own marketing strategy was ad-hoc at best. And at times non-existent. And I make no apologies for that. It’s tough doing what we do, and I know that many of our clients and friends within all areas of hospitality will agree. But it’s no longer acceptable to make excuses.

I’ve always fallen in to the trap of looking enviously at our competitors’ and peers’ digital marketing efforts and at their content and falling at the first hurdle, because getting to where they are seems almost impossible. But this month, I think I’ve finally realised that this is just about getting started. And it’s amazing what happens when you do.

A huge shout out to John Vincent, LEON’s founder and CEO, not only for the ongoing brilliance of everything that LEON does, but on his recent book Winning Not Fighting, co-written with Wing Tsun master Julian Hitch.

This book warrants a post of its own, but the relevant thing for me here is the notion that “Mastery is something to be practiced every day, not a goal in the distant future” (John, I’m sorry. I’ve probably bastardised that, but I hope it makes the point).

This has helped me to totally reframe my approach to so many thing, our digital marketing efforts being key.

So, expect more content from us. Hopefully successful, sometimes not, but always experimental. It comes from the heart and we’ll always be doing our best. Something about the cobbler being unable to fix his own shoes comes to mind.

Everyone should be focusing on digital right now, and what this means for keeping their businesses alive and thriving online, so you’re front of mind when the revival of our industry happens and we can grab the opportunity with both hands. Read up, watch, listen and learn. Spend a little money if you can, to get a strategic plan in place. And then just get going. It’s a brilliant time to be doing so!

A great place to start is this webinar from Mark Ritson and Marketing Weekly. I think it’s probably the most valuable thing I’ve watched since lockdown. It provides some incredible insight in to how the next months are going to play out and how you can market to succeed. Do have a watch.

2. Learning From Lockdown

After the initial panic I felt at the beginning of March, it’s been brilliant to take a step back and look at work and life, how the two integrate and how forced distancing, spending more time alone, and working remotely has made such a giant difference to so many things. I’ve been keeping a list on my phone and here’s where I’m currently at.

Seeking out the positives has been, well, really positive. It’s been vital for me to reflect and to take some decisive action where necessary to get life and work into a place from which growth can happen. Personally and professionally.

Taking these and making them the basis for conversations with the team and for decisions moving forward is going to sustain a real change in my relationships with family, friends, colleagues and clients both immediately and in to the future. And for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

3. Revisiting Everything You Thought You Knew About Your Brand

We recently connected with an agency called Leidar, after meeting their UK managing partner Madelyn Postman at two events on the trot at The Museum of Brands in Notting Hill and a One Percent For The Planet meet-up at The Conduit Club. Leidar is the viking word for the North Star and their mission is to help brands find theirs. A guiding light and a continued point to refocus on as businesses and their teams navigate a rapidly-changing world. And quite frankly, we think it’s a lovely sentiment.

More than ever, brands need to stand for something above simply creating employment and making money. This slide from a recent Accenture report sums this up perfectly.

The question therefore, is how you engage your audience and your teams in looking for, finding, and pursuing your purpose; leading with a clear mission, a fully defined DNA and a simple message that keeps everyone pointing in the same direction?

We already know that the world is moving towards more conscious living and more conscious consumerism, so rethink your narrative, tell your story and focus on how your business can be best placed to lead during this continued shift towards genuine purpose-led brand engagement; standing out from the crowd and coming back from the current challenges with a fresh focus and fresh enthusiasm for all that’s brilliant about your business and how it can find it’s place in a more sustainable world.

4. Team Engagement After Lockdown

Without a doubt, the hospitality sector and those working within it are going to feel the affects of this current period for months, even years to come. When the world reopens for business, consumers are going to be bombarded with brand communications and marketing like never before.

The winners from this will be those who not only manage to stand out from the crowd in the public domain, but those who have re-engaged, motivated and generally prioritised their teams. Revisiting your brand means revisiting how this leads to team engagement in your purpose, your product and your guest experience both online and offline.

A considered and unique Employee Value Proposition is a great place to start, when defining what working for your business feels like and ensuring that it’s a great place to work and one that facilitates excellence in everything you and your teams do.

We firmly buy in to the definition “A Brand Is What People Say About You When You’re Not In The Room” (thanks Jeff Bezos) and the most important rooms to think about are your changing or dining rooms, when your teams are together and away from the eyes and ears of leaders.

This video from Blessing White Consultancy is one of the finest examples of how leaders need to inspire teams, set a clear strategy, and drive genuine engagement across all levels and departments.

5. This Could Be Our Chance to Change The World

Fans of HBO’s Silicon Valley will know that this is a familiar story. Every start-up launches with a mission statement which includes a wholly insincere commitment to saving/changing the world or making the world a better place.

But, and I imagine you’re clear on where I’m going with this, we do have an opportunity, right now, to be looking carefully at our business’ place on this planet, the impact we’re having on the environment around us, and on our immediate and global communities.

Refocus on this during the coming weeks and months, interrogate every aspect of your business, look back through your supply chain and forward to the life and usability of your products and packaging. Resisting the temptation to give little more than lip service to your business or brands’ impact means passing on the opportunity of a lifetime to fundamentally address imbalance, excess and often lazy practices that are unnecessary, damaging and irresponsible.

We can use businesses as a force for change, leading in this space will mean that consumers and competitors will follow. And this will mean that everyone wins.

Where to start? Our friend and collaborator Daniel Webb, has looked in depth at the crucial issue of plastic in our supply chain. His Everyday Plastic report makes for interesting, insightful, but difficult reading. But it’s certainly worth 20 minutes of your time.

Let’s get this restaurant revival started!

Thanks for reading. I really hope this was useful. If you have any feedback, questions or just want to catch up, then please do drop me an email or give me a call. I’m all ears!

Stay well,


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The Rebel Revival
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The Rebel Revival

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  1. Free Advice And Advisory

  2. Pay-What-You-Can Graphic Design And Content Creation

  3. An Easy Way To Give Back To Our Global Community

I've been pondering, over the last few days, about how to start this. Keeping a close eye on how the pandemic is evolving at home, across the country and around the globe. Never has the world we know changed so fast.

Writing is something I don't do often. At least not publicly. But if nothing else, this is a time for trying new things. Being bold, open and honest in the hope that others may benefit in some small way from what we all have to say.

The power of community, of our collective and individual ingenuity I'm certain, will get us through this. Here's where we're at and how we're going to support the people in our professional lives who matter the most - Our Clients, Our Collaborators, Our Community.

Rebel Is Open For Business.

Whilst our last day in Rebel HQ was the Friday before last Lucy, Jess and I have been working remotely and figuring out how we push through this, what Covid-19 means for us as individuals, as a really small business, and for our industry as a whole.

I'm not going to lie, our revenue has gone from a really strong first quarter to as good as non-existent in the last couple of weeks. I'm not ashamed to say that, nor am I saying that in an attempt to invoke any kind of pity. But the reality is that this is going to be tough on us and everyone else who's part of the travel, hotel and hospitality industry - sectors which have been all but decimated by the sudden and catastrophic spread of Covid-19.

But all we can do, all I know how to do, is to carry on. To persevere and to hope that when we come out of this, as many of us as possible will do so fighting fit, stronger and more united than ever.

Getting through this centres on livelihoods, families, teams and networks all coexisting in an interconnected, interdependent world. Our ability to work together whilst being apart is testament to this and I hope, on the other side, the world will remember that communities are global and not restricted by geography.

It's been amazing to see is how quickly businesses are adapting in the face of this crisis, launching takeaway and delivery services from their kitchens and bars to make sure their suppliers, teams and communities are taken care of. We're an agile bunch.

Until further notice, we're open, online and eager to do whatever we can to support. So don't hesitate to reach out if any of what we lay out below is of interest.

I’m sure that if we stick together, we’ll get through this and will be in the best possible position to bounce back when this nightmare is over. Ready to revive our businesses and our industry as a whole. We’re really looking forward to being a part of that.

Free Advice And Advisory Services For Our Clients.

With other members of our partner and freelancer network, we're committing a collective 20 hours a week to offering totally free advice, advisory services and strategy to anyone who reaches out. Drawing on our experience and insights, we'll work together to come up with a bespoke solution to the biggest challenges you're currently facing - be this creating a takeaway and delivery product for your business, a marketing campaign strategy, or helping your team navigate the challenges of pivoting and serving their guests in a different way for the coming weeks and months.

More information on the services we offer are on our website. We look forward to hearing from you.

Pay What You Can Design And Content From Our Collaborators.

We've got an amazing network of small partner agencies and freelancers on our books, a large number of them self-employed and not yet supported in any meaningful way by The Government's rescue packages. Most are hospitality specialists and like us, have been hit hard by the current situation. We want to support them in any way we can.

Through Rebel, they've all agreed to offer their services on heavily discounted rates, on a pay-what-you-can basis, or even on a barter. So you can name your price and we'll get it done!

Take a look at some recent design and branding work here, and then let us know if you'd like to set up a call to see if we may be able to help.

A Helping Hand For Our Global Community.

Our friends and clients will be familiar with our work in India and that we're in the process of launching our charitable foundation. We're collaborating with an incredible organisation in Mumbai called The OSCAR Foundation and together, we'll be supporting gifted young women from inner city slums living really tough lives.

The communities that we work with have already been hit hard by the economic impact of Covid-19, if not yet the disease itself, and many families are now without income. We've also seen a dramatic drop in donations to NGOs, putting their ability to support their beneficiaries at risk.

Whilst this may initially seem like an abstract cause but these families are part of Rebel's community and we feel it's our duty to help in any way we can.

We've set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations, no matter how small, and 100% of these will go directly to The OSCAR Foundation.

Your support would mean the world to us and to the families who will benefit. A little bit of money goes a long way in India.

Thank you for your support.

Ed, team Rebel and the Rebel Girls in India x

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Independent Businesses Need Our Support
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Independent Businesses Need Our Support

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As the spread of coronavirus continues, I think like a lot of people, we're attempting to balance doing the right thing with continuing to go about our lives as normally as we possibly can.

Like most Friday afternoons, conversations in the office have turned to what plans we all have for the weekend. And of course, to how so many of our friends and peers in hospitality must be gravely concerned about their businesses.

We're not suggesting for one moment that anyone does anything less than follow the latest government advice on minimising the spread of coronavirus, but if you are feeling well and heading out this weekend, we've pulled together a short list of our favourite independents in London right now. I know they'd love to see you.

Have a safe, sanitised and healthy weekend,

Ed and team Rebel.

Sussex Restaurant, Frith Street, Soho

We can't get enough of Sussex. Their "what grows together, goes together" approach brings some of the finest British produce to central London from their family farm in... you guessed it... Sussex.

Order a glass of Nutty Wild sparkling at the bar along with a couple of their addictive Mushroom Marmite Eclairs, before sitting down to plates of Venison Ragu with home made pappardelle; and Fallow Dear with Faggot, Parsley Root, Brassicas, Button Onions and Red Wine Jus. | 020 3923 7770

Kanishka, Maddox Street, Mayfair

Kanishka is the latest restaurant from the talented team led by Atul Kochhar and explores the lesser-known cuisines of north-east India.

London is awash with brilliant Indian restaurants these days, but if pushing the boat out and forgetting about the current unprecedented reality of the world outside is on your agenda, we can't recommend a table here highly enough. | 020 3978 0978

Jolene, Newington Green

If brunch is your thing, and let's face it, it's everyone's thing, Jolene is almost unbeatable for relaxed north London vibes, the best bread and amazing eggs.

Fried eggs, Jamon and potatoes is our go-to, and there's plenty for vegetarians and vegans too. | 020 3887 2309

Silo, Hackney Wick

Respect due to Silo for their unfaltering commitment to Zero waste and it's a pretty beautiful room to be in, too.

Perched on the River Lee, it's a great spot for lunch and dinner with plenty of options to walk the calories off afterwards. Or, Crate Brewery is close by, should your favoured approach be to settle in to a few lazy beers. | 020 7993 8155

Duck Soup, Dean Street, Soho

Duck Soup has been around for a while but we still can't get enough of their super ingredient-focused, simple food and commitment to selling brilliant wines that are just on the right side of funky.

If the sun's out, their single table on the footpath is possibly our favourite place to perch in Soho and watch the world go by.

And if you're staying in or having people over, they offer 40% off their list prices for wines to go. More people need to know about this. | 020 7287 4599

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Employee Engagement In Five Steps
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Employee Engagement In Five Steps

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It’s great to see so many new forums, focus groups and initiatives flourishing in London, that strive to make hospitality careers and working environments better. For an industry plagued with gender imbalance, big egos and poor behaviour, long hours, low pay, high stress, addiction and mental health issues, the various standpoints being taken by initiatives such as Andrew Clarke’s Pilot Light Campaign, Victoria Stewart’s Hospitality Speaks, Natalia Ribbe’s Ladies of Restaurants and most recently, Ravneet Gill’s Counter Talk are beginning conversations about how a vibrant, interesting and thriving industry can work better for everyone and remain sustainable in the face of myriad challenges and pressures.

Counter Talk.

Counter Talk specifically focuses on matching great candidates with great employers, vetting both parties for positive cultural fit whilst hosting events to bring the conversation to the widest possible audience.

It was a pleasure to speak at their event last night, which was all about great on-boarding, retention and off-boarding practices. At Rebel, we’ve done a lot of work in this space with a variety of clients and it was great to be able to present how we’ve developed our own culture and purpose as an organisation, whilst showcasing how the brilliant Rosa’s Thai Cafés benefited from a long standing relationship with us across the business, but most notably the work we did on their culture and how to implement this through robust, measurable processes and systems.

The Triple Bottom Line.

It’s our firm belief that success of any kind and in any business is achieved by focusing on three key things - People, Purpose and Profit. Businesses need to stand for something, put caring at the heart of their activities, and ensure that relationships are win-win all round.

Here’s a summary of my talk last night, along with keynote excepts that communicate some of the ways we frame and communicate our approach to building engagement and great cultures, and how we implemented this throughout our time working with the team at Rosa’s.

1. Defining Purpose

Rosa’s is a really special business. A product of two individual’s differences and shared passions has led to critical and financial success, leading a dynamic and genuinely interesting company that has pursued its goals with clarity, focus and a bucket load of purpose. A business that strives to “Create an Inspiring Environment that Makes People Happy”, Rosa’s is organised around this principal and it has become the yardstick for decision making within the company.

Whether in terms of staff, guests, shareholders, suppliers or the wider community, “happiness” is measurable and something we all want and need in all areas of our lives. And when it comes to an ‘inspiring environment’, this could relate to how the company creates opportunities for its people as much as transporting guests away from their everyday lives, to sunnier climbs and fond food memories of holidays to Thailand. And on an academic level, a great way to measure how the ‘Producers of Happiness’ (we let people choose their own job titles as part of this project) or café managers are maintaining their physical environment and the music, lighting, heating and general tidiness of their sites. I could go on but I hope you get the point.

Veteran brand strategist Robert Bean calls this “The Single Organising Principal” that unlocks and defines everything a company does, and as an aside his new podcast series is really worth a listen.

2. Telling A Compelling Story

Once an organisation has defined its purpose, telling a compelling story as a part of the recruitment and on boarding process is crucial, communicating exactly where the business came from, what kind of organisation the candidates may be joining, and where they can help the business go.

Rosa’s mantra is “Born in the East, Raised in the East End” - perfectly marrying founder Saiphin’s Laotian/Thai roots, meeting husband and co-founder Alex in Hong Kong, and then moving to London to open Rosa’s first as a food stall on Brick Lane and later their first café on Hanbury Street.

We wanted to visually celebrate this journey and meeting of cultures and minds, by creating a timeline that clearly shows Alex and Saiphin’s personal history as much as the progress of the business itself. The keen eyed will notice that that left half of this graphic follows the path of the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok, with the right half following the path of the Thames. The journey concludes with the phrase “Only you can help tell the next part of the story…”

This cornerstone piece if collateral was reinforced with a high energy, engaging induction video, a Rosa’s ‘Storybook’ induction manual, and key in-café collateral available for both staff and guests to see and demonstrating a commitment to transparency in the businesses.

3. Aligning Needs

A clearly defined purpose and a compelling story are great foundations for building culture, but nothing without a commitment to aligning the needs of all stakeholders in the business. For the purposes of last night’s talk, I wanted to focus on the business, its leaders and its teams.

We see key line managers as a conduit for information between those setting the direction of the business and defining its success, and those with their own individual needs and definitions of success who are employed to help the business achieve its goals. Focusing on this crucial group of people is essential. Left to their own devices, managers run the risk of falling into a rescuing, empathetic role when faced with unhappy teams. This jeopardises everyone’s happiness, not to mention the business’ ability to achieve its goals.

“We used to be one big happy family, now it’s just every man for himself” was a telling line we once heard from a floor manager in one of our client’s restaurants.

So if you’re going to invest in one area of your operation, make sure its the managers on the frontline who have a responsibility to translate and reinforce company goals, whilst making sure that the company honours its duty to help each individual on their team achieve their own version of success.

4. Building Culture

Culture is a big word. Hard to define. And brilliantly fluffy. Wikipedia defines it as “the behavior of humans within an organization and the meaning that people attach to those behaviors”. For us, it’s the glue that holds a business together and helps to ensure that everyone cares, and wins from the time they spend interacting with a business. And good culture does not happen by accident or without design. A great place to start is to develop an understanding of how the way people engage, communicate and think about their roles can have a dramatic effect of the overall culture of the business.

With Rosa’s, we explained this using a simple graphic based on the Karpman Drama Triangle (explained in this brilliant YouTube video by Lauren Kress) which seeks to move conversations away from finger pointing to a culture of self-responsibility and positivity. based on the key attributes of transparency, empathy, patience and respect.

“The company doesn’t offer me enough training and they expect me to learn everything myself” is better phrased “A few of us have been talking and we feel that we could benefit from some extra training on [insert specifics].”

5. Build Routine

Rosa’s founder Alex and I share many cultural ideologies, and the stolen phrases and ideas have made both of our lives and businesses better. “Routine will set you free” is one of his favourites, and something I’ve wholly adopted in the way I plan my diary in and out of work.

Defining and building Purpose and Culture needs to be underpinned by structure and routine, and there are many key touch points that can be put in place without enormous investments of time and effort that help to change and improve the way businesses function. Both at Rosa’s and elsewhere, here are some of our top tips -

  1. Hold quarterly “retreats” with key members of your team. Whilst these can be used for a number of purposes; from cultural and communication standpoints, use these days to create ‘squads’ that are cross departmental, non-hierarchical and set up to address a particular area of a business that’s supernumerary to the day to day, and result in a return on investment in People, Purpose or Profit. These squads then have the autonomy to deliver on mutually agreed targets and goals by the next retreat, resulting in a three month sprint in between
  2. Retreats are also great times to send out employee happiness and engagement surveys and Survey Monkey have some great templates for this
  3. Thinking about daily engagement, a ’[email protected]’ meeting or call for ten minutes and 10am each day, is a great way to deal quickly with issues from the previous day, discuss issues around culture and people, and work together to continuously and incrementally improve certain urgent by easy-to-fix issues in the business
  4. Pre-shift briefings are a must for any hospitality business and can be used to communicate guest and staff-centric information, financial targets, and quickly reinforce a particular aspect of your purpose and story if there is a current issue in a particular location
  5. Then thinking about weekly and monthly engagement, and depending on the size and capacity of your business, set repeating events such as a weekly managers conference call on a Monday afternoon and a monthly all-hands meeting and make sure conversations around employee satisfaction and culture are top of the agenda
  6. Annually, there’s nothing like a summer party or Christmas knees up to get your entire workforce together, and both are a great way to end an informative, inclusive day of workshops, presentations, and transparent reflection on how well the business is doing in its pursuit of success, to celebrate achievements of some individuals in the organisation, and create forums to get real, unbiased, honest opinions on the table before setting a plan in place for the year ahead

Making Engagement And Culture Daily Priorities.

Using your purpose and story as a benchmark for everything in your business, and building dialogue around how behaviours and actions match up to expectations is crucial. Only this will ensure that you see the improvements you’re looking for. Make sure these five steps are front of mind and an integral part of your business all day, every day

  1. WHY does the business exist?
  2. WHAT are people buying in to?
  3. HOW do we make it win-win for everyone?
  4. FOSTER a culture of fairness and transparency
  5. MAKE it a daily priority
Article / Beliefs
Want Brand Loyalty? Deliver On The Details
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Article / Beliefs

Want Brand Loyalty? Deliver On The Details

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In the digital world, hotels are continuing to invest heavily in marketing in order to stand out from the crowd as the noise online and on social media continues to increase. Regardless of what we think of them, influencers are now a vital way of attracting customers or guests to your business and brands are harnessing their reach to great effect.

PR agents will continue to tell you that print media and traditional channels are still relevant, and they’re definitely right.

Engaging Marketing.

Operators understand the mechanics of marketing a modern business and how they can conjure up magic with video, photography and copy, reach an audience through influencer marketing, and use social media to open up the doors to a business and tell compelling stories.

But with every element of operations, product and experience now under the spotlight and online for everyone to see, how do operators make sure that customers and guests fall in love with their brand when they first experience it in the flesh, tell everyone they know and then keep coming back for more?

Brand Experience In The Real World.

With the bar and expectations so clearly set, hotels cannot fail to deliver in the real world. Frequently referenced, disruptive hotel brands such as Hoxton, Ace and Citizen M are keeping it cool, community-focused and restrained online, so they can over deliver and exceed expectations in their hotels. There’s no overpromising and underdelivering and this is one of the defining factors contributing to their growth, reputation and success.

Remaining Relevant.

Large groups on the other hand are facing a challenge when it comes to engaging and maintaining the discerning, conscious consumer base they’re so keen to attract; relying heavily on generous loyalty schemes to keep guests committed to staying at their properties.

Corporate challenger brands such as 25 Hours Hotels, in which Accor recently took a stake, are a timely addition to the competitive landscape alongside Marriott’s Moxy and soon to launch Motto by Hilton’s coming out of the world’s two largest hotel groups in an attempt to attract a new audience.

Regardless of star rating or select-service credentials, brand loyalty will be won and lost by delivering on the details during guests’ stays and aligning the brand’s values with those of their guests.

The challenge for the large groups is going to be ensuring they don’t offer a diminished guest experience that will undermine the anticipation created by slick marketing. And with complex, often unclear families of brands, ageing estates and the favoured brand/developer/operator model, stakeholder buy-in presents a real hurdle.

The Essentials.

Here are our top 5 non-negotiables for an on property guest experience that lives up to the marketing hype, and some great examples of how brands are taking this to the next level.

1. Environmental Credentials

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, there is simply no excuse for hotels not to be taking their impact on the world seriously. No one wants to see plastic-packaged snacks or confectionary, plastic-wrapped soap bars or miniature toiletries in their rooms. And no, removing plastic straws is not enough.

Case Studies.

In an effort to keep room rates, and no doubt investment at reasonable levels, Ace Hotel’s ‘Sister City’ hotel in the LES have cut down everything in room to only the essential, stripped-back necessities based on a deep understanding of what the modern traveller needs, and bolstering their environmental credentials to boot.

Here are our top 5 non-negotiables for an on property guest experience that lives up to the marketing hype, and some great examples of how brands are taking this to the next level.

And following on from Soho House’s lead with their in-room Cowshed products in refillable retail packaging that can also be purchased, Kimpton Hotels are now taking a similar approach with their partnership with NYC-based Malin & Goetz as part of their commitment to reduce their reliance on single use plastics across their estate.

2. Coffee

From cool lobby coffee bars to kettles in bedrooms, sachets of Nescafé or anything less than a locally relevant, independent coffee programme is not going to cut it. Guests would rather pay for a premium product than be left with something that doesn’t live up to their high street experience and expectations.

With the premium-isation of coffee now firmly established in the mainstream it’s a simple and cost effective way to really elevate a guest’s experience in room.

3. Technology

It’s staggering that so many hotel brands make it so hard to get online, let alone understand how the modern consumer expects technology to enhance their stay. The large chains must move away from seeing wifi as a revenue making opportunity to a necessity that must be delivered seamlessly. Especially in room, when properties have captured guest data at check-in.

Aside from the basics, smart TVs with access to Netflix, easy-to-operate air-conditioning, and a lighting system that doesn’t require five minutes of experimentation just to turn the whole system off are all pretty essential parts of a satisfying hotel experience.

A multi-country plug including USB right next to the bed is also an absolute essential.

Case Studies.

Looking past the basics, US-based hotel group Life House have recently raised $70 million off the back of their pioneering tech platform which allows guests to connect and network ahead of their stay. Their tech-forward approach includes a mobile app “that serves as your room key, personal concierge, and so much more”.

Room service revitalised, boutique hotel Lokal in Philadelphia have recently launched an iPad service in their rooms, loaded with room service apps allowing guests to order take away or stock their mini bars/pantries from local businesses.

4. A Great Breakfast Experience

Leading on from coffee, a varied breakfast offering that’s fresh, seasonal and locally relevant is a must in today’s hotel market. To succeed, this needs go beyond the buffet, but doesn’t necessarily mean increasing choice.

A concise, considered programme is essential in order to meet the needs of today’s busy business and leisure travellers. This must cater to choice diets, health and indulgence, and be underpinned by the ability to eat in or grab and go.

Increasingly, the new generation of hotels are doing away with buffets, markets and bed and breakfast rates entirely, instead creating great neighbourhood all day restaurants that tap in the local community, give guests a sense of place, and offer an experience and level of product that they’re happy to pay a premium for whilst understanding that many will choose to check out somewhere local for the first meal of the day, rather than sacrifice quality and the opportunity to tick that hot café off their bucket list.

5. A Well Maintained Branded Environment

Guests are less concerned with up to the minute decor, but can be negatively impacted by poorly-considered brand touch points. Poorly presented, dog-eared, tired collateral can really affect a guest’s perception of a hotel.

With guests now wanting to feel part of the local community when staying in hotels, in room collateral presents an opportunity to communicate clearly how seriously the hotel takes its environmental impact and how it contributes positively to the locale.

This needs to focus on what’s going on around the property that guests may be interested in, not just self-promotion of in house facilities, which must of course be carefully considered and beautifully presented.

Stocking co-branded local products in the bathrooms and minibars is also a great way to celebrate a property's local, collaborative credentials.

However, with the drive towards digital continuing, we look forward to the day when printed collateral in room is a thing of the past, save potentially for a cornerstone in-house magazine that keeps print media alive.

Brands such as Park Hyatt, St Regis and Kempinski have partnered with Grey Door Publishing to produce in house magazines for their properties that are aligned perfectly to their brands and focus on individual properties and their surroundings, including attractions, bars and restaurants that are relevant to the properties’ target clientele.

Grey Door say “Each edition is completely unique to the host hotel and city, offering the reader a compelling narrative into the hotel’s services and the city’s culture, encompassing dining, shopping, nightlife and experiential attractions.”

Of course, none of this matters a dime without a great people experience and slick, personable service driven by subtly captured data that is effortlessly deployed. We will follow up soon with a post on this very topic.

Have a good week.

Brands such as Park Hyatt, St Regis and Kempinski have partnered with Grey Door Publishing to produce in house magazines for their properties that are aligned perfectly to their brands and focus on individual properties and their surroundings, including attractions, bars and restaurants that are relevant to the properties’ target clientele.

Grey Door say “Each edition is completely unique to the host hotel and city, offering the reader a compelling narrative into the hotel’s services and the city’s culture, encompassing dining, shopping, nightlife and experiential attractions.”

Of course, none of this matters a dime without a great people experience and slick, personable service driven by subtly captured data that is effortlessly deployed. We will follow up soon with a post on this very topic.

Have a good week.

Article / Beliefs
Veganism - It's Here To Stay
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Veganism - It's Here To Stay

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Veganism. It’s here and, in light of recent climatic emergencies (hallelujah!), it’s very likely here to stay.

Long gone are the days of 2015 when, in the UK at least, the vegetarian option was likely a mere mélange of leftovers tossed with Arborio rice or, at a push, button mushrooms fresh off the field; today’s most successful menus offer an array of vegetable forward options to satisfy the ever demanding flexitarian of 2019.

This is a blatant generalization of course. Places like Ottolenghi, Palomar, Honey & Co, Rasa, Dishoom and Lyle’s have long offered quality vegan options, without feeling the need to dust off the zeitgeist-branded megaphone. And as leading chefs embrace the trend — from Ravinder Bhogal of Jikoni to Chantelle Nicholson of Tredwells and Atul Kochhar of Benares — expect to find more exciting and creative vegetable-focused dishes popping up on regular menus across London. It’s becoming the new normal.

According to The Independent in April 2018, 3.5 million people identify themselves as being vegan in Great Britain and in 2018 the UK launched more vegan products than any nation, resulting in a number of movements connected to veganism that are not merely focused on what we eat, but how we live.

The convergence of ethical consumerism and vegan, vegetarian or plant based eating means that every operator needs to really think about how they cater to both these considerable behavioral changes. Because it’s without question that that party of 5 meat-lovers are going to be swayed by the one vegan in the group when they decide where to part with their hard-earned cash.

Whether hospitality brands are upping their credentials for identity over ethics is by the by, for as long as the consumer continues to vote with their wallet, they remain king and queen of this compassionate equation.

Here are some equally interesting veganic goings on within the hospitality and design space

1. London’s First Vegan Hotel Room

Hilton London Bankside offer London’s first luxury vegan hotel suite. Adorned without leathers nor feathers nor wool and walls lacquered with latex paints and foams, the room uses 100% sustainable, plant-based components. No mean feat.

2. Vegan Interior Design Book

Bringing affordable* vegan luxury into homeward ground, Deborah Dimare’s home edition of Vegan Interiors ensures those with exemplary conscientious credentials can still make considered purchases for our home, albeit at a considered price.

*Expect to pay in excess of £100 for a new soft back

3. Vegan Design

According to Dezeen, vegan interiors are set to become as popular as vegan food.

If you’d like to discuss how Rebel can support with customer insights, menu development and training then we’d love to hear from you.

Article by Barnaby Ingram

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8 Emerging Trends That Will Shape 2019
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8 Emerging Trends That Will Shape 2019

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2018 was a diverse year, with many trends and where “Bit-Coin” was the most googled search word, a robot named Michihito Matsuda ran for mayor in Tokyo, where insects became a socially-accepted menu item, and a huge number of Brits also asked google how to delete “Instagram” and “Facebook”.

Looking forward, here’s our pick of the top eight trends that will dominate our industry in the next year.

The Mega Trend:

Plastic-Free Wave.

The official word of the year for 2018 was “single-use”, People recognised and acknowledged the plastic waste issue in 2018, and it was the year that saw a plastic straw ban in most countries and a number of activists emerging on the issue.

The fact is that recycling is just not enough and in many cases, simply not possible. Great Britain’s Royal Statistical Society announced its statistic of the year, estimating that 90.5% of plastic waste ever made has never been recycled.

If 2018 was the year of awareness and contemplation, 2019 will be the year of action with single plastic-use becoming a firm social taboo this year.

Rebel’s Tip:

Check out our collaborator Dan Webb’s Everyday Plastic Campaign here, which casts a bright light on the enormity of the plastic problem in the UK and what we need to do about it.

Hotel Trends:


Hostels have been a part of the hospitality sector for years now, but are not yet widely acknowledged as being a direct competitor to hotels. However this is rapidly changing.

It’s not only backpackers who are interested in this type of accommodation. In an attempt to stand out from the crowd, hostels are beginning to integrate traditional hotel elements into their projects – such as barista bars, spas, rooftop pools and innovative interior design.

Will 2019 see the beginning of the slow death of traditional, price and function-focused hostel, making way for the unstoppable rise of the poshtel? Maybe not, however expect to see more brands playing in this space this year.

Rebel’s Tip:

Check in to Sydell Group’s FreeHand Hotels in cities across the US, Found Hotel in Chicago, Clink in Amsterdam & London, and Generator hostels in multiple European destinations.


The overall size of a hotel room is shrinking and research shows that millennials, which are business and design-conscious travellers, are interested in following the micro-hotel trend. They are searching for an experience that provides, authenticity, affordability and flexibility in the trendiest parts of cities around the world.

Rebel’s Tip:

Check out our previous blog post for the latests mico-hotel tips and trends here

The Lobby Change.

The lobby of 2019 is becoming a central clubhouse where people can explore various activities according to Hotel Propeller. This important hotel design trend has already caused hotel chains to completely update their lobbies into unique, personalised environments.

2019 will see further innovation in how hotels of all levels are looking to create community-centric lobbies that are so much more than places to just check-in, eat, drink and play.

Behavioural trends:

Joy Of Missing Out (JOMO)

Customers are rebelling against the “always-on” mentality of today’s digitally connected world, with behaviour shifting from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) to a desire to unplug; focusing on authenticity, privacy and the enjoyment of face-to-face and live experiences.

According to an article by Forbes, The JOMO trend is triggered because people only want to participate or attend something when the experience is really valuable and absolutely authentic, since 80% of millennials would choose to spend money on an experience over object.

In general, customers now expect their experience or food to include engaging elements and valued added surprises. If the experience isn’t adding value, consumers increasingly prefer to miss out on it all together. This trend is expected to grow even further in 2019, but specifically in countries like China and South-Korea, since this is where customers are hyper-connected and known for being the front runners of digital connectivity (Thestar, 2018).

Rebel’s Tip:

The bespoke travel company Black Tomato helps travellers disconnect from their ordinary lives by dropping them in secret and remote locations, which ultimately challenges them to find their way back to civilisation without Wi-Fi. See their video for the adventurous ‘Get-Lost’ holiday trip here.


The personalisation trend is on-going and will continue to influence businesses as guests expect to be offered exactly what they want and when they want it. The future predicts a next evolution of personalisation: “Know your guests better than they know themselves” (Hugh Fisher, 2017). If you’re not delivering it, you will fall behind.

Food and beverage trends:

Year Of The Vegan - Vegan Wines

A record number of people have signed up to Veganuary this year, a campaign whereby participants go vegan for the month of Jan and according to industry specialists, such as The Economist and The Guardian, 2019 will be the year of the “vegan”.

Even China is going vegan: research predicts that China’s vegan market will grow more than 17% between 2015 and 2020. And in Hong Kong, 22% of the population reports practicing some form of a plant-based diet.

In 2019, we expect to see a rise of vegan wines in the hospitality industry. Most mainstream and even boutique wines are not vegan at all, since animal products are used in the “fining” process part of the wine.

Rebel’s Tip:

Lidl’s has recently launched vegan wines in their stores, which are purse-friendly too.

Alcohol-Free Beer

We realised this was an important trend when we worked with BrewDog on a project last year. Beer in general continues to be a hot topic, but for 2019 we believe that the alcohol-free or low-alcohol beer will take the stage and conquer many hearts.

A late 2018 survey of beer specialists from the Netherlands revealed that there was a growth of 11% in alcohol-free beer sales in their domestic market. An additional study in the UK revealed that there was 13% domestic growth in the year of 2018 for alcohol-free beer.

Over half of the respondents believe that it is more socially acceptable to drink alcohol-free beer and the fact that most of the millennials are highly focussed on their health. 37% of 18-24 year olds are ‘often influenced’ by how a product affects their health and wellbeing when purchasing an alcoholic drink, and a staggering 34% of 25-34 year olds are ‘always influenced’, according to GlobalData’s 2018 Q3 UK Consumer Survey.

Rebel’s Tip:

Heineken 0.0% are one of the campaign leaders in this segment, the brand’s £6m “Now You Can” campaign is the biggest seen so far for a non-alcoholic beer. Since their launch in March 2017 and has quickly became the fastest growing brand in the alcohol-free segment, growing 187% in the last year.

Inspirational Postcards From 2018
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Inspirational Postcards From 2018

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As 2018 has come to an end, we’ve looked back on all the inspirational and educational places that we’ve been last year.

And what a year it’s been. We work really hard to keep our ears, eyes and taste buds to the ground whether we’re away for work or pleasure. Here’s a summary of some of our team’s top tips from some of the places they’ve been in 2018.

Monica Hanlo / Project Producer


We featured this city's rebirth as a culinary and design destination in our blog post about the most beautiful food halls around the world.

Rotterdam isn’t necessarily what first comes to mind when one thinks of the Netherlands, but it is, in a different way, as charming as the rest of this country.

Since it was bombed and reconstructed, Rotterdam has been a hub for architecture and interior design. And as half of the team is Dutch now a days, I couldn’t not include it in our list.

One of my favourite venues was Heroine, a simple restaurant and bar designed with impeccable taste and restraint.


This art deco heaven was of great inspiration to me for some of our projects this year, including the creation of an art deco-inspired concept for a client in Hertfordshire.

Of particular note was the Delano Hotel, which is a stunning example of the unique and pristinely-kept architecture in the city.

Besides appreciating the beautiful buildings and excellent weather, I of course also had some very lovely meals. Check out our previous blog post for our favourite food and drink spots in the city.


An exotic destination that I visited for leisure and some incredibly rewarding voluntary work with an organisation that supports and rehabilitates abused elephants.

But as hospitality is not only what we do, but also what we like, I visited two very special venues that we wouldn’t hesitate in recommending to anyone visiting Bangkok.

Firstly, afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental Author’s Lounge. And secondly, dinner at two-starred restaurant Gaggan for the most outstanding Indian meal I could have ever imagined.

Ed Francis / Founder and Creative Director

New York

A city I know well but one that, like London, never stands still when it comes to restaurants continuing to up the game and hotels continuing to innovate in a rapidly-changing market.

I spent three weeks in the Big Apple in August: part vacation and part research trip, as all holidays seem to end up being. Here are three of my favourite hangouts/places.

Chinese Tuxedo

Whilst I’ve had better Chinese food in New York, Chinese Tuxedo wins for all round cohesion in its concept, an amazing vibe, great soundtrack and a small but perfectly formed low-intervention wine list. It feels just the right side of authentic, but cuts the mustard with its super friendly and trendy staff, and almost palpable buzz!

Simon and the Whale at The Freehand
Hot on the heels of a visit to the Freehand Chicago a couple of weeks before, this boutique hotel group from the Sydell Group is one I’m watching closely and so far, they seem to be getting everything right.

Their broken shaker bars (and those epic war fries) serve consistently brilliant drinks, and the restaurant Simon and the Whale serves modern American food with flair and attention to detail all day every day.


June is one of those neighbourhood places in Brooklyn that seems to do nothing entirely original yet everything right at the same time. Fab low intervention wine list, seasonal and expertly-produced small plates, counter dining and creative interiors courtesy of designer Oliver Haslegrave of Home Studios, a great local interior design practice. It feels totally of its place and beautifully understated.

Dominican Republic

This summer I visited the Caribbean for the first time and specifically, the north eastern corner of the DR close to Rio San Juan, a largely un-developed part of the island save for neighbouring Amanera which I thoroughly enjoyed having a nose around.

We stayed at Ani Private resorts, a boutique property sleeping 28 guests that is filling an interesting, all inclusive, niche at the top end of the travel market. the property was stunning and as the term luxury is being redefined across the globe, Ani captures the current spirit of the market perfectly.

Fien Brinkman / Business Support and Research Assistant


It is already some time ago, but in early 2018 a gastronomic city trip to Berlin resulted in an educational and indulgent week with many inspirational places.

A visit to the Michelin-starred Nobelhart & Schmutzig could not be missed. The chefs only use produce that can be found in the villages around Berlin, and taking it to the extreme, no olive oil was present in that kitchen!

Besides the food scene, Berlin opened my eyes in terms of sustainability and circularity. The city is full off creative concepts driven by inspirational people who want to provide the next generations with a healthy world.

Next to this, the art galleries, Markthalle Neun and of course the history give ample reasons to pay another visit to Berlin in 2019.


I’ve got to mention one of the most unappreciated area of France here. The Loire, a hidden secret for historical architecture, nature, not-yet discovered wines and of course castles, many castles. A leisure road trip from the Loire to San Sebastian resulted in a rather alcoholic but inspiring trip.

Visiting local wine producers and getting spontaneous private tours in each wine cellar felt special and timeless. The words authenticity and effortless are used to describe the design in the hospitality environment of the Loire. On the contrary, the lively and festive San Sebastian screams bright colours, pintxos, vino verde and ciders. The food scene is outstanding and you can clearly see how good food is central to the Basque culture. Must visits include the restaurants Mugaritz, Nestor and visit a Sidrería House.

From all of us at Rebel, I hope you have enjoyed your christmas and new years. Here’s to exploring more, being inspired more, and working in more interesting locations in 2019!

Article / Insights
Rebels On The Road
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Rebels On The Road

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It’s been a busy year at Rebel and we’ve been fortunate to travel to some amazing destinations for both work and leisure. From sun drenched destinations in The Dominican Republic and Thailand to closer places such as Barcelona and Brussels. From familiar places like India to more remote and unknown places like Kazakhstan. It’s always lovely to go away as a team and therefore one of our favourite trips this year took us on an express trip to the USA to better understand the tier-two city market in the country and to seek some inspiration for a project we’re currently delivering for the Moxy hotel brand in Europe and the US.

We visited a slightly overwhelming thirty five restaurants and bars in six days, but there were some which really stood out. We’ve pulled together some of our favourites here.

New Orleans

We began our trip in New Orleans, the city of Voodoo, Mardi Gras and Beignets. We only spent two nights here but discovered some amazing bars and restaurants.

Bar Tonique

The first place we visited after a long trip, this industry bar served classic cocktails executed to perfection, as well as hand crafted cocktails in a very easy-going atmosphere. The place to be for all of us hospitality people to have some fun and meet some people.

Compere Lapin

Located in The Old No. 77 Hotel in the heart of the Warehouse Arts district, Compere Lapin was not only a highlight in NOLA, but of the whole trip. Caribbean flavours combined with using French and Italian techniques. Sounds complex, but it was simply delicious. Plus, let’s not forget about that strawberry daiquiri and pina colada we had as dessert.

Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits

This BBQ garden felt like the most authentic American experience. Walk in and go through the wine shop to buy your wine, grab a bucket with ice to make it cold, find a spot in the garden, order your BBQ and sit down to enjoy the food and the live Blues & Jazz music. A very cozy night!

Catahoula Hotel

This lovely Indie, boutique hotel near the French Quarter was lovely to visit. Casual and cozy with quirky yet homey decor, and a great Pisco bar and rooftop. A must visit for a cocktail accompanied by live music.


Death & Co

Located in the Ramble Hotel in Downtown Denver, Death & Co have taken everything that they’ve become famous for in New York , and created a craft cocktail lobby bar with a wide selection of sipping spirits. Besides the creative and great tasting cocktails, the lounge itself has a speak easy vibe, with dark heavy curtains and exquisite glassware.

5280 Burger Bar

We are always up for a burger and could not leave the US without having had one. And so we did… but what was even more special at this burger bar were the fried pickles and the “Shaketinis” (milkshakes with booze of all sorts), we literally couldn’t have asked for a better American dinner.

The Family Jones

A restaurant and distillery that is outstanding at both things. Although not much food was ordered (due to the burgers before), everything we did have was sensational. We were impressed by their full lab in which they infuse all kinds of spirits and produce an extensive range of distillates.


Three Dots and a Dash

A speakeasy tiki bar hidden in Chicago’s River North streets. Not only were the cocktails truly tiki, but the glassware and garnishes were outstanding. From mermaid tail stirrers and tropical flowers, to bespoke mugs we were truly impressed by how they managed to make each of their many drinks look and taste unique and different from one another. We must admit, we couldn’t help ourselves and stole one or two mermaid tails…

Bad Hunter

As the name implies, Bad Hunter is a veg-forward restaurant. In an area with many great and renowned restaurants such as Au Cheval and Girl & The Goat, this place still manages to stand out with in-season quality food and great cocktails. Besides the quality of the actual food and drinks, they deserve so much credit for their creativity in the menu design and excellent name (we should never underestimate the power of a good restaurant’s name).

Chicago Athletic Association

Known due to its heritage and excellent bars designed to provide and experience, the CAA is a must visit in Chicago. Not only is this a hotel in a beautiful building, it also has great entertainment and food and beverage areas such as the games room (fuelling our new-found shuffle-board addiction), rooftop, coffee shop and speakeasy amongst others.

We took many things, from inspiration and ideas, to network contacts and a GREAT time. What we are doing with it? That will be revealed soon! stay tuned to see the progress of our cocktail development work with Moxy.

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Making Music Work For Your Brand
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Making Music Work For Your Brand

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It’s no secret that in today’s saturated hotel and restaurant markets, brands who can drive emotional engagement through their music programming are winning over and retaining audiences in spaces where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd.

We’re continuing to see real innovation in the sectors, and a key element of this is how different operators are approaching music and programming; and developing a key point of view around how this is communicated. And this is being approached from a variety of angles.

DJs turning their hand to food and drink

Last week saw actor-turned-DJ Idris Elba bolstering his musical credentials by opening his intimate, exclusive bar The Parrot at the Waldorf Hilton in London’s Aldwych, which will feature a programme of DJ’s and live music performances tailored to a discerning, connected audience who know how to manipulate a tricky guest list.

Carl Clarke’s continued success with Chick n’ Sours to some degree proves the theory that DJ’s can successfully transfer their appeal and reputation over to an industry that clearly takes its musical credentials seriously. We were however sad to see local favourite and Krankbrother brainchild Beagle in Hoxton close this year after a decent run in a great space.

Vinyl is back and here to stay

When Brawn on Columbia Road opened its door what seems like decades ago, their turntable and record collection were key features of the dining and drinking experience. This is something that we’re continuing to see prevail, including at recently opened Michelin starred Leroy in Shoreditch where the crackle and imperfections of listening to vinyl is as charming as the pauses between tracks.

We also saw this in action on a recent trip to Chicago, where we popped into the Fox Bar at Soho House to browse their growing vinyl library directly adjacent to the bar.

In other news our relatively new neighbour Mare Street Market, houses a record store called Stranger Than Paradise on site that encourages guests to physically interact with – and take home – the music that they hear playing in the venue. They join the now constantly referenced and locally loved Ace Hotel London Shoreditch who run vinyl haven Sister Ray out of a previously unloved corner of their property.

Just up the road in Dalston, our favourite mid-week hangout Brilliant Corners, has recently opened an extension to their perfectly put together restaurant and bar, that now houses their ‘Giant Steps’ vintage travelling sound system in a semi-private drinking and dining room.

Just add coffee

Pressure from growing rents and rates has prompted traditional retail businesses to consider adding an element of f&b to their operations, and we recently spoke to Appear Here about how we’re increasingly seeing this in the fashion industry. However it’s become a staple of the record shop resurgence too, fuelled by a rise in vinyl sales and the continued proliferation of great coffee into the farthest corners of retail.

We turn to Lion Coffee + Records and The Book and Record Bar for great examples of how this is really working for operators looking to draw in an audience, keep them in store for longer, and drive ancillary revenue at the same time.

3 Tips to make music work for your venue

So whilst we can all enlist the hottest DJs in town to put their names to our bars, or add record shops to our lobbies there are certain things that all operators can do to maximise on the positive effects of putting music at the heart of their guest experiences. Here are our top picks.

Invest in local collaborations

Unless you’re confident you really know what you’re doing (or you employ someone who does) then don’t try and go it alone. Find a programming partner that’s local to your business, who gets your audience, and who is able to create playlists that suit your vibe and your opening hours.

This could be a company such as MAV music which will create evolving playlists around an agreed brief, a local record label or a DJ/producer with whom you can set up a win-win, long term relationship.

Keep it fresh

Playlist curation isn’t a one time thing. The last thing you want is for your regular guests to grow tired of the same playlists day in day out. Invest in the commitment to regular updates to your playlists, and consider extending this to lobby or bar programming on busier nights to give guests another reason to come back to your venue.

Get the tempo and volume right

The volume that your music is played at will help determine how and what your guests order, as it has a direct impact on heart rate and arousal.

Want your guests to indulge and reach for unhealthier options or push the boat out? Turn it up! Whereas if your goal is to create a more mindful, healthier approach then keep the volume knob turned down.

According to a recent article on, “the pace of your overhead music also has a strong impact on how your customers eat and drink. Choosing the wrong speed could have different impacts on your diner’s experiences even if you pick the right genre, volume, and mix.

The National Restaurant Association recently shared some eye-opening statistics about customer behaviour and music:

Customers chew food 30% faster when they listen to uptempo music, decreasing eating times and increasing table turnover.

Men buy more drinks when they listen to uptempo music and drink them faster.

Customers increased the average ticket size of their bill by 23% while listening to slower music. This is attributed to customers buying more drinks and other add-ons (like dessert and coffee) that typically have high-profit margins for restaurants.

Get in touch

We’d love to hear from operators and businesses who have invested in interesting approaches to getting their music right, connecting with their audience and driving engagement. We’d also love to hear about what didn’t work, and what people have tried and failed at.

Please do get in touch.

Article / Beliefs
Is The Future Co-Living?
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Article / Beliefs

Is The Future Co-Living?

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While researching the Co-living, Co-working, Long Stay and Student accommodation scene for a project, we realised that the overarching theme throughout this research seemed to be smaller, simply appointed and well designed rooms and engaging, community-spirited communal areas that appeal to an ‘experiences over possessions’ audience that are broadly, but not exclusively, millennials.

However, throughout the research we realised that many of the brands in this market are VERY similar and essentially re-packaging the same core product (sorry to be pessimistic here). This raised several questions that we think are worth discussing such as, how are different brands differentiating? and achieving their price-points? We of course realise the importance of the individual brands and the emotional connection they carry with the audience could prove to be the leading differentiator, but see other questions arising.

Bigger Questions Around Co-living

The broader context of this research is that today’s workforce is no longer aligned to the housing market that proliferates big cities. Is co-living the long term solution to this, or do genuine and lasting solutions to this problem exist elsewhere?

As part of our research into co-living, we looked at brands such as The Collective and Roam, plus other innovations such as Y:Cube and Fish Island Village, both in London; and how co-living may provide solutions to challenges in the retirement community space.

However, on a fundamental level, whilst dorms and communal kitchens may suit students and graduates down to the ground, we believe that in order to achieve a sizeable shift in behaviour and mass-market penetration, we need to think carefully about what co-living looks like on a medium to long terms basis as residents move through to settling down, marrying and having children. What are the medium to long terms effects of having such minimal personal space, favouring ‘communities’ and interaction over relaxation, time alone and dealing with the core societal, environmental and technological developments that many believe are challenging our ability to be happy?

A Disconnect Between Vision and Reality

Throughout this research a common theme emerged, centring on a polarisation of opinion when it comes to delivering on the objectives and aspirations of co-living.

At The Collective in north London, a tenant was quoted when talking about his experience, as saying that ‘at the end of the day, you’re stuck between a cupboard and a door”. Another said that “services and facilities are under used and [that] it’s always the same 50 – 60 people you see which means the community feel is missing. In the same article, the author wrote that “it’s not the case that everyone at the Collective sees the social upside of living here, with a handful of residents saying the majority of people aren’t interested in meeting anyone”.

Finally, another resident was quoted as saying “it’s not much more than a glorified student dorm”.

In contrast to this, innovators, operators and industry paints a very different picture of the opportunity, the sector and the potential for growth. Soho House founder Nick Jones, said of his interest in exploring opportunities in the sector that “for people that come out of university, people who are doing startups, accommodation can be incredibly expensive in London and if we can find places in non-expensive areas but do it in a certain style, in a certain sort of way, then we think there might be a good following for that”.

He went on to say that “This whole space where people want to work together rather than at the kitchen table or in the Starbucks or in Soho House; where they want to have a community, a communal work space. I think that is definitely moving over to living space as well”.

Residents of Roam in Chelsea were more upbeat, with one quoted as saying that it feels “more boutique hotel than youth hostel”. But with rates starting at £2,800.00 per month it’s not hard to see why this would be the expectation and the reality. One resident who had moved over from New York said that “if people are used to rents in San Francisco, New York or Seoul, as a lot of these globetrotters are, £2,800 a month ‘seems reasonable’”.

Interestingly, Roam London is now closed and their international growth toward their objective of “building a global community without borders” seems to be pedestrian at best, with outlets in Tokyo, Bali, Miami and San Francisco and no current London location despite this being cited as imminent in a reference article dated late 2016. Does this suggest that global potential and scalability may be more of a challenge than operators initial thought?

What About The Long Term?

COO of the Collective James Scott commented that “demand for this type of accommodation –where everything from washing-up liquid to toilet roll is supplied – is soaring. In every other industry you’ve got an ownership model and you’ve got a service model,” he said. “The property market doesn’t have that.” He went on to say that the movement reflects how young people, who accept they can’t get a foot on the property ladder, now value experiences over possessions, before pointing to Uber, rental bike and car services, mobile phone contracts, Netflix and Kindle as examples of how Generation Y are choosing to do away with belongings.

Whilst this may be true, we can’t help considering whether taking the logic behind the “sharing economy” and discretionary investment in depreciating assets, and applying this to the safety net, security and investment in the future that underpins property investment is realistic or sensible.

Not Just For Nomads And Freelancers

Looking to the US market, it’s interesting that Common founder Brad Hargreaves has seen more city workers among his Brooklyn tenants than freelancers and people in the creative sector. “We weren’t getting global nomads and freelancers, we were getting people who worked normal jobs in the city”, he said. “It costs around £250/week to live in a co-living space, making it 25% cheaper than a studio and about 25% more expensive than finding a room on Craigslist”.

He too has seen a shift in attitude in what renters want, he said: “What we’ve seen is a desire for experiences over ownership. Dollars are being spent on experiences as opposed to purchasing things that you own for a long period of time. I don’t know whether this is good or bad, but I think we are part of that trend.”

Planning And Development Considerations

A Southwark (a borough in South London) planning officer was quoted as saying that he didn’t underhand why “developers can’t just deliver standard housing” and that his council “remained to be convinced” of the concept, as people should not be “forced through economic necessity to live in very small flats”. Whilst this may indeed be missing the points of co-living as a concept, it is worth noting that buy in from decision makers is going to be pivotal in the large scale growth that innovators in the space are hoping to achieve.


From the limited research that we’ve undertaken it is clear that the co-living sector has some time to go before one optimum model or brand emerges, and achieves the objective of national or international scalability and a fundamental and permanent shift in the way that a significant-enough audience wishes to live.

There is certainly evidence that corroborates the viability of the emerging co-living model as part of a nascent lifestyle that certainly suits a sector of society. Also, what is certain is that in many major cities, the current solution to housing is not serving the population. But whether co-living emerges as being the prevailing solution to this remains to be seen.

We feel the key opportunity is to genuinely and successfully bridge the gap between brand aspiration and reality from tenants, creating buildings that fulfil needs and focus on wellbeing and contentedness over simply assembling all the features and facilities that make up the lifestyles and requirements of an emerging sector of society. Packing these with clever branding under the guise of filling the community void missing from the “lonely” lives of today’s millennial, will be the way to go.

Finally, putting innovation aside and looking at this from a return and asset-sweating point of view, it would be interesting to understand what could be created that is unique whilst offering maximum return on investment.

Do you have a different opinion on co-living spaces? Or did we miss anything you think is important to consider in this scene? Get in touch!

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5 Beautiful Food Halls Around The World
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5 Beautiful Food Halls Around The World

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2018 is definitely shaping up to be the year that market halls in London come of age. With the opening of three new venues under the Market Hall brand, our new local favourite Mare Street Market right below our office, and Ichiba, the Japanese food hall opening in Westfield London there’s plenty of evidence that we’re moving on as a city from the established torchbearers such as Dinerama and Hawker House at the trendy end of the spectrum, and The Ned at the luxury end of the market.

It’s interesting to see operators’ different approaches to curating their offerings, some including strong retail elements whilst others focus firmly on eating and drinking on site in vast communal seating areas.

Whatever the approach, these developments in the market are signalling a shift in the way consumers want to eat and drink out at a time when the casual end of the restaurant market is seeing its biggest shake-up in years.

We’ll be watching this space closely over the coming months, but in the meantime we’ve had a scout around the world and taken a look at some food hall inspirations in other cities.


This is a popular spot for both tourists and locals. Besides an excellent food hall (Foodhallen) with a great variety of food options, there is also a cinema, craft shop, bike shop, hair dressing academy amongst other cool concept stores. Originally a tram shed, the building is now a hub for culture, fashion, food and crafts.


After being wrecked by hurricane Katrina and following a three year refurbishment, St. Roch Market has reopened its doors in its original location and is stronger than ever. With its high ceilings, white walls and original steel columns, this market leaves us speechless in terms of design. But also, whether it is artisanal grab-and-go goods, gourmet groceries from local vendors, or craft cocktails, this market has it all in terms of local and delicious food, drinks and goods. A must-visit in New Orleans.


This is an oldie, but when it comes to Spanish food, the food hall in San Miguel is the best option to try it all. From boquerones, to jamon and manchego to paella, you can find a seat and eat fresh products with a great glass of sangria.


With numerous cafes, restaurants and counters full of fresh produce, this market is the best for trying Swedish delicacies. But besides outstanding food, this market from the 1880’s is keeping up with an industry that is revolving more rapidly than ever and is currently going through a landmark renovation that we’re sure will be amazing.


Besides the more famous Markthall in Rotterdam that we all know due to its outstanding architecture, there is a more crafty and more local market worth visiting. In a warehouse by the waterside, Fenix Food Factory is home to fresh local products prepared for you on the spot as well as other craft products such as cider, beer and cheeses.

What are the most beautiful food halls or markets that you have been to? Get in touch!

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Why Fashion And Food Are Becoming Fast Friends
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Why Fashion And Food Are Becoming Fast Friends

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“The modern consumer looks to align themselves with experiences and brands that positively affirm their lifestyle, or are inspirational in some way. A relatively easy way to achieve this is through an element of food and beverage.”

Ed Francis is the Founder and Creative Director of the The Rebel Agency and works with brands to conceptualise and install bars and restaurants worldwide. He knows the way to a customer’s heart is (partly) through their stomach and, from international luxury behemoths like Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani through to single-site independents like Aida in London or Away in New York, the future is food and everyone’s hungry.

The concept of cafes in a shop is nothing new, of course. Department stores have traditionally had areas where shoppers can refuel – their key purpose: keeping the customer in the building. At the higher end, Bloomingdales in New York has various restaurant options, while Selfridges in London has just upped the ante by opening a summer pop-up rooftop restaurant with premium Italian restaurant group, San Carlo. But more recently, it’s the fashion brands who are leading the way with creative collaborations.

In 2013, Hackett opened its Beefeater 24 bar above its Regent Street flagship store. Managing Director, Vicente Castellano, told the Business of Fashion they hoped to “build a full luxury shopping experience for the Hackett customer” while boosting that all-important dwell time in the same stroke. “It is widely known that men do not necessarily spend a great deal of time in stores when shopping, so we felt that free gin and tonics were a great incentive to increase browsing time and ultimately increase sales.” It’s still going strong and has been featured in numerous GQ style guides, as has Ralph Lauren’s Ralph’s Coffee & Bar and Burberry’s cafe, Thomas’s.

Although it’s hard to attribute exactly how much these concessions contribute to the final bottom line, the broader facts speak for themselves: a study by the United States Department of Agriculture found that millennials were spending 44% of their ‘food dollars’ on eating out, while the UK coffee shop market is enjoying high-astronomical growth, rising by 37% since 2011.

Combine these head-turning numbers with the millennials’ fierce brand devotion and you’ve got what appears to be a no-brainer: “If you look at millennial behavior – though it’s going on beyond millennials now – they’ll tell you that they don’t like to be sold to,” says Ed Francis. “The reality is that we’re fiercely loyal to brands and we want these brands to evolve.” Where evolution used to mean branded pencils, now it’s single-estate coffee and artisan sandwiches.”

He continues: “as with all things, it’s not quite as straightforward as this. Your first major consideration should be – presuming you are working in collaboration with another brand or partner – that both sides are marching to the same tune. The culture of the businesses involved needs to be aligned. It has to be a win-win. It has to fit with the cultural DNA.”

In San Francisco, last month, online skincare and beauty brand Glossier activated a month-long pop-up in the city’s Rhea’s Cafe. It secured coverage from titles like Elle, Vogue and Hello! and while cafe owner, James Choi, told Eater he “thought it was insane at first”, he changed his mind after sitting down with Glossier’s CEO, Emily Weiss. “She founded her company because she didn’t like what the market was offering,” Choi told Eater. “When I first started my sandwich shop as someone not from the food industry, I wanted a platform for people to enjoy the food without hassle, and she felt the same.”

In a world where olfactive branding is a thing, the issues of smell should not be discounted either. The aroma of roasted coffee might evoke memories of slow Sunday mornings for most, but will it work twirling the rails of your beautiful clothes? Ditto noise: will steaming coffee machines or the sound of ice in glasses interfere with the serene atmosphere you’ve lovingly created? Only you can answer that. The question is simple: in the world where experience is king, what do you want yours to be?

Originally Published on Appear Here

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Top 4 Interior Design Comebacks
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Top 4 Interior Design Comebacks

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What goes around comes around they say. Though this is not only for karma, we have also seen this in interior design trends. Trends that were popular decades ago are making their way back into 2018. Whether it is surfaces, materials or furnishings, they are being reinterpreted and suddenly reappearing into our lives.

1920 -1930’s Art Deco

Whether in its original form or a reinterpretation of art deco, the roaring 20’s have been revived. Last year was all about velvet and metallic finishes, and still, a key influence for this year. But adding to this decade, we see dark woods, sumptuous fabrics such as jewel-toned velvets and the use of materials such as marble and semi-precious stones to get that elegant feeling from the lavish cocktail and champagne decade.

We particularly like XU and Epoca’s interiors which both feel unmistakably deco whilst completely current.

1950’s Rattan

Rattan continues to be a go-to material for both, indoors and outdoors. Whether it’s chairs, tables, vases or even lamps, we see this originally Indian material coming back and making its way even into the most luxurious spots, as shown here in La Forêt Noire in Chaponost.

1950’s – 1980’s Bold to Pastel Colours

We saw mid-century bold colour palettes coming back when everything became bright pink, but this year we’re seeing more and more colour. Whether a statement chair, a fridge or a full colourful kitchen, we’re seeing bright yellows, greens and purples coming back. However, at the same time, pastel colours remain popular. From pink and peach to mustard and jade green we see these colours taking over and especially when combined with black or metallic details. Whether it is pastel like at SHUGAA in Bangkok or Bold like at Oretta in Toronto, we see colours everywhere especially inspired by graphic patterns.

1970’s Terrazzo

Terrazzo is a material that can be found so commonly, yet it is often under appreciated. A common use for this material was for public floors at, for example, train stations. However, we see Terrazzo coming back as more than just a long lasting floor, but a material to design outstanding lamps (like the ones below from 1stdibs) , and beautiful tables, just like the central island and tables in one of our latest projects, Sapling in Dalston.

We love seeing old trends coming back and reinterpreted for the current day. Did we miss any that you think will take over 2018?

Get in touch!

Article / Beliefs
World Earth Day- 5 Simple And Stylish Ways To Reduce Your Plastic Usage
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Article / Beliefs

World Earth Day- 5 Simple And Stylish Ways To Reduce Your Plastic Usage

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We’ve all seen the horrifying images of the Sperm Whale who washed up on the Spanish coast in February, having reportedly ingested 64 pounds (28kg) of plastic. This is yet another stark reminder that we have a huge global plastic problem that can no longer be ignored.

Reducing our plastic consumption and that of our projects is something that we’ve been thinking about a lot at Rebel, thanks in no small part to our collaborator Dan Webb’s incredible Everyday Plastic campaign which has been gaining momentum of late. So ahead of Earth Day on Sunday 22nd April, we thought now would be the perfect time to pull together our top 5 most inventive and stylish solutions to reducing plastic consumption, swapping out single use and disposable items with products that look and feel as good as they are for the planet.

1. Stay Sixty water bottles

They say – “Meet Stay Sixty, the beautifully crafted reusable water bottle designed to fit effortlessly into your daily routine. Our bottles are easy to clean & easy to carry, meaning you can concentrate on life’s little adventures. Meet your new favourite accessory”

We say – Designed down the road from us in Dalston, we love how these bottles look and feel and swapping out single use plastic bottles for one in our favourite colour was a no brainer

Everyday Plastic says – “The proposed Deposit Return Scheme is a step in the right direction, but having your own refillable and reusable water bottle is the most cost-effective in the long run”

2. Frank Green Smart Cups and Smart Bottles

They say – “What we make is innovative products that are stylish, functional and great for our environment. The kind you want to carry with you. They are SmartCups and SmartBottles. Our aesthetic is refined and pared back in shape, letting you enhance your natural and authentic style. Our products are an interplay of bold colours, tonal hues and soft pastels. Ideal for the minimalist, the maximalist, or anyone in between.”

We say – If you love matching accessories as much as we do, then you could do a lot worse than getting yourself a cup and bottle from the enormous range of colours and materials that Frank Green now offer.

Everyday Plastic says – “Sustainable, sexy and smart. What more do you need!”

3. Adidas x Parley Ocean Plastic Trainers

They say – “We are working with Parley to prevent plastic entering our oceans and transform it into high performance sportswear. Spinning the problem into a solution. The threat into a thread.

We say – Certain members of the Rebel team (read, Ed) have a bit of a thing for Adidas and therefore we couldn’t resist including these game changes trainers in this list, even if they are a little outside of our usual MO.

Everyday Plastic says – “Given that only 1% of clothing is recycled, this is not only makes a great-looking show, but also a statement about what can be done with recycled plastic”

4. Surfers Against Sewage Bamboo Cutlery

They say – “Being super lightweight it is perfect for taking on picnics or eating out, this functional set works just as well as any other plastic equivalent, but can be used over, and over again, and the bamboo feels smooth in the mouth like any other cutlery.

We say – As daily “Grab and Goers” who regularly eat at our desks, we’ve become really conscious of how much disposable flatware, container and cutlery we use. In addition to making an effort to pick up lunch or order from restaurants and cafés that don’t use plastic packaging, we’ve moved using Bamboo cutlery too.

Everyday Plastic says – “Plastic cutlery is a scourge and given our love for grab-and-go lunches, we are using more plastic forks and spoons than ever. These are beautiful, sustainable and most importantly, reusable”

5. Ecoffeecup Bamboo fibre reusable cup

They say – “Ecoffee Cup is a new generation of reusable takeaway cup. Created with the world’s fastest growing, most sustainable crop – bamboo fibre, Ecoffee Cup is BPA and phthalate free. If you haven’t experienced Ecoffee Cup, it feels a bit like thick, yet super-light cardboard; hard to believe it can hold hot liquids.

We say – 100% plastic free cups that are lovely to drink from, long lasting, and super easy to clean. If you want a cost effective, genuinely nice-to-use solution to all those single use coffee cups and lids, then this is it

Everyday Plastic says – “Waitrose has recently announced that it will stop selling disposable coffee cups. They sell around 52 million per year, so it’s a huge statement. Bamboo is really coming into its own in the manufacture of sustainable products, and it’s great to see these cups last long and look lush.”

We’d love to hear from producers of innovative solutions for reducing plastic waste, and from businesses who have implemented initiatives and great ideas to reduce the amount of plastic they use as part of their operations.

And if you would like to speak to us about ways that we can support your business with reducing its environment impact or operating sustainably and responsibly, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Article / Insights
Our Favourite Food and Drink Spots in Miami
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Our Favourite Food and Drink Spots in Miami

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Besides having an incredible amount of STUNNING art deco buildings, Miami also has many great restaurants. From Wynwood, to Miami Beach, to rooftops we couldn’t resist trying all the great places that are out there, even if that meant having two dinners in one night. So here is a list of our favourite spots, which we most definitely recommend for your next visit.


Our ultimate favourite and not the first time we visited, but after our first experience, there was no doubt we had to come back. KYU is an Asian fusion restaurant in Wynwood with excellent cocktails and food to die for. If you are there, you have to try the cauliflower, soft shell crab buns and the truffle gyozas. But even better, choose the chefs menu and let the cool staff bring you their signature dishes and favourites.

Doheny Room at Delano Hotel

This hotel is remarkable before you even walk into it due to its classic art deco architecture. When walking in, they have several F&B outlets, but their bar Doheny is definitely one of our favourites. With neon lights, velvet couches and delicious cocktails this bar is perfect for a drinks night out in a stylish and cosy atmosphere.

Matador Room at The EDITION Hotel

As the name of this restaurant suggests (Matador in Spanish means bullfighter), the restaurant setting is a Spanish inspired bullfighting ring, where you can eat delicious Spanish and Latin inspired food with a modern twist made. We were big fans of their avocado pizza, simple ingredients but made to perfection.

Sugar at East Hotel

Besides great drinks and decor, Sugar has the most stunning views over the city. Seeing the Miami skyline is a must when in the city, and what better than Asian-influenced snacks and dazzling cocktails to go with it.


Wynwood again. Like most trendy neighbourhoods, this was a gehtto that got some investment and became one of the hippest areas in the city. Thus, there is no doubt the most amazing restaurants set up here (2 of our 5 favs). So last, but definitely not least, Alter is a full 5 or 7 course dining experience in an industrial setting that merge together beautifully with exquisite food in a fun atmosphere with excellent music.

Think we’re missing something, or want to suggest something to add to the list? Get in touch!

(Image credits: KYU, Alter, Food for Thought Miami, Delano Hotel, East Hotel, The EDITION Hotel)

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Article / Beliefs
Why Small Businesses Should Take Social Responsibility Seriously
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Why Small Businesses Should Take Social Responsibility Seriously

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We live in a world of unprecedented opportunity, where thriving both holistically and in within the traditional definitions of success has never been more real. As a high school dropout from a small Oxfordshire town, I always feel the utmost gratitude for being part of a society which made my journey to date possible, whilst being impatiently excited about what the future holds. A society where I can start and grow a small business that ticks my personal boxes whilst fulfilling my professional aspirations. The ‘start up’ culture that facilitates entrepreneurship and allows passionate, driven individuals to build their work around a life that they love really is an incredible part of our time. Yet in the pursuit of personal goals it’s easy to forget about those less fortunate, and about the global impact that we have on the environment. Current vital hot topics notwithstanding.

According to, 70.1% of the world’s population holds only 3% of global wealth, meaning that just under 30% of the population own the remaining 97%. And we all know that economic disparity is steadily increasing. And whilst globalisation and a mobilised workforce are both great for us as individuals and our countries and cultures, the impact that this is having on our planet is as scary as the need to address it is urgent.

CSR Must Exist Across Business Of All Shapes And Sizes

Small businesses are the backbone of every economy and together, are a force to be reckoned with. The Federation Of Small Businesses in the UK states that the combined annual turnover of UK SMEs was £1.9 trillion in 2017. 51% of all private sector turnover in the UK.

CSR policies and programmes have been a key part of large companies for many years. No self-respecting organisation can operate without one. But as small business, we have a duty to think about how we can, individually and collectively, play our part in working towards a world where we are mobilised to address some of the key issues of our time and of the future. I know the stresses and pressures of running and growing a small business as much of the next person. This has been the subject of many after-work beers at our WeWork base in east London. Especially amongst those of us who care as much about impact as we do about profit.

The discussion always centres on where we can start and what we can do that’s easy, manageable and inline with our personal interests and professional goals.

A Business That Works For Everyone

At The Rebel Agency one of our key mantras is ” A Business That Works For Everyone: Our Clients, Our Collaborators, Our Community”. This means many things to us and to our network, and as a business that works with clients around the world our community has come to be borderless and non-geographic. It’s come to mean thinking carefully about how we can deal with the environmental impact of our activities wherever it is that we work, and about how we can have a sustained and measurable impact on those global citizens who need it most.

For almost a decade I’ve made frequent visits to Calcutta, India where I’ve developed a deep and lifelong relationship with and NGO called The Hope Foundation, and some of the children and young adults that I have committed to supporting so that they can thrive against all odds and in spite of the situation into which they were born. This was a personal endeavour for a long time, until I realised the increased impact we could have if I started thinking about it as part of our business. This is imminently being formalised as we put the finishing touches to a charitable foundation of our own, which will collect funds in the UK to support a dedicated project in the city and I’ll be writing about this soon.

But for now, let’s keep it simple.

We recently signed up to a fantastic organisation called One Percent For The Planet, committing one percent of our net revenues to support non-profits that are working on some serious global issues such as climate change, clean oceans, pollution and access to safe drinking water. This was the easiest thing we’ve ever done and we’re really excited about tapping in to their community of members and even collaborating on some projects.

In addition to this, we’ve committed to running a match fund for all our clients, so we have the potential to donate an additional percentage of revenues to organisations of our own choice and ultimately, to our own Foundation. Clients have the opportunity to donate a percentage of a project fee themselves.

Two percent of our turnover seemed achievable and realistic, whilst allowing the team and our clients to engage with some really impactful organisations in a simple and effective way. Of course as a growing agency, our cashflow is often something we have to watch closely, but we’ve never been more sure that this is the right thing to do and haven’t looked back since making the commitment.

It Has To Be Genuine

With so many crucial and often critical challenges facing our immediate communities and the world at large, there is something for everyone and as small businesses, we have the power to collectively have a sustained impact on the world. I believe it’s time we all take our responsibilities seriously and, if we scratch beneath the surface we can find ways of getting involved with causes that matter to us, whilst putting them at the heart of our businesses for everyone’s benefit.

We can all find something we care about, and with a little thought and commitment, together we can have such an impact wherever we wish.

We’d love to hear from other small companies and learn about what you’ve done to do your bit, how you’ve managed this efficiently and effectively, without the burden of administration and without hampering cashflow.

Drop us an email. We look forward to hearing from you.

Ed and the Rebel team x

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6 Things We Dig In Delhi
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6 Things We Dig In Delhi

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2018 looks like another year of exciting projects in the subcontinent as we continue to yo-yo in and out of India. As part of the development and launch of a new café brand in Gurgaon, we’ve dug deep to unearth some seriously interesting, talented people and companies in the Delhi region. These 6 awesome creative companies have captured our attention above everyone else and reminded us of how lucky we are to be able to spend time in such an exciting country.

Taxi Fabric

Set up by our very talented pal Sanket Avlani, Taxi Fabric has given taxi drivers, rickshaw-walas and now buses in India the ultimate tool to stand out from the crowd. Working with emerging designers to create amazing textile designs that narrate Indian stories, the platform has taken the iconic taxi culture in India to the next level. Founded in Mumbai, but spreading to Delhi, Taxi fabric has launched 36 fabulous designs. Here are some of our favourites:

As we are all about food, it is no surprise we fell for this Delhi’s Belly taxi.

A cause we strongly stand for, designed by Indian illustrator and graphic designer, Kruttika Susarla. Also the creator of the Feminist Alphabet.

No. 3 Clive Road

As organic and local tea production continuous to increase, No. 3 Clive Road stands out with their hand blended teas and gorgeous premium letter-pressed stationery also used for their packaging, and available for sale.

The Gourmet Jar

The word “chutney” is derived from the Hindi word चटनी (chaṭnī), so when writing about India, how could we not think of chutney? The Gourmet Jar caught our eye with their range of handmade chutneys and other gourmet condiments, as well as their mission to empower women in India to work and be able to support their families.


Founded by Anand Ahuja in 2012, bhane is a contemporary clothing brand built upon the idea that brand names don’t matter. Their belief in creating a culture of individuality and freedom led them to open their fist concept store in Meherchand Market, New Delhi, which besides a clothing store has a small yet lovely cafe to complete the bhane experience.

Likewise, bhane encourages (and does and excellent job at proving) the belief that India should not only be seen as a manufacturer, but also a leader in apparel design.


Nimai is a handcrafted and artisanal jewellery community with more than 80 jewellery artists from the Indian subcontinent. All work is absolutely stunning, but it was their exclusive collection, “wear a promise”, that we liked the most.

PROMISE is a bangle with a compartment to store a handwritten vow to oneself or to someone. Beautiful jewellery, for a beautiful cause. The first promise is to Laxmi Agarwal, who was attacked and had acid thrown at her face. “wear a promise” wants to encourage hope and change by promising 3% of their sales to improving Laxmi’s future.

Nappa Dori

Last but definitely not least, Nappa Dori, which literally means ‘leather and thread’, has outstanding leather goods handcrafted by artisans. We love the mix of design and craftsmanship that they bring and particularly adore this postman-style bag adorned with a print of Chennai’s railway station.

Pick us up over on Instagram for further details and a sneak peak at our upcoming Gurgaon café project and everything else that we’re up to. And as always, get in touch if there’s ever anything you’d like to chat about.

Cheers – team Rebel

(Image credits – Taxi Fabric, No. 3 Clive Road, The Gourmet Jar, bhane, Nimai, Nappa Dori)

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Micro-Living, Less - But Better
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Micro-Living, Less - But Better

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Late last year we dived into the subject of co-living in this post whilst researching for a project in Brooklyn NY. Inspired by the success and imminent expansion of Amsterdam’s Zoku hotel, we looked at the convergence of micro-living with long-stay hotels, as the long-stay hotel sector continues to innovate; partly due to the continued success of AirBnB and the opportunities that this has created for the sector.

This, coupled with housing shortages in many cities, the rising cost of living that this creates, and a rise in the number of people looking to stay away from home longer are creating opportunities to differentiate from the competition, or cash in on an increasing acceptance of smaller rooms at a lower price in desirable urban locations.

Regardless of how we look at this, everything points to only one solution at this end of the market – to go small.

Multi-Purpose Interiors.

At The London Design Festival in September, we noted several furniture and interior designers incorporating multi-purpose solutions in their work.

Other designers are following suit. For example, Graham Hill created a concept called LifeEdited2. With this concept he demonstrates two different rooms which with the help of adaptable furniture are quickly transformed into dining, lounging, sleeping and working space. Here you see the bedroom being transformed into a dining area that can seat up to ten people.

With her article, Shelby Williamsunderpins the overall rise of multi-purpose furniture in hotels by stating furniture is becoming more customisable and innovative in the way it looks & feels.

On a recent visit to New York, Ed and our partner architect Ben Masterton Smith from Transit Studio stayed in The We Company’s original WeLive in FiDI and had conflicting opinions about the experience of living in a ‘managed environment’ for anything longer than an extended stay.

“We were intrigued to look around and try out welive, one of two of wework’s foray into the co-living market. Building on their experience in the co-working sphere, the concept develops some of the language of their previous designs, but sits very much as their first in an emerging scene.” According to Ben & Ed

Nevertheless, what is in no doubt is that WeLive have successfully incorporated all the essentials of city apartment living into only a slightly extended room footprint, including the provision of separation from the main sleeping cabin and the pull out sofa bed, a small kitchen, and storage and display space. However the whole experience felt functional and efficient rather that homely and cosy.

Despite a surprisingly slow role out of only 2 properties in twelve months, the brand’s intentions are clear as we’ve seen their rooms advertised on both AirBnb and

Established Hotel Brands Enter The Micro-Hotel Market.

Major hotel groups are looking to enter this market too. Hilton recently announced the opening of their new brand, Motto by Hilton. Motto offers smaller, customisable rooms in urban locations with affordable rates. They are hoping to cash in on the holy grail of consumers, the hallowed Millennial: understanding that they will be the largest generational group in 2050 and will make up 26% of the total population.

The demand for these types of hotel rooms will not to slow down anytime soon. Jay Patel, president and CEO of North Point Hospitality, and a Hilton Hotels-owner himself, said, “Until micro-hotels, there was not a lot of lodging real estate at a premium spot in the neighbourhoods where locals and travellers congregate.”

Whilst Marriott are yet to bring an exact Micro Hotel to market, we’ve been working closely with the Moxy brand this year and they are focused on minimising the footprint whilst retaining fun, energetic and smaller spaces. They see an average stay of 2.4 nights, and maximise on space and flexibility by replacing wardrobe space with a peg wall (shown below) and adding collapsible, folding furniture for a higher degree of flexibility whilst guests spend time in their rooms.

Long-Stay Micro-Living.

Besides hotels designed for guests that embrace short stays and affordable rates, there is a growing trend in micro-living for extended stays. This is where multi-purpose interior design and furniture solutions and technology really come in to play. “Best Hotel Concept 2016” winners Zoku are competing with other emerging brands such as Pod hotels; an expanding brand that combines the micro-hotels with long-stay leases.

Their “Pod Pads” are designed as living suites, varying from 400 to 650 square feet, and include queen and bunk bed configurations. These innovative hotels prove that this micro-model is not only viable but hugely attractive. Pod Hotels boasts the highest occupancy rate across their parent company’s portfolio.

In addition to Pod Hotels, Ollie at Carmel Place created New York’s first luxury micro-apartment building. This concept serves as an all-inclusive hotel-style living apartment experience where guests can have a personalised space that is move-in ready and very designed focussed. Each furnished studio is a carefully curated space and strategically equipped with (for example) a foldable Italian coffee table from Mondial, and a queen size Murphy bed with sofa on the front.

New York based architects MKCA have been commissioned on a number of micro-apartment projects in the city, and at a talk at A/D/O in Brooklyn, we were impressed and inspired by their “Five To One” apartment which combines total flexibility and transforms a 390 sq ft space into five distinct ‘rooms’. We can see projects such as this influencing the micro-hotel and extended stay sectors in the near future.

Is the Micro-Hotel Competing With The Sharing Economy?

Keeping in mind the growing trend of the sharing economy with Airbnb and Uber on the frontline, the micro-living trend is an answer for innovative hotel groups. They are now providing a closer alternative to Airbnb by offering affordable accommodation at prime locations.

Changing demands of customers, have led to a new generation of hotels, where rooms are getting smaller and common areas are getting bigger and better. Experts are calling this change “The Air-Bnb Effect”. Airbnb has been the disruptive brand that has shaken the hospitality industry and created strong ripple effects in all related industries. But now, the hotels are ready to strike back, with implementing smaller, but better hotel rooms and bigger and better communal areas.

With 68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050 (according to the UN), prices rising and space becoming a premium, there is an obvious need to minimise space and simplify. When considered alongside the rise in flexible, remote working and the ‘digital nomad’ there are multiple innovations at play that make these sectors incredibly exciting and open to huge innovation.

The multi-purpose interior trend gives someone the possibility to take one room and turn it into a different room within minutes: making a small space so much more versatile whether it’s a permanent residence, a long stay property or just somewhere to relax during a weekend in a city’s prime neighbourhood.


Creating smart solutions for space issues is essential to the future of hotel room design and with Airbnb around the corner and consistently growing as a competitor, operators in a price conscious sector must differentiate themselves by focusing on the unique elements of a hotel that can’t be replicated in a traditional apartment. Lively, fun and accessible communal areas where guests can interact with others and share experiences are top of the list, along with consistency, quality and security that are sometimes missing from the gamble of apartment-sharing solutions such as AirBnb.

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Design Inspiration From Our Travels
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Design Inspiration From Our Travels

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2017 has been a great year for us and whether for business or pleasure, we've been lucky enough to travel to some incredible places around the world, making sure that we checked out what the locals were up to every step of the way. Here's a little round up of Design Inspiration and other things that sparked our interest throughout the year.

Ministry of New, Mumbai

Ed has been making monthly trips to Mumbai this year as part of an ongoing contract with celebrated local restaurateur AD Singh and Ministry of New provides welcome calm and solace from the busy, bustling streets of the city. This co-working "Professional Oasis" was designed by Dutch Art Director and Co-founder Marlies Bloemendaal, and is the perfect place for a productive day's work, networking, collaboration and taking time out over a good book.

We adore the Library for it's tranquility and design with Marlies' eye for detail creating an evolving, ever-interesting space, whilst the Gallery is a hushed, bright and serene environment for focusing on the day's task list and getting things done.

Ministry of New

Kitab Mahal 3rd Floor

192 Dadabhai Naoroji Road

Azad Maidan, Fort

Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001

The Pulitzer, Amsterdam

As far as boutique hotels go, The Pulitzer is up there at the top of our list. Spanning a block between the Prinsengracht and Keisersgracht and comprising no less than 25 original canal-side houses, the hotel is a rabbit warren of understated, elegant and considered design encompassing stunning courtyards, restaurants, bars and common spaces.

The property felt warm and cosy on the grey December afternoon of our visit, but we can’t wait to go back in the summer and soak up some sun on one of those courtyards.

The Pulitzer

Prisengracht 323,

1016 GZ Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

This striking property sites at the very tip of Baja California Sur, where the sea of Cortez meets the Pacific. Whilst we weren’t blown away by dinner at their signature restaurant, Manta, we were wowed by the ground floor lobby, lounge and bar which bears the full weight of the property above whilst being open to the elements, and therefore uninterrupted views of the sea and the Land’s End promontory which makes for an incredible back drop to one of the finest sunsets we’ve ever seen.

The Cape, a Thompson Hotel

Carretera Transpeninsular Km 5,

Misiones del Cabo,

23455 Cabo San Lucas,

B.C.S., Mexico

25 Hours Hotel, Vienna

Our projects with Marriott hotels in both Europe and the US have meant that we’ve been keeping a close eye on the mid-market hotel sector this year. Along with stays at the new-ish Hoxton Hotel Amsterdam and Citizen M Tower of London, a night at Vienna’s 25 Hours Hotel gave us real insight in to the sector and how operators are creating original experiences through in room quirks, heavily millennial-focused branding and solid food & beverage outlets patronised by non-residents as much as hotel guests themselves.

25 Hours ticks all the relevant trend boxes as well as features such as free bicycle hire, Minis to test drive, balcony bath tubs, curated retail, in-your-face instagrammable branding and uber trendy staff.

25 Hours Hotel, Museums Quartier, Vienna

Lerchenfelder Str. 1-3,

1070 Wien, Austria

Koinonia Coffee Roasters, Mumbai

Great coffee has traditionally been hard to find in India, and whilst the country has grown coffee commercially since the 1600’s, the industry has been slow to react to industry changes elsewhere on the globe. With homegrown chains such as Café Coffee Day dominating the market alongside Starbucks, the sector has been flooded with mediocrity and pedestrian high street offerings.

We were hugely relieved when Koinonia opened their roastery and café a stone’s throw from our client’s office in Mumbai and, ever since we’ve been making daily visits for their perfect flat whites, cold brew and their ‘Affogato menu’, the latter being their way of introducing a market used to sweet, syrupy coffees, to black coffee and more refined flavours.

Koinonia Coffee Roasters

66, Dr BR Ambedkar Rd,

Chuim Village,

Khar West,

Mumbai, Maharashtra 400052

Anglo, Clerkenwell, London

And so to wrap things up, we’ve racked our brains and debated heavily the subject of best meal of the year. Contenders included Mumbai’s Masque and Stoke Newington’s Perilla, we finally settled on the absolutely flawless Anglo just off Leather Lane in Clerkenwell.

We struggled to find fault in a single element of a single dish, as we made our way through what is probably the best value tasting menu in London, washed down by some fabulous natural Czech wines from Ota Ševčík, whom we’d been introduced to at Moravia’s Autentikfest the week before.


20 St Cross St,



From everyone at Rebel, have a very Merry Christmas and our best wishes for a delicious and beautiful 2018.

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