M&C Report talks to John Leslie, chief executive of Intertain, about his top priority, his best business decision and the best piece of advice he’s ever received. What’s the most important action the industry can take to encourage the consumer? Whilst price is important, the most important thing we can do as an industry is to continuously improve the customer experience. There are increasingly different ways customers can spend their time and money outside our venues, so we’ve got to keep giving them new reasons to visit us. This means focusing on innovation, customer service, content and staff training. What single action could the Government take that would make a difference? There are so many actions they could take it’s hard to pick one. My top three? Do something about the ridiculous levels of beer duty, reduce VAT on eating and drinking out, and work harder to tackle supermarket pricing. Picking one action – supermarket pricing. It is that, more than anything else in my opinion, that contributes to alcohol related disorder. If the government really wanted to tackle the issue properly, this is where they should start. What is your top priority? We are currently undertaking an investment programme on our estate, with a focus on our Walkabout venues. To date, we have refurbished eight venues and the programme is delivering great returns on investment, so continuing this programme is a major priority for the rest of 2012. What has been your best investment? (site) It’s hard to pick one, but if I had to it would be the refurbishment of our Wolverhampton venue. It is not the biggest by a long way, nor the most prominent, but the work was completed in 2010 and it is still going from strength to strength and that goes a long way to proving that it is not a five minute wonder. What has been your best business decision? Setting up Intertain. It gave us the opportunity to buy a business that responds positively to investment. Previously the estate had been under-invested, so we’ve had a real opportunity to deliver growth. How much has your business changed to combat the recession? We’ve become a much leaner, fitter organisation and much more focussed on a superb level of customer service across our Walkabout and highlight brands. People still want to go out and (most) are naturally gregarious, but they are going out less often and that’s largely down to economics. What we focus on therefore, is giving them the best night out and a great time so they come to us out of preference. We’ve also worked hard on staff training, and formed much stronger relationships with some of our suppliers. Who is doing something special in the industry? We are seeing customers driven more by occasion, so there is a great opportunity in the industry to drive pre-booked revenue, focussing particularly on occasions like birthdays. People that are doing this are seeing the benefits. Most admired brand? I have a lifelong passion for motor racing, so my choice here is Aston Martin. They have fantastic heritage and unsurpassed quality of engineering. Who has been most influential in your career? My dad. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? It wasn’t advice given directly to me (obviously!) but it was something Winston Churchill said and that was: “If you are going through shit the best thing to do is keep going”. It’s true – you do come out of it in the end!