Shepherd Neame has introduced a new bonus and incentive structure as part of a drive to improve the customer experience, as well as promote hospitality as an attractive career option.

The family brewer and pub operator said it had reviewed the pay, incentives and conditions of its managed pub staff and has introduced a new structure, for managers and chef, which is aligned to the delivery of great service to its customers in the 2019 financial year.

Chief executive Jonathan Neame told MCA: “Everyone in the sector, particularly Shepherd Neame is trying to raise the profile of a career in hospitality. For too long it has been seen as a slightly here today, gone tomorrow type of employment, but it so evidently is not.

“We value our staff enormously, and we have done an awful lot in terms of training in recent years. The incentive scheme is about trying to bring a wider part of our team in the individual managed outlets into a bonus pool, but crucially making the bonus pool not just about profit, although that’s clearly important, but making it about the customer experience,” he explained.

He said the business would be monitoring how the overall experience was been seen by customers through key social media channels, including Google, Tripadvisor and Booking.com, using a tool called Revinate. If employees could move the customer experience forward, whether that it quality of food, serve or drinks, “then they will be rewarded for it”. 

The company has also invested more in air-conditioned kitchens in order to improve the working environment.

Expansion of its pub estate

Following the recent acquisition of three London sites, Shepherd Neame now has 36 pubs in the capital and “would love to have more pubs in London”, said Neame. He said it was a challenge to get good opportunities in London, but if that the company is “actively looking” to add to its estate there.

“We see London as integral to our heartland, but two thirds of our pubs are in Kent and we have a nice estate in Surrey and the south west of London area. “In all those areas we are looking to buy better, or if we have weak pubs sell them out in those communities,” he said.

On the acquisition of the Red Mist Leisure site in Farnham, Neame said it was a site that it had admired for a long time, and its good contacts with the company meant it was able to act quickly when the opportunity arose to acquire it.

“Last year, for example, we bought a number of pubs around the Guildford, Reigate, Woking area and it fits perfectly with that strategy,” he said.

On accommodation, he looking for opportunities to build pub hotels was firmly on the agenda. In its full year results published yesterday, Shepherd Neame said was planning to build a new pub hotel in Castle Hill in the centre of the Ebbsfleet Garden City development, which will see 15,000 new homes built over the next 15 years. The pub restaurant and hotel, which won’t open for several year, will house 17 bedrooms, he said.

Earlier this year KentOnline reported the business was in talks about opening a new lakeside pub at the Conningbrook Laks development in Ashford. Neame told MCA this will be a hotel site, but that it’s “still quite a way off”.