The Moortop, Stockport

Written by: Sarah Milward
Date added: Thu, 04/01/2018 - 17:25

How to Create an Experience

Millennials now make up the majority of the workforce. With money to spend, 52%* of the social media generation are prioritising experience over product. They'll come to the business that gives them something different, where they can enjoy (and share) something they couldn't get from your competitors. *PWC.com

When Steve Pilling took over as fish chef in Manchester's first Michelin Star restaurant, he was chosen to cook the Turbot for the Queen – that's a mark of how he has shaped his whole career since, always taking things as far as he possibly can. In 2008, he teamed up with chef partner Simon Stanley who had worked for Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsey and Raymond Blanc. By next year they will be running 18 clubs, bars and restaurants in the Manchester/Stockport area including The Moortop, a Greene King leased pub. You'd expect Steve to be hard-nosed and driven to success, but in fact, the reality is completely different. Most of his business decisions have come from thinking about other people. By doing the right thing for others he has created a loyal customer base that love his pubs and tell their friends and neighbours about them too.

CREATING A BUZZ

'Fine dining is dead,' says Steve, 'people can't afford to spend half their salary on one occasion, so I realised that the way to win their hearts was to apply my knowledge and skills to serve affordable food that was excellent quality. If I could provide the best dishes in town, people would talk about them and tell their friends.'

'Everything we serve has a story to tell – the ingredients are the very best we can source and we always try to make the dishes extra special. Michel Roux Jr. even posted on Twitter about our Onglet and 'Proper Jus' and our cheese and onion pies are hand-raised – unlike anything you can buy or even make for yourself. Having a group of businesses means we can employ a development chef and share some ingredients between our venues but we always try to keep them distinctly different.'

'An example of this is our chilli sauce, that's created from specially-grown, British heritage chillies and then fermented a month before delivering the most amazing taste experience. Tell that story to a customer and you'll find that they will pass it on to friends without prompting!'

'The Moortop is on a busy main road, but most of our customers live locally or come here by recommendation. I realised that if their experience was the same every time, they would soon get bored and go to seek out 'the next big thing.' So I set about creating a business where people could enjoy different experiences every time they visit.'

'There's a lot of advice around about selling premium beers and spirits, which of course we do too, but if you wander around town, everybody is on that bandwagon and most pubs have a great collection of premium drinks so we wouldn't stand out.'

'I try to ensure that there's always something happening in the business, but we don't do this the way most pubs would. Putting up a poster to advertise a karaoke night isn't really our style. Instead, most of our occasions appear to be unplanned and unadvertised (of course they are anything but that.)'

ESTABLISHING CONNECTIONS

'I have connections at the BBC in Manchester and persuaded them to film a TV show, in the pub. Seeing daytime TV celebrities chatting at the bar was a great surprise for everybody.' 'There's an old fashioned cinema opposite the pub that was about to be closed down and redeveloped.

I didn't feel this was right for the community so led a campaign to save it. It has now been restored to its former glory and, of course, I can work with them to help maintain their popularity too. I had joined a local choir and when Les Miserables was being shown at the cinema we decided to set up a flashmob as an after-show singalong. They mingled with customers and each jumped up and sang a number from the show. We gave out free onion soup and french bread to complete the theme. I had to sing as well – something I had never done before – so it was an amazing experience for me too!'

'We're planning a Mama Mia ABBA celebration soon to mark the opening of a huge pergola we have just built at the front of the pub.'

'If we book musicians, they have to be excellent. Sometimes, the acts cost me more money than they should, but I believe in working with the best. If I don't make as much on that night, I know people will come back because they were good. We have even discovered some talent who have gone on to achieve fame, but they don't forget us!'

COACHING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

'Sport is a big part of my life. At one point, I was going to become a professional squash player and I'm passionate about martial arts too – but I realised that my strength was in coaching. It occurred to me that I could use my skills to help others. The business started to employ apprentices from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. We got them to work in our busy kitchens and then, in paid time, sent them for judo and aikido training so they could learn about discipline and respect. This has proven to be an astounding success and the programme has hardly any re-offenders over the years. In fact, we were recognised by Nelson Mandela for our work with the underprivileged children of Salford.'

'For me, it's all about doing the right thing. I always have ideas buzzing around in my head. If I think I'll enjoy something, then my customers will too. When I coach tennis, I say “When you score 2 out of every 3 points, you'll win the game” – I guess that's how I approach running my business too.'

MAKE EXPERIENCES WORK FOR YOU

'An experience has to be better than everybody else. Too many pubs try and do things on a budget – customers can tell if you have cut corners. They'll reward you with their loyalty if you go the extra mile to give them something new and original. It might mean I don't make as much money in an event but this is a long-term game – if someone comes back, they bring friends and suddenly that expensive outlay doesn't seem nearly so bad.'