Katie Wilkinson

Written by:

Katie Wilkinson


Northern Bar and Restaurant Awards an insider's view

  • May 2019
  • 5 minutes

What are the awards about?

With the UK facing uncertainty over Brexit and consumer confidence impacting the restaurant and bar scene, what better way to rally the troops than a celebration of the industry at the Northern Restaurant and Bar (NRB) Awards.

Held in Manchester on 19-20 March 2019 and organised by NRB Awards CEO, Thom Hetherington, the event encompasses a variety of exhibitors and events, showcasing the cutting edge of Northern hospitality. Always a highlight, the Bruntwood debate this year split across two panels addressed the rise of social media and the impact on brand loyalty.

Is social media important to restaurants and bars?

With more businesses dedicating spend to maintain their social presence through paid posts and other tools, an intelligent social media strategy can be the difference between a business thriving or diving.

Panellists from the first session highlighted some of the risks around businesses having a high-profile social media channel. These included the negative effects that social media can have on brand reputation, and also the heightened pressures for operators to make food 'Instagramable'. How often have we all been at a restaurant and watched friends and family trying to get ‘that’ picture?

The dominating message from this panel was that social media presence needs to be genuine if it is to be believed. Panellists impressed that this is just as important as old school face-to-face, front of house hospitality in terms of encouraging returning customers and creating a loyal following.

All panellists agreed that Instagram was the top social channel for building a valuable brand and that one of the best ways to increase repeat custom through the platform is via a small reward for a user’s post. This increases brand awareness and encourages new customers.

What does brand loyalty really mean?

The second half of the debate was hosted by NRB’s Thom Hetherington and chef and restauranteur, Jason Atherton. From Skegness, to a Michelin star at his Pollen Street restaurant in London and a chain of 16 restaurants, the boy certainly has done good.

Listening to Jason, you can see that his success flows from a focussed determination needed to build such an impressive empire. In his session with Thom, he proved both admirable and shrewd by dedicating time to bringing young chefs through the business and supporting them with employee ownership.

Jason’s overarching message was that treating staff well is crucial. His view was that ultimately it is their customer service that brings consumers back time and time again. To read more about this topic, read Simon Adams’ recent blog post 'A framework with freedom – an opportunity for growth?'

Celebrating our client’s successes – Nisha Katona, Mowgli Street Food

As headline sponsor of the NRB Awards RSM were delighted to see our client Nisha Katona of Mowgli Street Food receive a special achievement award alongside Chris Hill of the New World Trading Company and John Gyngell and Christian Townsley of North Brew Co. To read more about this year’s winners and see the top fifty list visit NRB’s website

What was new this year?

The NRB Awards event is also a great showcase of the industry’s new comers. Exhibitors ranged from digital technology specialists Aventista, little did I know there is now software that can even measure your kitchen now, to software operators that can maximise table covers impacting an operator’s bottom line considerably. There was also every stall you could think of to assist with setting up a restaurant; from menus, furniture, bar ware - the lot!

Brewers and distillers came out in force, with a firm favourite being Funkin cocktails who had a range of cocktails straight from the pump saving on preparation time for the bartender and cutting back on queues… I think I’ll have one installed in my kitchen please!

My personal highlight of the awards

Whilst walking around the hall, it certainly felt like a celebration of the food and drink industry, highlighting that whilst we may have tough economic times ahead, the sector is still very much thriving. Reflecting on a good day and evening on the train home, I checked back over the business cards I had collated throughout the day, when I came across my favourite one with the job title ‘Nightlife ambassador’. I think I am certainly in the wrong job here.

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