A new age of collaboration and partnership

Many today say they have always believed in collaboration which can raise eyebrows as many were not open nor collaborative in past years. So, what is different now?

There was a, now sadly passed, Industry great who would talk of the importance of strategic alliances. Marc Verstringhe genuinely believed that bringing together the best in discipline with all having shared goals could only ever result in better decision making and performance. Many would nod in agreement as he spoke but would often ignore the advice. Marc had a childhood impacted by a World War and worked through four recessions. It taught him that great people working together towards a common goal would lead to better performance. Marc did not care if some were from external sources; his only questions were “Are they good people (as I don’t want to work with people I do not like)?” and “Can working together lead to better results?”

Many today understand that bringing together the best-in-class experts, from different disciplines, only improves performance. Looking back, many tried to always create solutions through internal channels and expertise and more often than not, it cost too much, failed, and was shelved. There are numerous examples of corporates trying to be entrepreneurial and failing; same in digital innovation.

What is potentially exciting about this period of time is that many seem to have listened, reflected and learnt. Suddenly new doors have opened up in whole new ways. EP is seeing this firsthand both through how many companies are engaging with us to look at innovation and in consultancy projects but maybe most interestingly, there is a whole new narrative emerging around how suppliers and operators are looking to work together.

This does potentially break new ground and open new horizons. For many decades, suppliers and operators have almost been two aligned, but separate, industries; both needing one another but both also sitting slightly apart. Operators trusted operators and looked at suppliers with a cautious eye to be managed via procurement. Suddenly we are now seeing a new picture emerge as many brands are seeking to connect directly with the consumer and this has opened up new business opportunities.

We are now seeing branded drinks create their own pop-ups and experiences which are interacting directly with consumers; not just the major names but bespoke brands as well. We are seeing new wine experiences being marketed; new food experiences; new service offers. Everything is changing.

So, what has been the catalyst for this change?

A number of factors, all happening at the same time:

  • There is an understanding that the consumer is seeking better and stronger experiences, so all are searching for how to inspire and excite the consumer in order to drive revenues. Change will only truly happen when led by consumer demand.
  • Business has become more sophisticated and suddenly all are aware of how to create price points and the need for new VIP experiences to win over new business and retain existing clientele – so what can be offered? It needs to be different? This has opened the door to bespoke alliances with smaller companies who can bring something new to the table and be exclusive.
  • This has been supported by understanding data better and understanding what impacts effectively. As one quietly noted; “We used to just collect data; now we interpret it. Why we didn’t before is an uneasy question to answer? It has however opened new horizons for us.”
  • Companies have become aware that they do not possess all the answers and there is an openness to be more transparent and collaborative.
  • In the same way, the traditional “command and controls” business mentality has been challenged and found to be in need of change.
  • Service is suddenly becoming more recognized for the role which it plays in retaining guests.

Some operators are talking about, and taking equity in, bespoke suppliers and partners and this trend is forecast to grow. It is natural as it can create exclusivity and better experiences. This does open new avenues to be explored. It will also arguably change the nature of procurement, which is already changing, and also traditional models.

Is this a new era for collaboration and partnership? And will it last?

Written by Chris Sheppardson, Founder of EP Business in Hospitality