3 ingredients for award-winning operations

Learn the key ingredients to achieve award-winning operations in your business. In this blog post, we share three essential elements that can take your business to the next level. Read more now and discover the secrets to success in operations.
Stephanie Wedderburn
Apr 2023
4 min read
Bottles of wine on a bar

In the past month we’ve seen awards in Casual Dining, Retailers’ Retailer, Publican and The Times Best Companies. But what does it take to be an award-winning operation? Given many of the winners are Trail customers, we’re in a good position to identify three key ingredients.

  1. They create a unique customer experience.
  2. They look after the staff who look after their customers.
  3. They make meeting brand standards habitual.

1. A unique customer experience

As Esquire put it, it’s not just what you’re drinking — it’s where.

The Journal of Retailing argue that prior customer experiences will influence future customer experience, and that this underpins all else. Meaning, if a customer has a bad experience they’re likely to see their next visit (if there is one) through a more negative mindset, impacting that experience for the worse. Thankfully the same can be said for positive visits too!

They outlined 7 main areas that contribute to the customer experience:

Conceptual model of customer experience creation diagram

P.C. Verhoef et al. / Journal of Retailing 85 (1, 2009) 31–41

Social environment

Ever found yourself absentmindedly tap-tapping the bar whilst you wait for a well-lubricated customer to finish having it out with the staff? Perhaps you’ve just wished that their kids will just be quiet! Yes, we’re talking about that.

Different customers within the same venue can have a massive impact on each others’ overall experiences, so consider who your target audience is and focus.

Service interface

We’ve spoken a lot about the future of tech in pubs and bars lately. From gin robots to self-service apps, there is definitely a change afoot. An increasing number of organisations are replacing manual processes with technology aimed at increasing operational efficiency. You’ve seen wagamama’s new walk out and pay app, right?

Empty bar
Image credit: http://barmagazine.co.uk 2016

Retail atmosphere

You only have to look to The New World Trading Company to understand the positive impact that outstanding, and somewhat novel, interior design can have on the bottom line. They’ve been luring people off their sofas with a bottle of plonk and out into their bars with lustrous, organic themes in their Botanist and Florist Bars, just to name a couple!

The Alchemist cocktails
Image credit: The Alchemist


The Botanist isn’t just about quirky decor — they extend the theme into everything they do, from the staff uniforms to the food served swinging from a wrought iron hook, and cocktails surrounded by flora and dry ice. Every touch point is made to feel magical — this is “experience”, their variety of it, encapsulated.

For BrewDog its industrial, metal cladding, raw wood furnishings, and bold, angry product design that sets them apart, and attracts their own brand of customer — and their loyalty.


Think Wetherspoons vs The Alchemist. Each will attract their own audiences based solely on what they are, and are not, willing to spend.

The rise of these experiential venues are proof, however, that you don’t have to offer big (or any) discounts, to get customers through the door. In some cases offering discounts can actually devalue a brand.

Customer experience in alternative channels

The rise of the conscientious consumer means that brands are having to do good as well as be good. Philanthropic initiatives for staff, the local community, environment, charities (just some examples) all help to get brands noticed beyond their four walls.

These endeavours can have a massive impact on its customers’ opinion of them, before they’ve even set foot through the door.

Retail brand

Brand loyalty has been well documented among the Millennials, and although GenZ are recorded to be slightly less committed to brands, it clear that the love for a unique brand is still going strong.

2. Happy Staff = Happy Customers = £££

The service profit chain diagram
The supply-profit chain

The supply-profit chain

We wrote recently about the importance of the supply-profit chain in today’s challenging hospitality landscape.

The core principle is that value is created by satisfied, loyal, and productive employees. Employee satisfaction, in turn, results primarily from high-quality support and simple tools that enable staff to deliver a better customer experience.

In an industry with a savvy, largely under 25 workforce and exceptionally high staff turnover, hospitality businesses are pulling out all of the stops to make themselves somewhere that their staff want to work, but are also proud to work at.

3. Making meeting brand standards habitual

So, we know that a strong, unique brand creating unique experiences, via engaged staff is our ultimate winning combo. Hurrah!

Once you’ve got the magic formula, however, how can you ensure that it’s replicated consistently and accurately across multiple venues, and through high staff turnover?

Staff handbooks, brand guidelines, labels and posters, log book after log book. Beyond initial training this is more often than not what businesses are left with to safeguard the standards that were so painstakingly, lovingly, cultivated and reproduced. There is an alternative though.

Waiter using iPad in restaurant

From operations apps like Trail, to EPOS systems and HR management platforms, there are a wealth of services out there designed to streamline business activity, by making good practices habitual.

Our app, for example, guides teams through their day with smart checklists that are delivered to the right people at the right time. Compliance logs and incident reports can all be submitted digitally and are safely stored in the cloud for easy reference at any time.

With all those little things that make up your unique customer experience actioned, and the paperwork that slows your team down gone, your staff are freed up to concentrate on the really important bit — looking after the customers and therefore your bottom line.

The Sunday Times best company to work for promotion

Case studies

Four of our customers were recently listed in The Times 100 Best Companies to Work For.

This is a massive achievement in an industry where unsociable hours, historically low pay, and genuinely hard graft is rife.

How do they do it?

The New World Trading Company (7th)

  • Invests heavily in staffs’ personal development, including in courses not related to the trade.
  • Gamification of employment by pitting staff from the different brands against each other to win rewards like extra days off or holidays abroad.
  • Partnered with Barnardo’s, staff feel like NWTC have strong values.

The Alchemist (36th)

  • Annual training budget of £1,500 per head, which goes towards internal development programmes, external courses and job shadowing.
  • Currency of Kindness initiative which sees the 600 strong team donate over 300 hours per month to charitable projects and volunteering roles.
  • Mixologist competition awarding the winner a vacation and their creation on the menu.
  • Staff feel like they’re listened too, with everyone’s suggestions being noted and implemented if worthwhile.

Buzzworks Holdings (66th)

  • Managers are considered excellent role models by 74% of the staff.
  • 81% of staff are proud to tell others they work for Buzzworks.
  • This is the 3rd year running that Buzzworks have been ranked in the Sunday Times Top 100 list.

BrewDog (75th)

  • 86% of staff have fun with their teams.
  • 10% of profits are split evenly between all of the employees.
  • All staff get free beer and up to 10% pension contributions.
  • Other quirky incentives, such as 4 week paid sabbatical after 5 years of employment and “pawternity leave” for new dog owners.

So, it looks like personal development, gamification and staff incentives are all pretty big winners for these brands, who all have a very young workforce — typically under 22.

What customers are saying

"I f****** love Trail, it's taking my businesses to the next level."
Josh Paterson
"We rarely provide training to our guys, they just bought into the idea straight away. I love that I have a full visual of everyone's activity in front of me."
Katrin Toots
Compliance Manager
“It’s not a paper diary that’s covered in barbecue sauce. We have clarity over what’s done in our sites and are confident going into our audits.”
Jay Brown
“The EHO visited almost every site last year and every store was given a five star rating."
Jay Brown
Operations Chef
"We turned our Costa Checks and various compliance forms into regular tasks on Trail, which has contributed to some of the best scores we have had."
Delroy Daniels
Operations Director
"Our teams love it, it gives our managers of all levels absolute clarity on what they need to achieve every day."
James Brown
Operations Director

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