Why can’t I get a great pizza wherever I am? A good question, and one that the founders of Barrel & Stone asked themselves before they set out on their journey to be the biggest pizza restaurant operator in the UK, without owning any restaurants.
If, why can’t I get a great pizza wherever I am? Is a good question, an even better one has to be how can you achieve being the biggest pizza restaurant operator in the UK, without owning any restaurants? So, I arranged to meet Barrel & Stone founder and MD Russell Hardiman to ask him.
The offices are in Maidenhead and are unassuming given the aspirations of the business, Russell is welcoming and has a presence that sets the tone of the meeting, clear in its direction and quietly confident.
At the moment there are just over one hundred Barrel & Stone pizza restaurants in the UK and that number is growing, fast. Russell’s ambitions are materialising, and I wanted to find out how, so I was handed a phone and put through to the owner of one of the restaurants, Sean White.
Sean White is the proprietor of Greene King Pub of the Year 2018, The Queen’s Head in Pinner. The Queen’s Head is located on a busy high street in this affluent part of NW London, and immediately next door to Pizza Express.
Pinner High Street is home to major chain restaurants, all of whom would be considered competition, Zizzi, Pizza Express, Carluccio’s & Zaza.
I asked Sean why pizza given the competition on his doorstep and why Barrel & Stone, here’s Sean’s reply:
“We knew that pizza was popular locally with our target market, so we set out to offer the best pizza in Pinner, providing a better pizza experience to an existing market with healthy demand.
“We were already very busy running a premium and predominantly wet led pub, we wanted to add a pizza restaurant but were cautious of adding operational complexity to the business.
“It is possible to purchase high quality ingredients from a range of suppliers and to invest in the oven and associated equipment. However, there are time constraints for the operator in sourcing ingredients from a number of different suppliers, and costs associated with the capital expenditure for the oven, etc. Barrel & Stone’s proposition takes all this operational complexity away for us.
“Assuming all of this can be managed within our business, there is then the additional challenge of branding. Barrel & Stone solves that headache as a well-known brand with provenance in a range of premium pizza restaurants, there is support in the form of training, POS material, social media assets and menu design.
“Barrel & Stone branding establishes a differentiated presence in our target market that attracts customers, the pizza experience we now deliver retains them. This is exactly how ‘working with’ Barrel & Stone works for us, and it is this above all other factors that continues to make Barrel & Stone pizzas so popular in Greene King Pub of the Year 2018, The Queen’s Head, Pinner.”
Sean White like Russell is very clear and concise, he knows his business and he knows where it is going. Speaking with Sean it is no surprise that his pub is Greene King Pub of the Year 2018.
Russell has many testimonials from happy customers, or brand ambassadors as Russell prefers to call them, we were spoilt for choice. We selected one from Nigel Williams – The Bell Inn, Bearsted.
“Barrel & Stone have been a strong supplier to our company last year, during the summer pizza sales in our new outside area increased sales by £2,200 to £2,700 per week, this has a knock-on effect of driving further wet sales.
“Operationally the process has been very smooth and the ordering/delivery very slick indeed. Often quoted by customers as the best pizza they have had, we like the sound of that. This gives my team confidence in the product and pride in being associated with the successful Barrel & Stone brand.”
Nigel Williams – The Bell Inn, Bearsted
The interview proved an easy one for Russell as his customers say more about the Barrel & Stone brand and business proposition than he ever could, or would I suspect. The experience of his customers is increased sales, higher margins and operational efficiency, they are happy Barrel & Stone brand ambassadors.
Russell is passionate about the Barrel & Stone brand and the quality of the proposition. He explains it with absolute clarity and does make it sound simple, it is, but behind the scenes in Maidenhead there is meticulous attention to detail creating that simplicity.
With over one hundred Barrel & Stone brand ambassadors now open and serving their customers a premium pizza experience – Barrel & Stone’s ambition to become the biggest pizza restaurant operator in the UK, without owning any restaurants doesn’t seem unrealistic.
Denis Sheehan, Publisher, H&C News
The Final Word is via video from the GM at The Roe Deer, Reigate
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