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Strengthening the brand through team engagement

Any of you who’ve spent time in one of our cocktail bars will have seen first-hand how fundamental our bartenders are to delivering the unique guest experience that underpins our continued success.

Be At One is not only a lighthouse for cocktail quality, our highly differentiated consumer offer resulting from innovation in team, brand and design means we continue to perform ahead of the market.

Our brand is all about creating memories and giving guests a fun time so it drives advocacy, repeat visit and customer lifetime value. Having an engaged team that lives our brand values every day helps strengthen relationships with our loyal guests but also encourages new cocktail lovers into our bars. Results from our last Cocktail Insights Report revealed about 60% of Be At One guests got to know the brand because a friend took them to one of the bars or recommended it to them based on their experience.

First and foremost, we select new recruits based on personality. For us, it’s critical we employ people with the right attitude and character whose main focus is to enhance our guests’ experience with lively and friendly service. Our bartenders are taken through an intensive training programme of up to eight weeks before they step behind one of our bars unassisted for the first time. Through this industry-leading development programme, we give them technical and life skills that will remain with them forever.

Last year we underwent a brand evolution with an aim to create an integrated approach where our values flow through the entire business. Our previous branding, truth be told, didn’t fully reflect the Be At One “personality”. The evolution injected an element of fun by using new colours, tone of voice and design.

We knew from the start it was important we took our bar teams on the journey with us given how critical they are to delivering the brand experience. Be At One has great customer satisfaction scores and word of mouth performs strongly so we needed to get prospective customers who may not have heard of us to visit and enjoy the Be At One experience.

Throughout the project we delivered face-to-face briefings with our teams in bars across the country. This facilitated an open, two-way dialogue and gained their feedback on various aspects of the evolution. Off the back of this feedback we made tweaks to our website and app features to ensure they were more user-friendly.

One of the things we are known for experientially is our bartenders helping guests choose a cocktail suited to a customer’s tastes. A challenge we have had is how to recreate this on a digital platform without taking away the bartenders.

The functionality of the Drinkr feature on our app was directly influenced by bartender feedback and taps into the Tinder concept, helping our guests navigate to their perfect cocktail. By a series of pre-constructed questions, guests can swipe right if they like something (for example, coffee) and swipe left if they don’t. This leads guests to a cocktail they can choose to “redeem” for £5 in a bar.

The success of keeping everyone on the journey was evident through a social media “Thunderclap” exercise, which our team chose to support and help drive fantastic results. All 400-plus employees were asked to share a GIF promoting Life Is What You Mix It – our brand campaign – on their personal social channels with the relevant hashtag and tagging our Twitter handle. Every bar was given a unique tracking code and the bar that drove the highest amount of traffic to a specific web page won a staff party. Their combined effort meant the total number of people who saw the post topped 225,000.

Investing significant time and effort into each of our employees has helped build our reputation and strengthen our brand. It also means we build a loyal and committed workforce – many of our bartenders stay with the company for longer than the industry average, while others go on to apply for head office roles.

Importantly, it also drives the financial success of our business. We continue to perform ahead of the market with industry-leading like-for-like sales of about 7%. We are now generating in excess of £50 revenue per labour hour across the group, demonstrating the strength of our business model and the amount of revenue each Be At One bartender generates. It is further testament to the consistently high performance of our engaged bar teams.

We believe our brand lives and breathes in the heart of everything we do. Importantly, given the fact our three founders are themselves former bartenders, decisions are made through the eyes of our front-line team. We know how vital our bartenders are to delivering our brand promise for guests each and every day.