You don’t have to look very far to see what a difficult time this is for so many individuals, never mind businesses, in the hospitality sector and all the companies that supply it. There is an even bigger concern that the situation is going to get a whole lot worse once the stabilsers of the furlough system are taken away in the autumn. It’s why The Buyer is today starting a new series – ‘Onwards & Upwards’ – where we give a platform to those in the restaurant, bar, wine, and drinks industries, who are looking for a fresh start, to explain who they are, their background and what sort of opportunity they are looking for. First up is Jon Clement who is looking for a new challenge on leaving his position at The Big Table Group.
Jon Clement is far from alone in looking for a new job opportunity in the hospitality sector. If you would like to share your story on The Buyer as part of our ‘Onwards & Upwards’ series then please email Richard Siddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those who don’t know you do you want to give some background to yourself and how you got into the hospitality and drinks industry?
My first steps into buying were taken at Hilton Hotels Worldwide. Working in a really experienced procurement team, across borders, across departments and across categories in such an iconic hospitality brand gave me an unbelievable grounding and one that set the foundations for my career to date. I have to confess that I knew far more about craft beer than wine in those days but I kicked off my WSET studies and that alongside working on projects ranging from complex European wine tenders through to individual icon bar tenders had me well and truly hooked. I’ve not looked back since.
My subsequent role at Novus heading up the procurement function gave me more autonomy and the chance to spread my wings further. Buying wines for a whole range of bar concepts from Balls Brothers through to Tiger Tiger taught me the ability to adapt and adapt quickly. The role gave me a new perspective on the concept of ranging and the importance of having a product offering that was specific enough to satisfy the customer base without losing buying leverage… Not always an easy balance!
What about your experience buying for restaurants?
Onto the world of restaurants and the fast moving environment of Casual Dining Group. Operating under the largest industry-wide pressures that I had seen in my career it has have afforded me experience that should have been gained over half a career span but has been crammed into just four and a half years.
A highlight was the move away from the use of a single supplier for the drinks category. This enabled me to ‘democratise’ the wine supply and to tender each individual wine on its merits. It allowed me to work with a broad combination of wholesalers and directly with wineries where economies of scale permitted. It enabled me to be flexible, really important in the current climate and with the ‘B’ word still lingering, improve the quality of wine for our guests and deliver significantly better commercial performance to the business.
I will only look back at CDG with fond memories. I received so much support for my professional development from Simon Galkoff our procurement director, including sponsorship for my WSET diploma studies, it has pushed me on to being ready for my next step…
What was it about the sector that most interests you?
The ever changing environment really appeals and still does. Pop-up bars, floating cinemas, Street food, ‘Cheese hotels’, ‘wine walls’, the list goes on and on… It never stands still.
To pick out some product examples too. ‘Craft’ beer as we now know it didn’t really exist when I first started in the industry and look at the rise and rise of Malbec and Prosecco over recent years. Phenomenal!
I also love the fact that my roles within the sector have helped shaped customer experiences. Finding the balance between quality of customer experience with the commercial viability for a business is hugely gratifying.
How did you become a drinks buyer?
Initially it was my reluctance to become a seller that encouraged me to start pursuing my Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply studies. Thankfully this initiative afforded me my opportunity at Hilton. Little did I know at that stage how many of the skills are eminently transferrable.
You are now looking to move on – why?
I really enjoyed my most recent role and leave on great terms, but now is the right time for me to be bold and really push on in my career. I want the opportunity to make the most of my experience and the wine knowledge I have built and apply them to a business where I will be able to make a big impact.
What sort of new role are you looking for?
My next role is about opportunity. Possibly having more responsibility and influence in a smaller business or having the broader development opportunities that a larger organisation can offer. Either appeals but fundamental in the search is to stay connected with wine.
Whether it be buying for a wine company, a wholesaler, a retailer or hospitality business, I am confident I would make an impact in any business either on or off trade given the platform to succeed.
Whilst between roles I would love to get involved in any short term projects, contracts or getting my hands dirty in the upcoming harvests if there are opportunities out there.
What specific skills and experience do you think you could offer a new employer?
Experience: 10 years’ BWS buying experience gained in the hospitality industry across hotel, bar and restaurant businesses.
Category Knowledge: WSET up to diploma level. Five out of the six modules are complete with the pandemic delaying the final module. I am also a Champagne Academy graduate.
Negotiation: GAP trained negotiator with proven track record of producing results.
Product development: Chartered Institute of Marketing NPD qualification.
I can pass on my CV for anyone interested in more detail.
How would you describe your personality?
Loyal, determined, hard-working with a sense of humour.
What is your management style?
Two key traits of my management style are: leading by example and empowering others. I never ask someone to do something I wouldn’t do myself and I hope I give people the knowledge, responsibility and the platform to succeed.
What do you look for in the people you most like working with or want to work for?
I like working with team players, having played team sports since I was young – I played rugby to county and National League 3 standard. I’m a firm believer that the sum is always greater than the parts.
What do you see as being the key skills and assets of a good drinks buyer and what you like to contribute?
Above and beyond the usual suspects of tenacity, commercial acumen, category knowledge etc, I think being creative is hugely underestimated. It is an incredibly important part of negotiating effectively and delivering great results. I would also say listening. It’s not only important when negotiating, but it also enables you to understand the bigger picture. Listening to a wide range of internal and external stakeholders helps create mutually beneficial relationships to drive the business forward. Lastly I would highlight being able to create value in a deal, it will be far more beneficial in the long run than applying just the buying basics of price, contract term etc
Anything else you would like to say?
I cannot wait to get back out in trade properly. Whether it be a flat, room temperature, pint of proper beer in the Harp, Covent Garden, a glass of Franciacorta and a bowl of delicious pasta at Bancone or a sherry at Gordon’s, Charing Cross. I cannot wait to get stuck in.
Any mentors in the trade that you look up to?
Lots from the last 10 years, some I’m lucky enough to call friends now. Certainly the most memorable has to be Andrea Ruggeri. I’ve never met anyone like him since. His energy and his technicolour braces, truly unforgettable.
What have been your best moments working in the wine trade?
Drinking an amazing selection of BYO Champagne with friends by the canal in Reims after completing the Reims half-marathon as part of the Running Wines Club setup by Dougie McCrorie and James Smith. The wine almost made the running worth it!
Sitting at the iconic and incredibly peaceful train station in Coonawarra, South Australia.
Most embarrassing wine moments?
Going to my first trade tasting and being the only one not in red chinos and a tweed jacket. Or opening a bottle of Champagne in a very special venue, that shall remain nameless in case they want to send me an invoice, and the cork hitting an antique ceiling. Being lucky enough to have a vintage bottle of Champagne from the year of my birth opened as a treat for our visiting group, only to find the bottle was corked. Draw your own conclusions!
- If you would like to get in contact with Jon Clement then please email email@example.com.
- If you would like to share your story and what job opportunities you are looking for then please email Richard at the same address.