This month Platinum talk to Kumour Uddin, Executive Head Chef of Anglian Country Inns.
Anglian Country Inns are a family run business rooted in a love of good food and proper old fashioned hospitality. Established 20 years ago, the group consists of 9 unique and independent properties and prides itself on quality service and attention to detail; making the ordinary extraordinary. Kumour is the Executive Head Chef for the group.
Tell me about your career in hospitality with Anglian Country Inns?
I have been with the company for more than 10 years now, I started as Commis Chef at The Fox and during my time there, grew and developed to Sous Chef. I met my wife at that site too! I left for a while and worked at a couple of 5* hotels in Oxford and Windsor, but it really wasn’t for me, when I was approached to come back to The Fox, the decision was easy.
When our third site, Hermitage Road came up, I interviewed for the Head Chef job. This was a new concept for Anglian Country Inns, we were moving into High Street Premium Dining. We were coming out of the recession and at the start of the boom for casual dining. It went crazy! I grew in that role for 5 years and it gave me the scope and skillset for my first Executive Head Chef job. My old chef had moved up to Director of Food, then into Operations. This then allowed me to move into a Head of Food role.
My role as Executive Head Chef is a support role; I help the Head Chefs develop and recruit their teams and support in any way they need. I like to think that we employ people in the Head Chef role who are better cooks than I am, however I now help drive the business and assist with both restaurant recruitment and suppliers.
Tell me about the menus across the sites
Each Head Chef has full autonomy, I don’t write the menus, the big thing is that they have to have autonomy to believe in there own ideas, freedom is essential within our model. There is a framework and a brand DNA is for each site which outlays what we want to achieve, our key demographic and essentially, what do we want to be famous for? They are then free to do what they want within that framework.
The menus will all change regularly, gastropubs more often than premium and family dining and the brand DNA is a constant within the design of the menus.
We look at each property and its history. The owners tend to buy sites with strong local custom and nostalgia, some sort of connection so that they have a good knowledge of the business before they take over, they understand the offering and the community – this is where we perform best.
What is it about the brand that makes it successful?
For a site like The Cricketers, a local family pub, the slogan would be Pizza’s, Pints and Playgrounds. We want to be the pub that everyone wants in their local village, it’s about creating a real sense of community. For our Casual Dining sites, Hermitage Road and Water Lane we that offer big bars and cocktails The tagline is Great Nights and Date Nights and a night worth getting dressed up for! We have live music, great cocktails, busy bars and of course food, but it’s a combination of everything. Complete escapism for the customer. Good food and a good night all in one place.
Provenance is a big thing. The Farmhouse is Farm to Fork, we produce our own honey and are about to begin growing our own herbs. The menu, where possible is sourced within a 10 – 15 mile radius where possible. All our sites are able to use the best local suppliers. I used to say to my Ops Director that it would be much easier to run the business with one menu, but actually this is what makes us unique and gives us flexibility to react and make changes to menus really quickly.
You were recently recognised for company reward and benefits, tell me how you keep your teams engaged?
Last year we sent the General Manager and Head Chef from Water Lane to New York. We also operate a scheme called the MAD awards, it’s about those people in the business who have made a difference at all levels. Everyone votes and the winners will get to go on a weekend trip away to Prague. It’s not about Management but about the people at the foundations that are the solid assets of your business.
I think we need a change within the industry, you can’t run a business with unhappy people who don’t have a work life balance. With hospitality recruitment, we try to bring in strong teams who are able to drive the business and think innovatively, rather than feeling deflated, overworked and firefighting constantly.
We do bring in extra resource at peak times, or if there are surprise shortages so that they have support rather than letting them struggle through. We want our people to feel supported and looked after.
Do you have any industry awards of which you are particularly proud?
I am really proud of all our awards, particularly those that recognise company values and ethos. I’m also proud of those awards that are voted for by our customers, it recognises the great efforts of our people.
What is next for the group?
Our owners always keep eyes open for unique properties, the right establishment in the right position. The plan is to make sure that each site is performing at its absolute best, rather than diluting our resource and energy across more and more venues. We are not a brand, we operate individual, independent sites.
We do our best to sustain the ethos from the original pub; good family values are important in everything we do and it important to keep that running through each site.
We’re also doing lots of work on developing our existing training plans and inductions so that we give our people the best possible start with lots of progression in their career in hospitality. We invest in people, give them the autonomy and the right tools to make them the absolute best they can be.
We would like to say a massive thank you to Kumour for taking the time to talk with us and wish all the team at Anglian Country Inns very successful 2018!