Arena Futures is the arm of Arena aimed to help and support new talent, junior leaders and rising stars within foodservice and hospitality to Connect, Develop and Grow within their businesses and careers. Arena Futures events will provide our young leaders with the opportunity to hear from inspiring and relevant industry speakers, increase their knowledge of the sector and connect with other like-minded individuals.
Our first Arena Futures event of 2023 took place on the evening of Monday 17 April 2023 from 5.30pm to 8.30pm at the fabulous purpose-built event space ‘Pizza Playground’ within Pizza Pilgrims at West India Quay and we were delighted to welcome as our speakers Thom Elliot, Co-Founder, Pizza Pilgrims and Daniel Crump, Co-Owner, The Greyhound in Beaconsfield.
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Event Review by Charlotte Phelps, Social Media Manager - Marketing & Insights, Bidfood
Pizza Pilgrims was a fun, creative setting with retro games at our fingertips. It offered a relaxed vibe which definitely made attendees feel more comfortable and at home. To kick off the event, we began a networking game which led people to write a fact about themselves on a piece of paper which then someone else would later pick out. The aim of the game was to take people out of their comfort zones and encourage them to mingle and chat with other attendees to try and find who’s fact belonged to who. It was a great conversation starter, with some real quirky facts – I think one of the favourites was that someone in the room had been on set with Brad Pitt!
The important of human connection
After the networking game, it was time for one of the key speakers to take the stage - Thom Elliot, co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims. Thom brought inspiration, humour and authenticity.
Thom took us through a journey of his entrepreneurship, highlighting the highs and lows of how he built his now very successful food business. From his terrible first pizza, to setting off on a pilgrimage through Naples on a three wheel car, to serving pizza at Borough Market. His authenticity of his downfalls and how they shaped his journey to success was refreshing to hear and brought real inspiration to all.
Thom was honest in that he hated the word ‘networking’, but emphasised that the substance of what Pizza Pilgrims is - is through the people he has met, and that without the connections he made with people in the industry, Pizza Pilgrims wouldn’t be what it is today. With the pandemic putting a literal hold on in-person contact, Thom’s key message on the importance of people connecting with people felt more impactful than ever.
Some top tips which Thom provided during his talk were:
* Learning how to deal with the setbacks, building your resilience and navigating the industry is fundamental – the best way to deal with setbacks is through connecting with people and being open with continuous learning along the way
* Invest time into your people. By having open communication and allowing creativity, you’ll not only create innovative products, but build the people up around you too.
* Staff retention is difficult in the current climate so ensuring you have good engagement and direct communication with your employees is important – make their journey in hospitality great, no matter the length of their journey.
To end the questions from the audience, someone asked “What inspires you to get up in the morning?”. Thom’s response was the perfect end to an inspiring talk – “I’ve always said if you get the right people working with you, the rest will simply fall into place. So it’s the passionate people of Pizza Pilgrims – that’s the reason I get up in the morning. ”
After Thom's speech we then welcomed our next speaker, Daniel Crump, Co-Owner of The Greyhound in Beaconsfield. Daniel was interviewed by Piers Zangana, Owner of Susa Comms. Daniel talked to us about how he took a part time job as a kitchen porter at the tender age of 14 - this was his first experience of hospitality and he went onto describe how he opened his own café in the family garage, selling hot drinks and snacks to local schoolchildren. However his hospitality dream was realised when he was appointed head waiter at Gordon Ramsay's three-Michelin-starred London restaurant at the young age of just 24. This gave him the confidence to build his career and open his own pub - The Greyound which he opened just three months before Covid. Despite a number of challenges, the restaurant has already been ranked among the top gastropubs in the country. Daniel is one of the UK’s most highly regarded front of house professionals and recently is one of just 25 individuals in the UK to have achieved the Master of Culinary Arts (MCA) accolade in restaurant management and service. This is the highest possible accolade a front-of-house professional can achieve in the UK and is awarded to those who demonstrate the highest standards in restaurant service.
Daniel talked about the importance of building and looking after your team - some of which were present at the event and the challenges he faced when opening the pub.
After our talks, guests enjoyed pizzas (courtesy of Pizza Pilgrims of course!) plus a selection of NICE wines in a can and Tosti prosecco from our wine partner Unity Wines & Spirits.