The right backing can take a neighbourhood bar, pub or restaurant to the big league – after all, even the Wetherspoons of the world had to start somewhere.
It seems the hospitality group Mission Mars is on the cusp of a major breakthrough. The Manchester-based business recently received £10m from the Business Growth Fund, which it plans to put to use by expanding its brands to different parts of the UK.
Fortunately, the brains behind Mission Mars have ample experience scaling concepts. Roy Ellis and Neil Macleod founded the Revolution bar chain in 1996. Now, through Mission Mars, they operate beer hall Albert’s Schloss, among other venues.
Albert’s Schloss has gained popularity in Manchester as a lively venue with a penchant for pilsner – Ellis even nabbed Imbibe’s 2017 Pub Personality of the Year award for his enterprising work at the ‘bier palace’. It's little surprise, then, that Mission Mars has decided to devote a significant portion of its shiny new funding to opening more locations across the country.
How does the Mission Mars team plan to grow its offerings while preserving the lively spirit that sets Albert’s Schloss apart? We grabbed a few minutes of Roy Ellis’ time to talk sustainable expansion, honing a company ethos and standing out in a competitive market – and of course, choosing the drinks that keep people coming back again and again.
Why, in your opinion, is Albert’s Schloss suited to expansion across the country?
Because it is significantly different to that which already exists. It is an interesting, fun design – high quality, but not over the top.
It provides a great range of German and Czech beers (including fresh tank pilsner) served in frozen glasses, a high-quality range of cocktails, fresh food offered at casual dining prices and £20,000 worth of entertainment per week provided by our own in-house agency.
How do you plan to tailor your drinks offerings as you open more Albert’s Schloss venues?
We review recent trends in the market, visit competitor cities around the world and review our own performance before trialling new ideas
We plan to evolve our drink range, not tailor it. We have a drinks task force made up of 15 people from across the business. They meet six times per year to review and plan our drinks across all our sites, not just at Schloss. We review recent trends in the market, visit competitor cities around the world and review our own performance before trialling new ideas.
Part of Mission Mars’ mission statement is ‘to create world class food, drink, entertainment and hospitality experiences by nurturing innovation, people and sustainability’. How do you create a model that is both scalable and sustainable?
Sustainable in this context means we carefully pursue fair and durable ways of doing business. There are six key areas we focus on.
Guests – we ensure we do not make ‘bad’ profits, ie we do not maximise our margins/profits by charging more than is necessary to make an appropriate return on our investment. This ensures we focus on efficiency and waste at every opportunity (eg food and drink waste, manpower scheduling and utility consumption). We aim to ensure our guests do not pay for our profligacy. Guest must feel they receive real value for money in terms of food, drink, entertainment and service.
Staff – it is important that we don’t in any way take advantage of our staff. They must be well-trained and fairly rewarded for their contribution. We aim to be above average payers in the industry. We aim to make this sustainable by creating an efficient culture that is understood by the team. Monitoring all aspects of people development plus three times per year conducting a Quality of Life survey should allow us to achieve sustainability in this area.
Suppliers/partners – we aim to ensure our suppliers are successful. We nurture long-term relationships. We want our suppliers to grow with us and become more efficient too. We want them to make a reasonable return on their investments.
Neighbours – trading in the night-time economy means we are reliant on the goodwill of our neighbours. We put in place processes that bring us into regular contact with our neighbours to ensure we solve any issues immediately [when] they arise. Ideally, before they arise.
Other stakeholders – local authorities, police and health and safety all have an interest in our business and its sustainability. We work closely to ensure we are in step with their aspirations and requirements.
Environment – this is mostly to do with ensuring we comply with guidelines regarding energy saving and create designs that are sympathetic to the buildings we choose to inhabit. We also try to recycle and up-cycle materials wherever possible.
It is by focusing on [these aspects] that we will be scalable as well as sustainable.