How did we do when challenged to envision the spirit of The Wolseley Hospitality Group as a digital experience? We speak to Hannah Berry, Director of Marketing, PR and Communications, about designing a modern experience for a brand steeped in heritage…
The last few years have been anything but kind to the hospitality sector. When you came to us, what was the purpose of the branding project?
People know what to expect when they come to our restaurants; they know what we stand for. But our website never reflected those values, it didn’t visually encapsulate that timeless elegance, it didn’t translate the warmth and welcome, the heritage and buzz. And yet the website had to sit above all the restaurants, to be the sum of their parts. We’d actually decided to change our website back in 2020, but then the world shut down because of the pandemic. Since then, staffing has become a big issue in hospitality so we needed the website to work much harder in recruitment, too. And, in that time, we’ve also changed the group’s name.
How did Without approach the brief?
We kept our company tagline – we create places where people feel they belong – but what Without did was really develop that and make that message tie into the whole experience. From their research, Without found that this essence is lived and breathed in the company but wasn’t being represented digitally to the outside world. This is what they’ve really helped us to achieve.
What were you most happy with?
The new creative content – imagery and video – that we shot as part of the project brought everything to life. Rather than shooting everyone straight to camera – including staff – people were captured in restaurant settings, which conveyed the warmth and friendliness that we have. Stylistically, that was a really good choice. The fact that we showcased some of our team members helps to translate what we’re all about onto the page, from our youngest member at 18 to our lovely doorman Frank, who is 86 years old – the staff are really pleased with it. But it was the creative direction here that really stood out. And Without made the assets work really hard.
The work had to take into account a brand that’s steeped in heritage, but focused on growth…
The website was conceived with the ability to grow as the company changes and broadens, from both a practical and creative perspective. We opened a pop-up of Cafe Wolseley in Bangkok in April, which has done very well, and has been extended until the end of the year. This Autumn, we’ll open Wolseley City in London, our next big opening with international expansion to follow. You need to make sure that you don’t dilute your brand too much and that you’re really going for places and destinations where your audience will be, but I think it’s exciting and great for staff retention, with opportunities to be transferred to work in different locations.
The creative concept was one of your favourite parts of the branding project – what about some of the more technical elements?
I really liked the concept of portrait navigation. We adopt a mobile-first approach, but it can be difficult to translate mobile-first into desktop and vice versa, especially when the creative matters so much. Without really thought about that – about the navigation and user journey – and both have worked really well across mobile and desktop.
Even though this was primarily a digital project, you were looking for an agency that could go further?
I wanted an agency that would be really strong on the design and branding front, which is why I went for Without. I first got to know them in my previous job, when I was looking for an agency and saw that Without had done Marcus Wareing’s website, which I really liked. But it’s the diversity of projects that attracted me. There’s Wedgwood, which had a lot of synergy with us and Without’s work for them was modern, but in a really sensitive way. Then there’s Caravan and Third Space – Without is able to capture the essence of these different brands and find their unique story. There’s no rolling out a template of design.
What are the challenges facing the hospitality industry?
With the cost of living crisis, there are more risks for businesses that are based on volume, at mid-market chain level, but it affects everyone. We have a really wide range of demographics. You can pop in for a croque monsieur and a coffee, or a fruits de mer and Champagne. You can walk into Manzi’s – our newest opening – at 4 o’clock for a fish finger sandwich and to read the paper. We’ve always had a really good value prix-fixe menu, with Zédel being the most obvious in the group. You could easily spend £12 on a takeaway high street lunch or you could come to Zédel and for £16.95 have two courses with tablecloths and waiters and lovely bread. It’s really good value and that kind of philosophy actually stands us in good stead. One of the biggest changes we’ve seen – which started pre-Covid – is in post-theatre dining, in London specifically. People are still going to the theatre, but they’re eating before the show. Perhaps it’s partly a transport thing – lack of taxis, tube strikes. Or, people just don’t want to get home that late if they have to be up again at 6am the next day. Also, with more working from home, Thursdays are now usually busier than Fridays.
What’s your favourite restaurant and what would you order for dinner?
My favourite changes quite a lot. I do love Fallow on St. James. The food philosophy is all about sustainability, but for me, it’s the overall experience. The choices are great, the ambience is buzzy, the service is fantastic, they just get it. They change the menu all the time, but my favourite dish, when it’s in season, is the venison tartare. And of ours, it’s a little like choosing your favourite child (!), but I do love Manzi’s – I’m so excited we’ve done a seafood restaurant. My favourites so far are the moules Basquaise and the monkfish wellington.
Complete this sentence: Without creativity…
…there is no relevancy. As marketeers, we’re tasked with coming up with creative ideas and concepts to keep our audience interested. The brands may stay the same – and particularly with ours, they’re classic and not trend led – but it’s a challenge, and for me a pleasure to come up with new ideas or new ways of communicating stories that have integrity and fit well, that customers hopefully engage with. And so those creative opportunities give you that chance to stay relevant for the time that you’re in, with the audience that you have or that you want to attract. You can – and must – keep being creative. That’s the key to good marketing and sustaining your place in people’s hearts and minds.
View the full case study for this project here.
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This article first appeared in The Brief, a monthly email with conversations and provocation for leaders and founders of brands. Just sign up here to receive it directly to your inbox – and join the debate.