Every year, bartlett mitchell holds not one, but two AGMs.  The first is in the Spring and is really geared around doing a year-end review and going over a number of key team updates.  The second is held in the Autumn and is usually used to launch new concepts and ideas.

We have just finished holding our Spring AGM, and what a fun afternoon it was.  It’s so amazing to see how this company has tripled in size in the decade I’ve been with them and seeing how much more the company is able to do.

We are so lucky to have owners who are committed to reinvesting in the business, which allows us to do more and more as the company grows.  Wendy started the AGM talking about the recent charity work we’ve been doing, raising money to help a community in the Gambia.  Last year, we built a mill for them, so the children, who previously had to grind wheat by hand, could be freed up to attend school for 4 hours per day.  Since then, we’ve installed power generators to provide electricity and started sponsorships with individual children. This has seen the first teenager from the community ever attend university this year, and we are continuing to do more and more.

Wendy also spoke about her recent trip to the Sopexxca Cooperative in Nicaragua, where we source our Perkee coffee.  Not only is this a Fairtrade cooperative, meaning everyone gets paid fairly for their hard work… this is Fairtrade on steroids!  We are working with the female led cooperative, helping them diversify their products so they are less reliant on the seasonal ups and downs of the coffee growing and harvesting cycles.  Experimenting with their first chocolate production, they are planting cacao plants.  We are also helping them design some branding and packaging for some energy seed bars they make when the harvest season is over.  Improved health care, education and living conditions are just the tip of the iceberg, and it is wonderful to see our coffee is not just a wonderful quality bean, but it has such a positive impact on the people growing it.

bartlett mitchell has, true to form, had another record year with record profits which has allowed us to invest in some fantastic new initiatives.  We launched Modern Classics as our lead food concept.  As the British palate becomes more sophisticated and adventurous, we now see the term “classic” as much broader than roast beef and fish and chips.  Thanks to the immigrant influences we see in the UK, we now have one of the most diverse food scenes in the world.  Indian, Italian, Thai, Mexican and other authentic ethnic dishes have now become mainstays.  Our Modern Classics range seeks to update some of the traditional British dishes, whilst embracing the influx of new classics as well.

We are working with a new Nutritionist, Kate Cook, who has revamped our healthy eating campaign, DARE (Delicious and Responsible Eating) and helped us design our new Vitality Kitchen, our nutritionally balanced healthy pop-up concept.  Gone are the days when healthy meant low calorie.  It now means eating the right number of calories for your lifestyle but, more importantly, eating food that gives you the nutritional content you need to meet your goals.  Kate is an expert in corporate wellness and nutrition and is able to advise on how to change lifestyle and diet on a cultural level for long term benefits.  We are very excited to be working with her.

We did a big section on Hospitality, sharing the best practises we’ve been working on for the last 18 months, with a series of monthly workshops made up of volunteers from within our business.  This covered service etiquette, attention to detail, classic and contemporary setups and service styles, and also some new equipment ideas.

There was a section on our redrafted Fundamentals, which is our simple, one-page guide to the bartlett mitchell way of doing things.  Wendy and Ian devised Fundamentals 18 years ago, when they dreamed up the company whilst sipping Sancerre at Wendy’s kitchen table.  They haven’t changed in 18 years!  Whilst that’s a tremendous testament to how standards are timeless, we have improved what we do and how we do it, so we have revamped them and relaunched them with some simple guidelines which allow all our teams to be as creative and entrepreneurial as we know they want to be, whilst understanding the framework and values that will always be the backbone of bm.  Fundamentals, FunDelimentals, Festive Fundamentals and Environmentals were all redrafted and launched in a fun, interactive roulette game.

Most importantly, however, we launched our new people brand, the BM FAMILY.  It was important that we invest as much money, time and effort into our people as we do into food and marketing, and this year we wanted our team to be our biggest focus.  Now every member of the team will have their own booklet that shares all the information they need on what working with bartlett mitchell is all about.  This includes our history, policies and procedures, individual personal development plans, information on key dates over the next year and full, personalised job descriptions. It creates a one stop shop that lets people know their career is in safe hands.

To further support our people, we have also created the Talent Team, which is a new team of baristas, general assistants and chef de parties who are given full time contracts (no zero hours stuff for our family), on LLW or above, who will be acting as our internal agency to cover holidays and absence across our sites.  We have over 20 people on the team and they are also starting to provide candidates for permanent roles in our business, when vacancies arise.  Nobody can work on the team until they’ve completed a rigourous two week training and induction plan and no permanent recruits will be placed until successful completion of a 3 month probationary period.  Not only do our teams now get reliable, internally trained candidates, rather than having to rely on agencies, but they also are able to fill vacancies immediately, saving hours in interviewing and new starter inductions and training.

We featured some new suppliers that we are supporting as part of our entrepreneurial start-up programme called BM Inc, and we even had a bit of time for a drink and some fun when it was all over.

It was a great day and a huge pleasure to see our ever growing team all in one place, still feeling like that great company I joined 10 years ago.  The next AGM is in September, and I can hardly wait!