Quickfire with Peter Osborne

Group Commercial Director, Boxford Group

Having worked in hospitality in East Anglia since 2009, Peter's current role with Stoke by Nayland Resort, part Boxford Group, also involves other businesses: Peake Fruit and Boxford Farms.

Published in Suffolk Director Magazine, Autumn|Winter 2022

We spent five minutes with Peter and asked him about his role at Boxford Group, and the issues facing the hospitality sector

What recruitment challenges is the hospitality sector currently facing?

Many have left the industry over the last two years when it was hit by the pandemic, lockdown and restrictions. Hospitality has had bad press as a career choice in the past, but it has changed and there are many opportunities. Some companies are listening and trying to deliver a career to appeal to students and those just out of education. We need to promote it more, because hospitality is the third biggest employment sector in the UK and provides a wealth of transferable skills with a career for life.

How do you maintain and enhance margins?

Some businesses have three meat suppliers, three veg suppliers and so on. They then play them off against one another to secure the best prices. I prefer to collaborate and have regular dialogue with just one supplier of each category. That said, it’s good to “shop” around on key items every so often to ensure you’re getting the best price without compromising on quality.

How can you put your prices up and keep your customers?

Customer expectation is higher now than pre-COVID. That said, customers understand that prices must go up in line with what is happening in their own shopping basket and their essential living expenses. You just need to ensure you deliver a valuable experience!

How do you protect your reputation and enhance it?

You need to monitor, engage and reply to all feedback. We hold weekly customer feedback meetings to identify trends and then review procedures to put any required training in place. We also check if technology can solve an issue. 

How do you network to your advantage?

I’m fortunate to work for a long-standing, well-known business. Tamara Unwin, one of the family directors, has Suffolk and Essex covered, so I concentrate on networking out of the area, since I am well established in the Suffolk area. This has proved successful in introducing our businesses to new people and opportunities.

How do you shut off from the business and manage the work-life balance more effectively?

I am very good at managing my work-life balance. For me, it’s about output. Yes, I send or reply to an email at random times, but I never expect a reply. I ensure I maintain the balance on the whole. I commute 45 minutes to and from the office, and I find that helps too, to decompress after a busy day in the office.

How can you cut overheads and outgoings without negatively impacting your business?

A good business friend once told me a good question to ask a business owner is: do you want a business to be proud that it breaks even, or a business that makes lots of money that no one likes? An example of the latter is Ryanair!

There is a balance between the two. Hospitality is a service-heavy industry, therefore, cutting people from the business isn’t always the answer. We can reduce costs by investing in technology for a more seamless process, saving time so that our people can be more efficient, but it is important to invest in our team, helping them to deliver the best guest experience possible.

For more information, visit www.boxfordgroup.co.uk 

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