Three reasons to embrace start-up spirit for party season


5 min read

Three reasons to embrace start-up spirit for party season


    Zeren Wilson of John Dory Wine.

    Copyright Planday 2023

    Starting a hospitality venture from scratch is about embracing invention and adventure. But even if you embody the “Bring it on” start-up spirit, launching when party season’s in full swing can seem like a recipe for chaos.

    That’s why we’ve pulled together three tips from industry veterans that could help make your start-up a seasonal smash for the final part of our Planday Seasonal Survival Guide.

    Meet the team

    Zeren Wilson: one of Sandgate’s John Dory Wine’s founders, with a background in the depths of the wine trade at David Motion’s The Winery W9, and managing restaurant accounts at Armit Wines
    John Dory Wine: the brainchild of a collective of seven hospitality professionals, serving up delicious dishes and carefully curated wines in Sandgate

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    Did someone say, “Chaos”...? “Not at all!” says Zeren Wilson, one of Sandgate’s John Dory Wine’s founders. Wilson’s track record began decades ago, in the depths of the wine trade at David Motion’s The Winery W9, and managing restaurant accounts at Armit Wines. Somm/buyer duties at London’s much-missed Zucca led him to grow his career as a food and drink writer and wine consultant for top London restaurants.

    So, having a specialist CV helps. But landing a wine bar/tasting room packed with comestibles de luxe in tough economic times? It helps to do it with friends. Or soon-to-be friends with mutual respect, shared ambition and firmly screwed-on heads. Louisa Walls and the owners of Space Bar & Kitchen were already leading Folkestone’s revival scene. Which kick-started cooperation down the round in Sandgate.

    Keep it lo-fi

    Perched on the coast of Kent, Sandgate is a short stroll from the wine bars of Folkestone. Yet this village of independent-minded shops somehow lacked a place to pause over a selection of carefully curated wines. Somewhere like John Dory Wine, the brainchild of a collective of seven hospitality professionals. Who were brave enough to tackle food pairings without ovens.

    Their first few weeks of food offerings saw tentative steps around predictable items like charcuterie and cheese. The difference? The sourcing. John Dory Wine’s came from the highest quality suppliers in London’s Borough Market.

    As customer numbers grew and business confidence increased, ambition followed suit. Enter chef Harry Johnson, ex La Bourse et la Vie, the Michelin-recommended Parisian bistro, with his creative food pairings. Themed wine nights soon gave rise to full menus prepared off-site and induction-finished beside the wine bar clientele. The venue’s New Year’s Eve Feasting Menu reads like a white tablecloth extravaganza.

    And this from a tiny team, only 15 months old.

    Planday’s shift scheduling software helps you understand how to optimise your staff and deliver the flexibility that improves mental wellbeing.

    Don’t stress over stress

    So being a small venture, and Christmas being so big, isn’t this a time of stress at John Dory Wine? Again, it’s about playing to your local strengths. “We have about 10 staff in the pool and on the subs bench,” says Zeren, “which is plenty – if we plan ahead. We’re used to the usual Friday/Saturday peak, and the festive season this year will just extend that. But yes, staff planning’s critical. However she does it, Louisa’s got that covered.”

    No Q4 challenges then? “The challenge is the same throughout the year – always to keep things changing and interesting. For our staff as well as our customers. And the festive season actually helps us do that. Why? Because it has so many built-in occasions we can respond to by creating events, from Beaujolais Nouveau Day to Christmas Eve to New Year.”

    Planday’s secure instant messaging helps you keep all your team on the same page, and creates a safe space from which you can talk to each other.

    Lessons learned

    What lessons have John Dory Wine learned since their opening night in July 2022? For Zeren Wilson, it’s how new ventures bring unexpected satisfaction. “Knowing how hard it is for a hospitality business to survive profitably, I was always happy to carry on being a consultant. But when the chance arrived to start up something like this with a collective of other people who had skills that I admired – and where customers feel better when they walk out than when they walked in – I wanted to be part of it.”

    It's a wonderful thing, our industry, if you manage it together.

    Embrace the start-up pace

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