Communicating with your steak holders


Would you love to be part of a group at work that posts about creating the perfect steak and chips? You can if you work for the restaurant group Hawksmoor that connects 660 staff in restaurants from London to New York.

Madeleine Geach is Head of Culture at the Hawksmoor Group which has six high-end restaurants in London and one apiece in Manchester, Edinburgh and are just opening in New York.

“Last year I wanted more of a food and drink focus in our internal communications so we launched a Hawksmoor Food Group, where colleagues could post new dishes, reveal the exciting stuff in development and generally chat about any food focused projects. Videos on training on steak and chips were particularly popular!”

Hawksmoor was set up in 2006 by two Brits: Huw Gott and Will Beckett, Creative Director and CEO, respectively. They had previously worked in bars and kitchens in London’s East End and opened their new restaurant on Commercial Street there, just down the road from the church designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor the leading English Baroque style architect of the late-17th and early-18th centuries. Their plan was to offer high-quality, well-butchered beef, so they tasted a range of beef from all over the world, until coming to the conclusion that the best tasting steak was from the UK. Madeleine joined them 4 years ago following jobs in education:

“I love food. If I was going to move from teaching, then it had to be for food! I have an instinct for the hospitality industry. I also liked the fact that the Hawksmoor culture was quite maverick. Not every restaurant chain has a Head of Culture but they wanted someone who really understood how people learn and develop.”

Madeleine started by offering a series of train-the-trainer style workshops. They might happen in the corner of a restaurant or in one of the restaurants’ private dining rooms before a service kicked off. The staff are predominantly in their twenties, and being hospitality the turnover is higher than in some industries, although managers stay for an average of 4 years, high for the restaurant trade.

“My philosophy is to make training sticky by offering really practical stuff that is fun for them. Then we make it even stickier, for instance we use a mobile phone quiz after training: learning and development should be interactive rather than just people telling you stuff.

“We had an IC specialist, Amy Cesnas, who introduced Workplace by Facebook around the time that I arrived. Immediately I thought, OMG this is a fantastic way to push out loads of training content! Suddenly we had the capability to broadcast training related stuff.”

Some staff took to Workplace right away, others took a bit more convincing.

“The association with Facebook and social media is an asset but there is also lots of negative association which gets fed back. We did a listening project with staff about how they felt about the new channels. The most common negative was a feeling of being overwhelmed by all the content, so we have done more training on switching off notifications and better group management and curation.”

Madeleine admits that the platform has limited knowledge management capabilities – it’s not a learning management system. But it has galvanised internal communications:

“I think the introduction of Workplace did two things. It has allowed us to communicate much more effectively about all the training we have and make it more visible. But it is also an engaging platform. Not everything we do can be a face-to-face session, so we are increasingly using Workplace to promote quick how-to videos.

“I work with the senior team with a quarterly comms plan and encourage  them to post at least once a month and  to ‘like’ or comment on posts frequently. Will is a social media type of guy, so he took to it very naturally. Others took a little longer to see the benefits but have now been won round.

“We have plenty of foody articles and we get good posts from our suppliers. For instance, the guy who catches our prawns recently posted pictures of him in action in Brixham in Devon.”

About half of the 660 staff are daily users, pretty impressive given that many did not even have email before. And 75% have posted profile pictures.

Woke issues

There is a big focus right now on the beef and the environment. Hawksmoor are using  Workplace to talk about sustainability and ethical beef with their staff .

“We want to get across the message that not all beef is created equal. With Workplace we can  get a view from our CEO out to everybody; I’m not sure how we would communicate important messages like this this so easily without the channel.”

And when the recent London Bridge incident played out with a knife-wielding terrorist just meters from one of their restaurants they were able to use the quick responses on Work Chat to help get the right advice out to the people in the restaurant that day.

“Before we launched Workplace just our managers had email – barely 20% of staff. With the social platform we have managed to connect front line workers.  It is not just a broadcast tool. It’s about engaging and having fun.”


By Marc Wright