Hungry for a local approach

Maybe it’s nearly lunch time and I‘ve been thinking about where to eat. Bristol is one of the most vibrant cities in the UK with more options of where to eat than most places… But where to go? Greens? The Lock-up? Yurt Lush? Lona’s?  Probably not names you know, unless you know Bristol very well.

This year we have seen the closure of up to 20 Byron restaurants, and Jamie Oliver’s restaurant group has said 12 of its 37 outlets will close, including in Bristol. If you read the majority of the media, the ‘Casual dining crunch’ has well and truly bitten into the restaurant industry. But whilst these big chains are struggling and closing their doors – small, local independent restaurants are expected to grow by 4 – 5% by 2020.

There could be, and I’m sure are, many reasons for this. But, Simon Potts, MD for Alchemist Restaurant Group put it to the Guardian, that chains simply ‘forget the principles that made them fantastic’. And what do local, independent restaurants do that is different?  Well, it is best described with a short extract from the Faraway Tree website, a fantastic restaurant in east Bristol…

“The faraway tree is an independent, family friendly Café. We aim to use seasonal, locally sourced produce all year round and take pride in having a good relationship with our local suppliers”

It’s a local company, run by local people, using local material and local suppliers. Customers trust them, see them as one of their own, doing “good” for the local economy and environment, and are giving them the thumbs up.

Local is the future, and this is where we in Bristol Water see the future of utility services is going to go too.

When Bristol Water was formed in 1846, its founders had a ground-breaking and ambitious aim. It was, as it is now, to bring fresh, clean drinking water to the city; essential to the health and wellbeing of all communities and not just for the wealthy few. We carry forward into the next millennium their vision that beyond providing water supplies, there remains a social enterprise doing what it can for all the communities it serves. Simply put we won’t be ‘forgetting the principles that made us fantastic’.

If we look at the stories in the media about ‘The water industry’ it is dominated by the big water and sewerage companies – what they’ve been up to. But that isn’t the whole industry. The small, local, ‘for the community companies’ like Bristol Water do things differently; simple finance structures, lower gearing, no offshoring, low dividends. We are based here in and around Bristol where our customers are. They are our families, friends and associates. They are people we go to pubs with, and people we go to eat with in local restaurants. We care about them, and we care about what they think of us when we are working for them. We know them well and they know us well. We are close to them and respond to them quickly. This is why our customers have supported Bristol Water to remain an independent privately owned company for 172 years, and have never allowed the local or national authorities to take over or nationalise it.

And does it work for them… well the UKCSI named us the most Trusted Utility in the UK, and the best water company for customer satisfaction… so yes, it does.

And if you agree or disagree I don’t mind. I’m happy to discuss over lunch one day.

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