Category Archives: Dining & Cuisine

Weightmans Wednesday – Veeno

In Liverpool, there are so many cafes that serve tea, coffee and snacks. However there is also a cafe called Veeno on Castle Street, which serves Italian wine and spuntini, which means little snacks and appetisers in Italian.

At last week’s event at Weightmans LLP in Liverpool, I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation on the background story of Veeno. This was delivered by Nino Caruso, the CEO and co-founder of the business. Nino delivered a delightful presentation on Veeno’s origins from co-founding the company with Andrea Zecchino in 2013.

Listening to Nino’s presentation, I was entranced by his story. Nino talked about his background in wine, forged through four generations of his family’s vineyard in Sicily, providing pure naturally produced Italian wine to over 35 countries, and how Andrea and himself, founded, grew and nurtured the business. In addition, Nino also talked about the future of Veeno, including the challenge of developing a corporate structure that supports the business, whilst retaining its unique identity.

From the event, I learned some interesting facts about Veeno, which I have listed below:

  1. Employs 150 people in the UK.
  2. As well as Liverpool and Manchester, they also have stores across the UK including Edinburgh, Leeds, Leicester and Nottingham.
  3. 10 more cafes are due to open in the UK in 2018.
  4. Veeno made £4.3 million in total revenue in 2017.

The facts above show how Veeno has grown as a business. However it is more than just an Italian cafe that serves wines and spuntini. They also host wine tasting sessions for businesses and groups of people. Having attended the occasional past event at Veeno, they are a completely unique experience which I recommend to anyone.

Nino’s presentation was more than just talking about Veeno’s success as a business. It was delivered with a soft and heartfelt tone. As Nino spoke, I picked up on his passion for wine, life and family, encapsulated with a beautiful photo of Nino and his wife, married in his family’s vineyard in gorgeous Sicily sunshine and blue skies. Closing the presentation when talking about his grandfather, I heard Nino’s voice crackling gently with emotion, which I found rather moving. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful event.

I would like to thank Nino for an informative and touching presentation, as well as Ricky Heath and everyone at Veeno. My thanks also go to everyone at Weightmans for organising a lovely evening of networking.

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Weightmans Wednesday – Leaf Group

Who are Leaf Group and what do they do?

At last week’s Weightmans Wednesday bi-monthly networking event, I found out the answer for myself. What I found was a story not only about success, but also of overcoming obstacles.

The event featured Natalie Haywood, who is the founder of Leaf Group. Since forming in 2007, Leaf Group has grown successfully to encompass a chain of successful bars in Liverpool including Leaf, Oh Me Oh My, and One Fine Day, which has recently opened on Old Hall Street. I have had the pleasure of visiting these establishments, so this was an opportunity to learn about the origins of the business.

Natalie spoke a great deal about Leaf’s business journey. From the beginnings on Bold Street, to dealing with landlord disputes, raising finance, and the growing pains of the business, I was very impressed with Natalie’s story. As I listened carefully, I understood why Leaf has been successful, through offering a unique and successful service, whilst encountering and tackling difficulties.

In addition, Natalie also gave a glimpse into the soul of Leaf Group. This included talking about being creative and experimenting with new ideas, which is very important, because businesses must continuously adapt to remain competitive. At the same time, businesses must remain true to their core values and their customers’ needs, which is difficult to balance effectively, resulting in stressful times and problems that need to be overcome.

I also learned that businesses must be resourceful, resilient and tenacious. The hospitality industry is ferociously competitive, with many casualties littering cities like corpses on a battlefield. Therefore for restaurants and bars like all businesses, it is all about product and the customer experience. Customers have so much choice and the collective power, which make or break businesses.

Upon reflection, I admire Natalie for not only telling the story of Leaf Group, but also of the difficult times encountered. Anyone can speak about how successful they have been, but honestly describing what also went wrong, and of the lessons learned takes both honesty and courage, to reveal a sense of vulnerability to an audience. In my opinion, you learn more when you fail, but how you learn and respond is the key, and I applaud Natalie for showing the path to success involves encountering and overcoming failures.

Finally I would like to thank Natalie, and Rebecca Driffield and Sarah Jennings from Weightmans, for organising an excellent evening of networking.

Weightmans Wednesday – Liverpool Organic Brewery

Today the beer industry in Britain is changing, with the rise of micro-breweries. Creating their unique brand of real-ale, made from traditional and fresh ingredients, micro-breweries are proving very popular with the beer-buying British public.

At this month’s Weightmans Wednesday event in Liverpool, I was delighted to listen to an interesting talk from Mark Hensby of Liverpool Organic Brewery. Along with a packed audience, I was very keen to hear the story of the brewery’s success.

From the beginning of the brewery in 2008, to the success of Liverpool Gin and Real Ale Events, Mark gave a very eloquent talk, taking the audience on a journey. Even more pleasing was that Mark also allowed for audience participation throughout. Listening carefully, I was impressed with how Mark replied with modesty, dignity and humour.

Mark explained about his background, setting up the brewery, growing it and also how it has hosted many successful beer festivals, through Real Ale Events. Examples of such festivals include St George’s Hall and most notably St Luke’s Church, which have been successful. This has resulted in the positive effect of helping to breathe life into Liverpool’s historical landmarks, generating publicity and revenue. There was also a mention of a rum and prosecco event, which drew humming sounds of delight, from some audience members.

In difficult times, when the general beer market is declining, the real-ale market is growing. I learned the number of micro-breweries in the UK have grown from 400 to 1600 today, which is a clear sign of the popularity of naturally created ale. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that market trends fluctuate, which apply to every industry.

Liverpool Organic Brewery has grown to be a real asset. Reflecting on the event, my opinion is that it captures the spirit of what is great about Liverpool. Not only has it been successful with customers in the UK and beyond, but it incorporates and respects the city’s identity, whilst promoting it internationally. The brewery also provides a wide variety of naturally crafted ales.

I would like to thank Mark Hensby, and also everyone at Weightmans for putting on an excellent evening. Just listening to Mark’s story was well worth the excellent turnout alone.

Professional Liverpool – Networking Evening with Tomas Maunier

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending a networking evening, organised by Professional Liverpool and featuring Tomas Maunier from Fazenda Group. Having previously listened to Tomas speak about Fazenda, it was a pleasure to once again hear him speak about the founding, growth and success of the business.

With an excellent turnout, canapés and networking at the Cotton Exchange, the event began with a warm introduction from John Hall, the Chief Executive of Professional Liverpool. As Tomas took to the stage, a hearty applause marked the beginning of an experience, where I once again listened to Tomas’s personal journey, from his law beginnings, to moving into the hospitality industry in 2010. Listening to Tomas again, I was not to be disappointed, as I absorbed his every word from start to finish.

There was plenty that Tomas covered. From his beginnings as a solicitor, getting involved with marketing and hospitality, to explaining about the importance of having the right people, which was a reoccurring theme. In addition, Tomas also talked about the difficult challenges and setbacks, that had to be overcome, for Fazenda to be successful. An example is that working in hospitality, means the environment is incredibly fast-paced, frantic and constantly demanding, leaving minimal opportunity to stop and reflect. This means surrounding oneself with the right people is important.

Thinking about Tomas’s Fazenda journey, I found it to be an interesting insight into how the hospitality industry works. With so many restaurants competing for trade in Liverpool and other UK cities, customers have so much choice and different tastes, meaning that establishments need to provide the best possible dining experiences. Another aspect to consider is that trends will change as money gets tighter, leading to the dining out bubble bursting. Therefore restaurants will need to innovate and adapt to change, or fall by the wayside.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Alex Clark and Rosie Davis from Professional Liverpool, for putting together a fine evening of networking. I would also like to once again thank Tomas for sharing his incredible story, and providing a glimpse into the blood, sweat and tears required, to be successful in business.

Certainly provided me with food for thought!

Weightmans Wednesday – Mowgli Street Food

Whenever I receive an invitation to a Weightmans event, I always look forward to not only networking, but also listening to the stories of others. I see these as opportunities to learn from speakers and fellow attendees, where personal stories are told, rich in heartfelt tone, humour and experience, lifting the human soul and encouraging a belief that anything is possible. A recent example is my experience of last week’s Weightmans Wednesday event, where I had the pleasure of listening to the excellent Nisha Katona of Mowgli Street Food.

Along with her success as a restaurateur and curry evangelist, Nisha has also written two books called “Pimp my Rice” and “The Spice Tree”, along with writing for newspapers such as the Independent and Telegraph. In addition, Nisha has also appeared on television, and you can also find her on Twitter and YouTube.

The audience and I were wowed by her personal journey, from her beginnings as a barrister for 20 years, to founding Mowgli in 2014, along with its subsequent and successful growth. Nisha also spoke about building Mowgli’s success through the back of social media, in addition to helping others. This included sourcing local suppliers, and working as part of a close-knit and supportive community of residents, fellow restaurant owners and small businesses. Located in the unique and eclectic surroundings of Bold Street, Mowgli is one of Liverpool’s popular dining establishments.

Listening to Nisha, I picked up on her passion for homemade Indian cuisine, and of the pride in her work.  To be successful involves taking risks, thus requiring faith and confidence in yourself and your abilities. Other useful points that I picked up, were the importance of integrity, knowing your strengths, surrounding yourself with good people to delegate, as well as remaining true to yourself and your brand. A final and most important characteristic is the ability to tackle and survive setbacks.

My thanks go to everyone at Weightmans for organising a fine evening. I would also like to personally thank Nisha for sharing her heartfelt story. It was not only inspirational, but also powerful, and her eloquently chosen words contributed to lifting the evening, into the realms of unforgettableness. For me this was one on my favourite ever Weightmans Wednesday events.

To conclude, Nisha’s success shows that you can follow your heart, and pursue your passion for something that is a labour of love.

Weightmans Wednesday – Fazenda Group

Liverpool is blessed to have so many fine restaurants. From the likes of Panoramic 34, Old Blind School, Sapporo, Mayur, District House and others, there are many terrific restaurants that provide quality cuisine, catering for all tastes and palates.

At last month’s Weightmans Wednesday event, I listened to a very interesting talk given by Tomas Maunier from Fazenda Group. The purpose was to deliver an insight into the running and development of Fazenda. Located in the fine surroundings of Exchange Flags, Fazenda has grown to be one of the best dining establishments in Liverpool, and is very popular within the city’s Commercial District. As a result, I was extremely keen to listen to Tomas’s story.20161026_204023

Tomas covered his early background in law, before moving into marketing and his current work with Fazenda. Listening to him, I learned it is important to understand people, as this is how business is done. In addition, I picked up other useful points related to branding and customer service, which I have included below.

  1. Focus on providing a quality experience for customers.
  2. Do what you do with passion and love!
  3. Service begins at home!
  4. Concentrate on making a premium brand and dream ways to expand it.
  5. Explain to the customer about what you are doing.
  6. People do not accept change easily!

With these events, usually I listen to speakers talk about their successes, but rarely their mistakes. Tomas was different in that he opened up about past errors made, which was refreshing to hear. It is very rare for a speaker to open up and honestly mention what they could have done better previously, so I applaud Tomas for having the courage to do this. Sometimes we need to remember, that we are human beings who are not perfect, and that mistakes are opportunities for us to learn from.

My experience of the event was very positive. Tomas was a fine speaker, as he spoke sincerely and with passion for his work. From his early background in law, to getting into the hospitality industry, I was fascinated by his story, and of how Fazenda has grown as a restaurant. I hope to try their cuisine very soon!

In conclusion, I would like to thank Tomas and everyone involved at Weightmans, for an excellent evening of conversation and networking.