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Chesterford Group CEO – we re-engineered our business model in a week

Article Date: 2020-04-30

James Lipscombe, chief executive of the Chesterford Group, which operates 40 sites under brands including Churchill’s and Bankers Fish & Chips, has told Propel the whole business will be reopened this week.

Speaking as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, Lipscombe said within a week of making the decision to close all sites on 24 March, the business model has been re-engineered and by mid-April it had 22 sites reopened. A further 11 sites reopened last week and the remainder are now reopening. He said: “I am proud of my team at the speed of change we had to introduce into our stores. The week leading up to the closures we were only 10% down in terms of sales. We already had a lot of safe distancing measures in place, including marshalls on the doors allowing only a set number of people in at one time, and our teams were managing with it ok, but as soon as the prime minister announced the lock-down we realised we had to close. We then spent the next week closing down the business, but even by the end of it we were talking about how we get up and running again. We called it our phoenix plan, which was focused on looking at how do we reopen the stores in a safe way. We worked with the Health & Safety Executive, which has been fantastic, really supported us and approved our measures. This meant we were able to reopen our first store a week after we closed. We also introduced new technology into the business as well.”

Lipscombe said the business was in a fortunate position because it already had a click-and-collect app up and running, and its delivery business had been increasing “quite substantially”. He said: “We do delivery slightly uniquely, as we lease the cars directly and manage the whole end-to-end consumer experience with our own team. On the whole we didn’t use the aggregators, which meant to get that business up and running was far swifter. We have tried to do it in a very measured way because we wanted to focus on getting the training, risk assessments and ways of working right.” He said the group, which operates the Serial Griller virtual brand, was looking to launch another one in the next few weeks.

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