How we are helping the UK’s leading pub retailer to uphold its 200-year-old reputation

Case Study: Greene King PLC

How we are helping the UK’s leading pub retailer to uphold its 200-year-old reputation

Founded in 1799, Greene King is now the country's leading pub retailer and brewer. The organisation runs over 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels in towns, villages and city centre high streets across the UK. With over two centuries’ experience, the firm brews award-winning beers and operates managed, tenanted, leased and franchised pubs from its central headquarters in Bury St. Edmunds. Although employees are spread the length and breadth of the country, it was important for the chain to ensure everyone was offered the opportunity to develop in their careers, while attracting and retaining the best people too.

About Greene King PLC

  • 39,000 employees
  • 2,700 sites
  • £1.8bn revenue (financial year ending 30th September 2018)

The Challenge

Believing that the people make Greene King the successful brand it is today, the firm strives to be a first-class employer both at its head office, and the thousands of sites across the country.

Encompassing a range of well-known names such as Hungry Horse, Chef & Brewer, Farmhouse Inns and Greene King Local, the hospitality giant was looking to appoint an HR partner who could uphold its centuries-old reputation as an attractive and rewarding place to work.

While reviewing its Employee Relations (ER) support activities, Greene King was looking to adopt a new ER method in place of the traditional, regional law firm approach. Up until this point, the cost of advice was prohibitive and the company wanted to gain better control over its activities, as well as have a provider act more like an extension of its in-house team.

Having gone to tender across the employment law market, Greene King asked for pitches which included ideas offering real service innovation and imagination. After vetting just shy of 10 legal firms, the brand was underwhelmed by a lack of forward-thinking opportunities.

After approaching esphr to request its thoughts, separately, the team addressed the issue of where Greene King wanted to be, and how a little ‘outside the box’ vision could support that ambition.

The Solution

Dealing with over 200 matters of a sensitive nature every month, it was vital that Greene King’s advisory partner was a dynamic, accessible and knowledgeable extension of the in-house expertise.

Since its appointment in 2017, esphr has played an integral role in both day-to-day HR and ER matters, as well as offered legal advice during employment tribunals. On a daily basis, the team makes use of several of esphr’s online ER and HR resources – which includes a suite of templates which save staff time when compiling or amending internal documents. 

esphr also provides timely, specialist advice from a dedicated team of lawyers allocated to the Greene King account over the phone; via email or online. By getting under the skin of Greene King, and really understanding the firm’s core values and drivers, this personal legal team offers informed, commercial ideas, or acts as a sounding board for the HR team.

Additionally, the pub chain’s corporate team also make good use of esphr’s market-leading system, MyHRCases. The cloud-based ER case management application allows both sides to read, action, communicate, transfer key documentation and review all elements of a single case – with the ability to instruct esphr’s employment lawyers to maintain legal privilege.

This joined-up approach is complimented by a fixed-cost, subscription-based pricing solution which ensures Greene King’s 13-strong ER department can speak to its dedicated legal counsel as much, or as little, as needed.

Alongside ongoing support, esphr also helped negotiate a sensitive case, which carried significant PR implications for the retail business. The tactics and guidance provided by the legal experts not only helped to resolve the matter – and deliver the best possible outcome for Greene King – it also avoided potential damage to the firm’s reputation.

esphr was appointed – and continue to be retained – for its unrivalled ability to provide confident and sound HR and legal advice, while remaining responsive and accessible.

The team and I have significantly expanded our knowledge in terms of employment law, and we’re in a stronger position to deliver first-class support for our representations. A knowledgeable, commercially-minded and consistent point of contact at esphr is what has fostered such a positive learning environment, alongside the focused solicitor-led training.

I’ve really benefitted from understanding some of the wider implications of the law, thanks to esphr’s vast range of in-house experience. It’s been reassuring to know that when there has been employment law implications, we’ve had experts to sense-check and assist.

Adam Dilks

Head of ER, Greene King PLC

How we are helping the UK’s leading pub retailer to uphold its 200-year-old reputation