David Parkin on Ivy reaction, Rhode Island reading and surreal celebs

David Parkin on Ivy reaction, Rhode Island reading and surreal celebs

WHEN I wrote about a recent experience at the Ivy restaurant in Harrogate last week I have to say I didn’t expect it to get the reaction it did. The blog has been read by more than 5,100 people so far and attracted 73 comments and over 250 likes on Linkedin. That is in addition to numerous phone calls, texts and emails I’ve received, mainly from people who have had a similar experience to mine. Clearly the service I received wasn’t an isolated occurrence. Whether it is confined to the Harrogate restaurant I don’t know. But several people were keen to highlight the positive experiences they have had in other Ivys in Birmingham, Norwich, Richmond, St Albans and York, which perhaps suggests it is. Certainly that was the message from Laura Bamber, Operations Manager at The Ivy Collection, who read the blog and called me yesterday to apologise. Laura was polite and apologetic and keen to hear my observations about the Harrogate experience. She said that clearly The Ivy had failed on this occasion and accepted that given other people’s comments, it wasn’t just a one-off cock up and the restaurant will provide more training for staff. I said that whatever training is done, it doesn’t remove the challenge of having a small lobby entrance in which visitors are made to wait and wonder if they will be permitted to enter. I want to be treated like a grown-up when I go out for lunch or dinner. If the restaurant doesn’t have a spare table I’d like to be allowed to have a drink at the bar rather than...
David Parkin finds the Ivy all fur coat and no knickers

David Parkin finds the Ivy all fur coat and no knickers

ESCAPE rooms are an increasingly popular activity for groups of work colleague and friends. But I’ve got an alternative for you. Try getting into one of the many Ivy Brasserie restaurants that seem to have sprung up like knotweed around the UK over the past 12 months. If you do manage to get through the portals then your reward will be memorable – an overpriced meal and service which is painful. The staff are neither obsequious or arrogant, they just have a unique way of conveying the message that you are lucky to be there and they are doing you a huge favour. If this was the original Ivy – the century old restaurant in Covent Garden which has long been a magnet for celebrities – you might understand. But it was the Ivy Brasserie in Harrogate, one of 16 that have been opened in an aggressive strategy by Richard Caring’s Caprice Holdings in recent months. And celebs are in shorter supply in the spa town. Although I did see a local bank manager dining there who is a bit of a star – he gave out two business loans in the first half of the year, more than most are allowed to do. The latest Ivy opened its doors in the Victoria Quarter, Leeds this week. I did get an invite to the opening night, but after my experience in Harrogate last Saturday evening, couldn’t be bothered to go. When I visited the original Ivy some years ago I was impressed by every aspect of the place – food, service, decor and value for money. There was a...
David Parkin on four boys in a boat and nearly selling a selfie

David Parkin on four boys in a boat and nearly selling a selfie

WHEN four burly blokes surround you and ask you to do a job for them it is difficult to decline. Fortunately they are a quartet of top men who are aiming to break the world record for rowing across the Atlantic and they want some help with a charity dinner then the decision to say yes is easy. Will Quarmby, Fraser Mowlem, Glyn Sadler and Duncan Roy will set out on their quest from La Gomera in the Canary Islands in December and attempt to get to Antigua in the Caribbean in less 29 days. But before that they have had to train and raise enough money to compete in the challenge alongside holding down full time jobs and finding time to spend with their families.   Duncan Roy told me that the biggest challenge for most teams that want to enter the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is often not the epic row itself but raising the near £100,000 it costs to take part in the race. I first met the Row4Victory boys at Welcome to Yorkshire’s stand at the Great Yorkshire Show last year when they told me of their ambitious plan to not just row the Atlantic in a tiny boat but to do it in a world record time. It sounded a crazy idea and I wished them well, but not before introducing them to Welcome to Yorkshire Y30 member Nic Marshall, who said his firm, a growing Hull-based telemarketing business, called ResQ, would probably not be the best brand name for their boat to have emblazoned on it. But the lads shared Nic’s sense of...
David Parkin on strong transatlantic ties, the tooth of the matter and mankini selfies

David Parkin on strong transatlantic ties, the tooth of the matter and mankini selfies

DONALD Trump might be threatening to take a sledgehammer to many of the United States’ foreign trade agreements but that shouldn’t mask the huge opportunity that British firms have to do business with America. With Brexit looming, there is a renewed enthusiasm on both sides of the Atlantic to build new trading relationships. One such example is a trade mission which takes place in September when Stefan Pryor, Secretary of Commerce for the State of Rhode Island, will head up a group of US businesses and a team of commerce and tourism officials heading to the UK. Visiting the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ cities of Leeds, Hull and Manchester as well as Edinburgh, the mission will see Rhode Island firms meet with UK business leaders with the aim of growing exports between the state and the North of England and Scotland.   I’m joining the group and their hosts for a number of events and will be compering a breakfast panel discussion for ExportExchange, the peer-to-peer mentoring initiative aimed at supporting overseas trade in the Leeds City Region, on September 20 at the offices of UK-US law firm Womble Bond Dickinson. Secretary Pryor and his team will be talking to UK businesses about the latest incentives and support available for British companies planning to set up an operation in Rhode Island, which is increasingly being seen by UK businesses as a first landing place in the US. Rhode Island might be the smallest state in the US but its position sandwiched in between Boston and New York could have seen in overshadowed by its much larger and higher profile neighbours. Instead...
David Parkin on the hottest ticket to the greatest show and the stars out at York

David Parkin on the hottest ticket to the greatest show and the stars out at York

I’VE long held the view that the Firecracker Ball is the hottest ticket in the Yorkshire business and social calendar. So when Martha Phillips from the Firecracker Ball committee rang to ask if I would be interested in being media partner for this year’s event I didn’t hesitate to say yes. The annual event, which raises huge funds for Barnardo’s causes across Yorkshire, takes place in November at Rudding Park Hotel in Harrogate. The Firecracker is a spectacular event and this year’s is no different with a Brazilian carnival themed backdrop and pop singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor entertaining the audience of 800 at the black tie ball. Last year’s ball had an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland theme and the venue was so beautifully and ambitiously decorated and presented that guests felt they were descending through a rabbit hole to a vast underground kingdom, rather than a marquee. It raised a staggering £270,000 for Barnardo’s and the event has raised £2.5m for the charity since its launch in 2002. Previous themes have included the circus, the Roaring Twenties, the Wizard of Oz and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – complete with Oompa Loompas and a chocolate river which guests crossed by a bridge. Firecracker chairman, the property entrepreneur Phil Taylor and his committee have created a charity event which achieves two key things – raising an enormous amount for a great cause whilst also ensuring sponsors and guests enjoy a fantastic experience. That ensures that the event is always sold out and so if you are considering taking a table then now is the time to act. As someone who comperes...
David Parkin goes to Hull and back and needs new balls

David Parkin goes to Hull and back and needs new balls

TO Hull and Back. That was the name of the Only Fools and Horses Christmas special way back in 1985. I remember watching it on my new portable colour TV in my bedroom right after the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day. It was the first feature-length episode of the sitcom and so wasn’t accompanied by laughter as it wasn’t filmed in front of a studio audience. Critics wondered whether the format would work but the quality of John Sullivan’s writing was never in question, as the hapless Trotter trio of Del, Rodney and Uncle Albert made their way across the North Sea from Hull to Amsterdam in an attempt to smuggle some diamonds for their pal Boycie – on another of their quests to be millionaires with predictably hilarious results. I’ve always laughed at the title of the episode whenever I’ve had to make a trip to Hull. They used to call it the Far East before Hull became the City of Culture in 2107. But I’ve always found it a welcoming city with loads of history and an entrepreneurial flair you rarely find elsewhere. Like the Trotters I took to the ocean wave yesterday as I boarded a smart motor yacht to join a clutch of Hull entrepreneurs that fortunately have a little more success than Del, Boycie, Mickey, Denzel and Trigger. Shaun Watts of Chameleon Business Interiors, Ken Sturdy of IT@Spectrum, Neil Fisher of Airco, Mark Pearson-Kendall of Andrew Jackson and Nic Marshall of ResQ are among a clutch of business people from Hull who organise an annual “cultural tour” of the city taking in much of...
David Parkin on unsung heroes of business and a Gazza own goal

David Parkin on unsung heroes of business and a Gazza own goal

UNSUNG heroes. It’s a strange phrase. I’ve always loved unearthing the unsung heroes of business. You know, the entrepreneurs who have created something special but also wanted to put something back. But by highlighting their achievements doesn’t that mean that they are no longer unsung? That might be the case but many still remain relatively unrecognised. The Yorkshire Post produced a supplement on Yorkshire Day last week listing the “great and good” of the county. Leafing through it I was left feeling pretty uninspired. All of them, every one, had letters either before or after their name. No hidden gems there then. More like a quick Google of Yorkshire recipients of honours. I could write you a list as long as your arm of people around the county, many in the business world, who deserve honours. And then I’d have a pretty substantial wager that none of them will ever get them. Because of the archaic approach that those civil servants who have done their time always get honours added to politicians lavishing honours on their lackeys it means that when it comes to business there are not many gongs left to go round. And it doesn’t help that the people who advise on honours lack insight and imagination. It all conspires to mean that the people who really do deserve public recognition often don’t get it. When I was at TheBusinessDesk.com we launched the Business Masters Awards to celebrate business success. It included the ventures who had survived the start-up phase to reach their third year in business. Having experienced it I often think it very similar to...
David Parkin on a Tour de France finale and too much monkey business

David Parkin on a Tour de France finale and too much monkey business

“ARE you taking your Ferraro Rocher?” I was asked when I told a friend I was off to watch the finish of the Tour de France  on the Champs-Elysées, preceded by a drinks reception on the lawn of the British Embassy in Paris. “No, we’re flying to Paris and anyway, I can’t afford a Ferrari,” I replied. It turns out we were both wrong. I thought my friend was referring to a sports car while he was actually meaning Ferrero Rocher, the gold-wrapped nutty chocolate made famous by the 1990s TV advert in which they were served by a butler at a glittering embassy reception. “Ambassador, you are really spoiling us,” was the cheesy line many still repeat from the memorable advert. Fortunately it was dinky canapés held together by tiny pegs and a nice range of Yorkshire cheese from Cryer and Stott in Allerton Bywater that was served on the terrace of the British Ambassador’s residence in the French capital last Sunday. Invited by Welcome to Yorkshire to the finale of the Tour de France, I rubbed shoulders with business leaders and politicians and had the chance to wander about the garden of the Embassy on the Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honore and the lawn where you can find the only grass tennis court in Paris. It was a wonderful experience which was then topped when we all made the short walk to a ninth floor terrace overlooking the Champs-Elysées where we were able to watch the processional finish to the three week Tour de France in which the riders make eight circuits of the French capital before the...
David Parkin on Sky inspiration, a sporting Rolls-Royce and getting short shrift for wearing a suit

David Parkin on Sky inspiration, a sporting Rolls-Royce and getting short shrift for wearing a suit

FORGIVE the self-indulgence in including yet another photograph of me in this blog. But given I wrote about attire in the workplace last week at least the above shot proves that I don’t always go to work in a suit or dinner jacket. This was me compering a recent event we worked on for broadcasting giant Sky for its Broadband Tech Team. They are the men and women who go into homes to sort out issues with wi-fi and broadband. A relatively new team within Sky, this was the first time they had all come together in one place for a conference. The energy and enthusiasm of the 200 people was tangible in the lush surroundings of Birmingham Botanical Gardens. They were so enthusiastic they even clapped me every time I went on stage. The day included presentations, question and answer sessions, a team-building challenge, a barbecue lunch and a entrepreneurial guest speaker who was involved in social media phenomenons TheLadBible and Social Chain, is involved in a range of digital start-ups and has spoken in front of the likes of UFC, ASICS, Eurosport, Apple Music and Unicef. And Tim Hyde is only 23. Sky is investing a great deal into its people and the opportunity to work alongside a great brand with such a modern, go-ahead approach has been both exciting and informative. One of the best parts of the day for me was a question and answer session where members of the team were asked to offer examples of where they had gone above and beyond in their jobs. So many hands went up that we didn’t...
David Parkin meets rabbits and muppets at the Great Yorkshire Show

David Parkin meets rabbits and muppets at the Great Yorkshire Show

YOU know you’re at the Great Yorkshire Show when you patiently wait for a pack of beagles to cross the road in front of you and walk contentedly around a barn staring at prize-winning rabbits (the English Spot is like Thumper crossed with Perdita from 101 Dalmatians). Having failed to get a VIP car parking pass (blogs don’t count here, but the editor of The Dalesman can leave his sedan chair right next to the main gate) I had a feeling I might have a bit of a walk when I found a space to park my car in a field next to a temporary toilet block. But then I realised it was there for those people who had travelled a long way to the annual three-day jamboree for country folk and the rest of us who don our Hunters and Barbour for the odd country stroll. The GYS celebrated its 160th anniversary this year and is the largest agricultural show in the UK attracting 130,000 visitors and 8,500 animals over its three days. It is a wonderful blend of town and country where you see ruddy-faced men emerging from their cars speaking to their families like their cattle: “C’mon then, let’s get at ‘em.” The show holds the annual Cock O’The North competition – I helpfully suggested several candidates until I realised it is a showjumping event. I was there on Tuesday to attend a business breakfast hosted by Welcome to Yorkshire. Fresh from attending the start of the Tour de France, Sir Gary Verity gave a rousing update on what his organisation is doing to boost the...