Restaurant news

Robinson Services ready to grow

Since their inception over 40 years ago, Robinson Services have gone from strength to strength providing cleaning, hygiene, laundry, security, specialist and outdoor services, to a range of customers, across the public and private sector.

These services are of paramount importance to the hospitality sector, so it’s little wonder the company have a wide range of well-known clients from within the trade, including the Ramada and Holiday Inn hotel groups.

Hospitality Review’s Louise Murphy met up with company Managing Director, David Robinson to discuss the current condition of the market, challenges they face and different methods they are embracing to get their message out to potential customers.

“The hospitality sector is undoubtedly tough, however we are continuing to push hard, we’ve brought some extra sales staff in and are preparing to invest another £3m into the business”, David told me.

“Things have changed dramatically since the times of around 2002-06/07 when there were customers literally knocking on your door. Our focus now is on retaining customers and adding value for our customers. We look at a variety of ways to save them money.

It is hard to get customers but it’s even harder to hold on to them, thankfully our retention levels are very high.”

The company is all too aware that innovation and movement is key to growth. As well as investing in the company, they are also embracing social media and utilising their website in order to reach out to potential customers. David explained: “It is a tough time but we are trying to stay positive and looking internally at how to grow our customer base. We are investing heavily in our customer relationship management (CRM) system.

“We’re also expanding our business out via social media avenues including Twitter and Linkedin. We’ve found this to be a great way to get the message out about our product. As well as this, we use our own website to upload informative blogs on the importance of hand washing and hand drying etc.”

Robinson Services currently have 35 members of staff working out of their head office in Antrim, everything from accounts and payroll through to customer care and they all play a huge part in making the business what it is.

They have won a number of awards throughout the past year and most recently, David won the award for Family Business Director of the Year at the Northern Ireland Institute of Directors awards.

Entrants for this award were all directors in second-generation or more family businesses who have responded to the specific challenges that face directors in such well established family firms, and David fought off some very stiff competition to emerge the winner of this prestigious award.

Speaking about his win, David said: “I was extremely delighted and pleasantly surprised to have won the award for the Institute of Directors Family Business Director of the Year.     I dedicated the award to my father, Jim Robinson, who established Robinson Services over 40 years ago, and whose hard work and vision has made the company what it is today. He still pays us the occasional visit at our head office to check we are keeping up the high levels of customer service the standards he established.

“We’re winning awards and managing to grow in this current climate, which I feel is testament to our reputation.”

The company continuously looks at ways in which to assist their customers and for their laundry/washroom clients, one such method they are encouraging is for them to pay by Direct Debit.

David added: “We are always looking at ways to save money and be more energy efficient, for example the 60 vehicles we have on the road are all fixed to a lower mileage which saves on fuel and emissions.”

Despite David’s optimism, he does harbour slight concerns over the early months of the year. He explained: “I do worry about January, February, maybe even as far as March. Hotels, pubs and restaurants are all quieter which in turn has a knock on impact for us. People are very prudent around this time and spending less money.

“We would also like local politicians to look at huge issues facing businesses such as rates and water rates. Whilst our costs continuously increase, we strive to keep these increases away from our customers. Once such measure we’ve taken is to fix the price of our laundry contracts for three years.

“I am still forecasting growth though; I’m taking a positive rather than negative outlook on the year ahead. 2012 was a good year for the Northern Ireland tourism and hospitality trades and 2013 is already showing good signs with the City of Culture, World Police and Fire Games and the G8 Summit in Fermanagh.

“Our core business is laundry contracts in the city centre so we are hoping for good occupancy figures. I’m looking forward to it. It’s not enough just to stand still in today’s climate. Despite the economic difficulties I am confident and positive that we will continue to grow.”

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