If you’re a Brighton born and bred you will be more than familiar with Bagelman. However for those non-Brighton based folk or those who have been living under a bagel-sparse rock we interviewed owner of Bagelman Anthony Prior.
Introducing Anthony Prior - a man who knows all about juggling things - father, long-distance runner, anti-climate change pioneer - Oh and he knows a thing or two about bagels.
Anthony, could you tell us a bit about Bagelman?
We have four shops in Brighton and Hove. And we bake all our bagels fresh in our bakery in the North Laines, and we have done so for over 20 years. Our two newest shops are at Brighton station and Duke Street and we refurbished the other two shops recently so the brand is consistent. However the stores have varying character; the duke street shop has a lot more space where people can work with their laptops and socialise and then shops like Bond street and the station are more about rapid service for people who are in a hurry, on-the-go, catching trains. But we try to maintain consistency across the style of store.
I read that you used to work in the nightclub industry. What, in your opinion, was the greatest benefit of your career change?
Going to bed before midnight. Which is exactly what I was looking for so yeah it was driven by a lifestyle desire really and now I have greater freedoms. It's nice to be a master of your own destiny.
How do you see Bagelman's role within the Brighton community? What influence do you aim to have?
We’re always looking for ways to add value back to the community and we do things like the ‘Pay It Forward’ scheme which is aimed at homeless people which we run with the Brighton housing trust. It means customers can pay for hot drinks and food for people in need.
We’re also trying to set up a link with the Real Junk Food project with the aim of providing space and workshops to upskill their team.
And in straightforward terms we create jobs ourselves so we’re providing meaningful employment for young people, people studying and people who have just left home and are looking for first time employment.
So can you tell us about Bagelman’s approach to waste and food waste?
We’re zero to landfill anyway and on top of that we divert our bread waste into a craft beer which we brew and sell under a separate name. Its called Optimist and it’s a project turning into a business in our own right. It might be actually be an award winning beer. I’ve been told we’ve won an award but i don’t know whether to believe it! We have three different flavours amber, pale ale and wheat beer.
And on behalf of the other lazy so-and-so’s - do you deliver bagels? Does this mean bagels in bed aka hangovers sorted?
We can deliver to you through Deliveroo and we deliver also to businesses. We supply offices for lunch and we do stag and hen parties as well as birthday parties. We also provide pack lunches for school groups.
What is your approach to hiring staff at Bagelman?
This year we started ‘Open Hiring’ - that's what I’m calling it. We’ve binned the CV and interview process because we never found it to be honest it didn’t make it easy to get to know people. We have recruitment workshops which are entirely open for anybody to attend. It allows us to get to know people, get to know their character, get to know how they react under pressure and how they communicate with their peers. It also provides the chance for them to get to know the company. We introduced that this year and we’ve reduced our staff turnover to a quarter of what it was.
We want to identify the right team members, find the right building blocks to fit into the team we already have.
Also it permits us to establish the values of the business at the very first contact with the person. That means we don’t have to later talk about values because they’re implicit in the workshop.
You have two small children of 8 and 6 and an older son of 22. How have you found balancing work life and home-life?
Well the really good team in the business make it possible to have the balance. If it wasn’t for them there wouldn’t be a balance. It’s hats off to the crew. They run the business so I can have a home/work life balance. It allows me to think more long-term, about the future of the business as opposed to the what is going on everyday.
Other than filling bagels and helping to prevent climate change what do you do in your free time?
I spend a lot of time running. I enter ultra marathon events which involve 100km runs across the alps and other events like it. My next race isn’t until May next year. I’ve just had a fairly busy summer. I did two races in the alps, one 50k in June and one 100k in September. My kids came with me. They got up at half past 5 in the morning to run across the finish line with me, it was very nice.
What is the most valuable thing anyone has ever said to you?
I think there’s a few things that spring to mind. But the theme of trust is really powerful. Once I’ve developed really great trust for my key team they really flourish on that trust and tend to want to do a great job running the business. That, in turn, builds more trust. I don’t know if someone said that to me or whether it has emerged over time but it’s definitely a strong theme.