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Henry Boyes to leave Mitchells & Butlers

Published:  23 January, 2020

Mitchells & Butlers’ group wine buyer and inaugural Harpers Hot 100 on-trade list topper Henry Boyes is moving on from his buying role.

Speaking exclusively to Harpers, Boyes explained that after seven years driving forward the wine and drinks programme across the varied Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) estates, he was set for new challenges, looking “to go out while on a high”.

During his time at the leading UK on-trade group - which counts such well-known UK brands as All Bar One, Miller & Carter and Premium Country Pubs in its 1,700 outlet portfolio - Boyes did much to inject quality and interest into the wine offer at a high street level, with a clear focus on building a more premium offer.

When Boyes joined, he was the youngest group wine buyer the company had ever taken on, describing it as “a steep learning curve”, but ultimately delivering and driving a wine portfolio that remains well ahead of rival on-trade pub and bar brands.

“The category is in really good shape, it’s taken five years to get it to where it is at now, outperforming M&B’s competitive set”, said Boyes, who will remain for a handover period.

“The most pleasing thing has been to chip away and move the conversation on in terms of premiumisation, to fight this corner and show the relevance of wines for guests, which is one of the things that the team and I are most proud of,” said Boyes.

In addition to being ahead of the game with initiatives such as evolving lists and wines by the glass, Boyes instigated a number of high street firsts, including the introduction of biodynamic and orange wine, constantly pushing boundaries and – in his words – “having fun”.

This also involved training and engaging staff in a way that most rival operators still fall behind on, with Boyes praising the team around him for helping create a “steady and well-organise ship”, selling some 35,000 bottles a day.

This notwithstanding a “quite difficult landscape” that has included the challenges of Brexit, the rise and collapse of Conviviality “and all that has gone on in the background”.

On his next move, Boyes said he was “open to opportunities”, looking for a similarly challenging role.

“I had the wine knowledge, but the last seven years has given me the commercial element, and I’m stepping out not knowing what is next – but I’ll be staying in the wine trade,” he added.

Susan Martindale, group HR director, Mitchells & Butlers, said: “Henry has been a valuable member of our drinks team for the last 7 years, specifically as group wine buyer across the business where he has grown the category in terms of scale and performance. We will miss his unrivalled passion and expert knowledge but wish him the very best for the next stage in his career.”

Boyes' successor will be announced soon.

On topping our inaugural HOT 100 list 2017 – and having remained near the pinnacle ever since – Harpers wrote:

As the chap responsible for buying wine across Mitchells & Butlers' 1,700 outlets, spread across a swathe of differing estates, Henry Boyes exercises formidable buying power, measured in the 35,000 bottles of wine that the company sells in an average day. But it is his dedication to bringing a mix of quality and affordability, putting the customer first and being unafraid to lead, which brings him to the head of this list of influencers.

His decisions as to what to list - and what not to list - affect and influence the drinking habits of a large number of Britons, bringing a mix of less-is-more philosophy coupled with innovation and focus on the drinks to ensure accessibility and enjoyment are to the fore with any given list.

Boyes looks to achieve a balance between capitalising on trends, focusing on the new and providing reliable favourites "to keep it healthy for both the industry and consumers", resulting in a collection of engaging drinks lists, all exceedingly well pitched for their respective outlets and customers, which clearly has them coming back for more.