International Women's Day: WatchHouse

Q&A with the New House Openings Manager, Lucy Bond.

Tell us about your role and your business.

WatchHouse is a Modern Coffee business, which started from a humble 250sq. foot space in Bermondsey, and has sustainably grown into the 11 (soon to be 12) house business it is today. Our newest house on New Cavendish street has very much become our west London flagship house, serving coffee, brunch and bakery to Marylebone Village. With many more openings to follow across this region in the coming months, with expansion into Somerset and overseas to New York later this year. My role within WatchHouse as New House Openings Manager, allows me to work alongside design and construction teams to create beautiful, operationally sound houses in beautiful locations. I support this process through until execution, ensuring the house is opened to brand standard, the team are trained and the site is operational and profitable. 


What inspired you to choose a career in hospitality?

I’ve worked in hospitality since a young age, and have always been drawn to the community aspect of the industry, the diversity of the sector, and the unique growth and development opportunities it has to offer. I studied Design and Architecture, and I am so pleased to have found a role where I can combine my management and operations experience with my interest in design and operations. 


Based on your own experience, what advice would you have for women wanting to get into your industry, or start a business of their own? 

Trust your instincts and have high standards. I think it’s so important not to settle or accept poor working practices -  keep searching and pushing until you find a business where you can work with people who champion your values.

Despite the industry sadly being fairly male-dominated at the top currently, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts and push for progression - so many of the best hospitality leaders are women, and companies can only truly thrive with diversity and equity across all tiers of their structures. 


What are the plans for your business in Marylebone Village?

So we’ve obviously just opened here, but the response from Marylebone Village businesses and residents has been so welcoming this far and has allowed us to really hit the ground running. We can’t wait to develop these relationships further through collaborations and partnerships with local businesses, and involvement in exciting community events.  


Which women have inspired you most throughout your life?

I’ve been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by strong and inspiring women throughout my life, both in a personal and professional capacity. My Mum is a local GP in Edinburgh, and works harder than anyone I know, and has inspired me hugely in terms of work ethic and drive. I got my first job in hospitality through a female independent business owner, which kick-started my career today. I’m now so thrilled to be working in a company full of strong talented women, operating key leadership roles across WatchHouse.


What do you love most about being positioned in Marylebone Village?

Marylebone Village is an area we’ve been excited about for a very long time. It’s the perfect mix of independent boutiques, high-end hospitality retailers, and long-standing establishments. The community in Marylebone Village is so welcoming, and the customer base is very loyal - we received so much support and interest even in the weeks leading up to the opening, and we couldn’t be happier with where this new location sits. 


What does this year's IWD campaign, “Embrace Equity”, mean to you?

IWD is an important milestone to celebrate the achievement, world and lives of women globally. However, it’s incredibly important to understand the difference between equity and equality. In my industry for example, it’s not enough to ensure that women are able to apply for roles - it’s about ensuring that measures are put in place to encourage, support and ultimately make those roles tenable, and give women the tools they need to succeed at every stage of the business. It’s so important that we use this as a constant North Star when making decisions as a business, as an industry, and as a global community.


Tell us about your career journey so far. 

I’ve worked within hospitality for over 10 years now, across singles site cafes, luxury resorts and fine dining restaurants and bars. I moved into restaurant management at 21, and have worked across a variety of countries and establishments since. I joined WatchHouse 3 years ago as a House Manager in Bermondsey Street and moved into the operations team around 18 months ago. It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to collaborate my skills and experience and transition into the NHO role, with a tangible growth path. 


Have you faced any obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your business?

The last 3 years have led to one obstacle after another for the hospitality industry, as with so many others. Changes to visa rules have had huge impacts on our recruitment, the pandemic was, of course, the biggest disruption our industry has ever seen. As a company, we are so proud to have retained all our team throughout this period, and it’s allowed us to learn and develop better working practices and ways forward as a result.


Do you have any tips on how to run a successful business?

Be ambitious and dream big - whatever it is you’re working on, strive for better every day. Whether that’s gender equity, ethical sourcing of products, sustainable growth or customer experience - pushing for these things every day will only ever lead to positive growth. Invest in people - your team are your most valuable asset. Learn from them, listen to them, grow with them, and ensure they are at the forefront of everything you do. Bringing our people on that journey with us is also what it's all about. 


Have you put any changes or policies in place to help women succeed within your business?

We support and nurture everyone at WatchHouse and we are incredibly lucky to have some brilliant women in all levels of roles and across all of our business - 124 of our 220+ employees are women. Half of our Head Baristas and 65% of our House Managers are women. Also there are 9 incredible women who work across our senior Support Office Roles, including our Culture Director, Finance Director and Managing Director. We are big on internal progression, and the vast majority of women working in the outlined roles have progressed into those roles.