Are we allowed to talk about Living Ventures?

They’re one of the fastest growing companies in the UK. They’re synonymous with the hospitality industry, and seem to win awards in almost every field imaginable. If there’s an award to be won: Living Ventures or their Co-Founder Tim Bacon have won it. You’ll struggle to walk around Manchester and not find a venue that LV either own, or have owned in the past.

There seems to be so much love in and around the media and business world for such a successful and innovative company. Why then, is it practically impossible to shake off the feeling that almost everyone that isn’t LV: whole heartedly dislikes the company and everything they stand for?

The easy answer is to instantly spurt out the phrase: “they’re just jealous,” it’s ok if that’s your answer. I don’t think it’s enough though. I get that success is enviable. I understand that people will always covet what you have, and Living Ventures certainly have an extremely large amount of things to covet, is it possible that almost every single person is just jealous of their success?

It’s a possibility, but it’s one that I don’t think is ultimately true. There will always be people that are just plain and simply envious of the success, but the heart of the problem could lie within the company itself.

First and foremost: Living Ventures trained me. They’re the ones that gave me my first insight into the industry, and I have no doubt in the world that I would never have gotten my foot in the door of hospitality if it wasn’t for the training and opportunity they provided me with. It would be a complete disservice to the company to not mention the inexplicably amazing training they offer and provide. They invest a lot of money and time into new recruits, and most of the time it does show.

I bought into the thought process and views that the company practices. I can still tell you the five minute long company ethos off the top of my head despite leaving over two years ago. I still get annoyed when I see beachballs and I can never properly listen to The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” again without trying to offer someone a refill.

I’m not the only person who had bought into LV. It’s pretty much a rule that you’re never more than 15 metres away from someone who has been trained by Living Ventures. Why, if people get offered this great training and a fantastic chance to work for what The Times awarded “9th Best Company to Work for” in 2013, why then are there so many ex-LV employees littering the bars and restaurants of Greater Manchester with nothing but a tale of heartbreak and disdain from their time with Living Ventures?

If we start from the moment the training ends, we might be able to get a better grasp of the situation. All LV employees are picked and trained to be the friendliest and most helpful faces that could ever have possibly existed, and why not? Everyone wants their hospitality team to be hospitable and friendly. That stirs up some issues for people. The fact that people are trained to be friendly. I mean, training someone to be friendly? It isn’t exactly something you can put on a CV: “I was trained to be friendly” it might be an ok thing, but for some people it brings up the issue of robotic service and a lack of empathy and personality.

Knowledge is also a valuable thing, and is most definitely something that can be taught. However, LV seem to only train the knowledge needed to succeed in their particular venue and to their particular menu. I’ve brought up the issue of people needing to take it upon themselves to broaden their own horizons in a previous post, so I have to admit that it cannot sit solely on the shoulders of LV.

Another issue that some people bring up, is the “LV Specs.” Living Ventures have an extensive collection of cocktails at every single one of their venues, perhaps with the exception of The Oasthouse. It’s not these specs that people have any gripes with, it’s the infamous “Top 100” list that is pretty much company universal. It’s supposed to be a collection of 100 classic cocktails that every bartender will and probably should know how to make, the only issue is that they seem to be predominantly written with Gross Profit at the forefront of thinking, and only actually serve as a base template for an original classic, with further research needed to actually make some of the drinks the way they were supposed to be made.

Some people will often joke that LV trained bartenders only ever know the “classic LV cocktails” and not the actual way in which a cocktail should be made, I’ll partially agree because when I left, I had to learn a lot more about the drinks that I thought I already knew how to make.

I’ve mentioned before that a lot of people have the opinion that Living Ventures have had a huge part in the perceived drop in good quality bartenders with a passion for the job*. It does seem as if bartenders are only trained to a standard that is beneficial to the every day procedure of their venue, and not a standard that would be beneficial anywhere else. I.e: If a bartender was to be working in a bar in the NQ and was offered a job in another bar in the NQ, they would slot straight in and require no changing. Some people are of the opinion (myself included) that ex-LV bartenders do not have this luxury, and require different training. That’s a different argument, but one that does still incite resentment.

*Edit: A previous version of this article did not fully explain the issue of sole venue bartenders and was confusing. It also failed to incorporate that it is opinion and not fact. It has since been amended.

Do not get me wrong, Living Ventures is home to some highly skilled members of staff, and has been in the past, but a few good grapes doesn’t make a vineyard.

Then there’s the tipping procedure that is well documented throughout the company. Specific tipping procedures can vary depending on venue, but one thing that doesn’t wholly seem to  change (with the exception of Manchester House, which is a law unto itself) is the concept that 50% of ALL card tips go directly into the company’s pocket, with a lot of places then giving 10% to the bartenders on shift (don’t even get me started on how little tips some bartenders in some venues can make…that’s not an issue with LV specifically.)

The official word is that the tips are shared out equally amongst the team that helped make your visit extra special. I can’t say exactly where and how the money gets spread out, I’m merely speculating, but my guess is that it goes towards buying fake palm trees for their annual celebration of their higher level staff.

LV’s tipping procedure is unpopular with employees. IMG: flikr|frankieleon

No-one ever gets into hospitality for the amazing rates of pay, but, sometimes you expect your pay to maybe go up just a little bit over time? LV are well known to only offer pay rises to employees that pass certain expected criteria. For example: As a bartender, I was on £6.50 an hour for two years  and was told to only be expectant of a 50p an hour pay rise if I correctly learned at least 90 of the top 100 cocktails by memory, and literally nothing else would deem me worthy of that extra 50p.

Nothing. Else.

I wasn’t a model employee, not everything I did was deserving of a pay rise. I’m not being delusional here. I had my moments when I probably didn’t even deserve to keep my job, I’m not on trial here.  

However, this is certainly a reason that some people have an issue with the company, people do need to show that they are deserving of being paid more, but, when a wage doesn’t increase at all, when it doesn’t account for inflation or loyalty or an increase in skills, it can sometimes be hard to keep the faith.

I’m purely using my own experience as a reference point, I’m in no way bitter towards the company…promise.

Without trying to just rip LV a new arsehole and with actually trying to be objective, as I previously mentioned: their training is out of this world. It’s honestly the best in the business and cannot be rivalled. They open a door for people in the industry and give them the necessities to survive in the world of service and all things hospitable. They annually put on company wide staff parties which are seriously THE most fun you can have with your clothes half on. The LV Cup (or Clifford Hill Cup) is another annual event that is as fun as it is full of free booze and food.

Their management training programme is also a thing of legend. Within LV it takes approximately a month or even more to train up an entry level Duty Manager. It’s intense, I’ve witnessed it. A week on the bar, a week as a server, a week in the kitchen and numerous weeks as an actual manager in training. It’s something to behold and again, signals a huge investment from the company.

They pay for some employees to take part in WSET courses designed to further advance their knowledge in Wine. Every October, Blackhouse restaurants support BreastCancer Care for breast cancer awareness month. Every christmas their venues collect donations for annually chosen charities. They hold numerous benefits for charity. Living Ventures does its part to be a force for good in some parts of society. They’re not all objectively bad.

LV do the right things in the public light, their concepts are brilliant, their menus please almost every tastebud, their staff are trained to a high standard, they tick all the correct boxes in helping the community, yet there will always be that issue of dislike and disdain that stems from the knowledge of the inside workings of a company that is so large and well known.

There are issues with almost every company. Living Ventures just have the misfortune of being at the size now where theirs are better documented and well known. It’s not an issue of jealousy: it’s making an example out of one of the bigger bullies on the playground.

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22 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    I did three months at Australasia. 16 hour shifts without breaks were common place, 6 day 70+ hour weeks, for £6.50 an hour. I wasn’t allowed to ever take my holiday days when I requested them, I eventually left without having ever taken a holiday and I didn’t get paid for them either in my final payslip. I had been bartending for years and knew all my classics and techniques but had people who were much younger and much less experienced than me, telling me I was wrong in what I was doing because I wasn’t doing it the LV way… I once did a 21 hour shift without the opportunity to so much as had a cigarette or a sandwich and that did it for me. Fuck LV. They exploit their staff. They take their tips, provide no kind of breaks or food, or staff rooms, enforced entirely unrealistic expectitions that they have to meet or they won’t get their bonus (they NEVER get their bonus)… We had one toilet for 125 staff members and no designated area to change or store our things or take breaks. Over worked and under paid.

  2. Ray says:

    Like your last article I still don’t get your point if there is one. Are you angry at the industry but only worked for LV or did you not progress in the business and now attempting to “rip them a new asshole” with badly written articles on social media.

    If you want to improve the industry then bitching about it isn’t the way forward. Actually teaching and greating a standard level is, which LV currently do far better than any government course available, which you actually get paid to go on.

    What’s your point?


    1. The article clearly asks the question of why there seems to be a large number of people, both ex-LV and non-LV, that have an issue with Living Ventures. I clearly state that I do not want to appear as if I’m just simply trying to “rip them a new arsehole” because the article isn’t about that and I’ve tried to be balanced in my points. I acknowledged that some people might just be jealous of the success but explored other reasons, because jealously is not the sole reason.

      I have nothing but praise for LV’s training process and I acknowledge that no-one can rival it, a point that I don’t think I could have made any more apparent, but I raised an issue that I know people have: some people feel as if they are only trained to work in an LV bar, and it’s one that even ex-LV staff have mentioned before.

      At the very end of the article I state that people have issues with all companies, and that LV are just big enough and well known enough now to have more people be talking about them and any issues that they have, enough to warrant it being looked at in depth, I apologise if you didn’t feel like I achieved that, however, I’m sure if enough people were talking about their issues with..say..soup kitchen, to the degree that people do with LV, then that would be looked into as well.

      To say that all that these articles are is just me bitching about the industry and nothing much else is a bit blindsided. More people are acknowledging problems now instead of tiny conversations between friends that ultimately lead to nothing.

      If 1000 people read these articles and talk about the issues that have been brought up, and two out of the 1000 decide to change their training programmes because of it, then I’ve succeeded, but simply shouting “Get up off your chair and do something yourself or keep quiet, and leave LV alone in the process” just doesn’t work as a rebuttal.

      In regards to your confusion: My point is very clear: Why do so many people have an issue with Living Ventures? I explored the issues that I know people have, and I used my own personal experience within the company to further explore an issue that I know is prominent, whilst also acknowledging that I was not perfect and could have hindered my own progress.

      I also spoke of the things that LV do that are positive, things to which no-one can have any issue with, and I conclude the article by saying that it is a case of making an example of one of the bigger bullies on the playground.

      I apologise if this isn’t the answer you were looking for, but I’m terrible at writing, y’see.


      1. Ray says:

        Thanks for the response, I still don’t feel you’ve stated what the issue is that needs to be looked at in more detail?

        With regards to staff training, naturally staff are trained to work our bars with a lot of the focus on making them think for themselves and understand problems or scenarios with regards to service. Cocktail and food menus are the focus of the training for the bulk of the time as you are aware. We aim to train all staff as you know in a two week period. Outside of this two weeks there are further avenues to progress down.

        The top 100 cocktails that I put together are intended to make inexperienced bartenders think about other options and have a reasonable knowledge of the classics. They are not all classics, some are included for ease on the till and some just as ideas. They are structured and priced to fit in with the venue and menu price points. It wouldn’t make sense to have the ultimate specs at £20 price points when most the drinks on the menu sit at £8.

        When you progress down the training program for those that choose to do so, the pay levels become exceptionally good. The new master bartender pay rate after wage increases come in will be £9 per hour. The course is designed to highlight the staff that want to progress and develop themselves, most of which have moved into much more senior positions in the business.

        Additional training we run includes regular spirit, wine, food and beer training along with incentives. Naturally due to the size of the company health and safety is now a large focuses well. And I’m sure you can remember the CPL courses!

        Outside of this I’m not sure how you think I can adjust my training programs. It’s not possible to train all staff 1 on 1 for months at a time for financial reasons as well as the labour force required of the trainers themselves. In this industry as in nearly all, no one is going to hold your hand and walk you all the way to the top teaching you everything on the way. You need to learn yourself to progress.

        The tip and service charge system was actually the chosen system as voted for by staff back in 2008. The money certainly isn’t used to fund our management party. We are hoping to turn over as Tim has stated already this year £100m, so I think we can pay for the party ourselves.

        Now with 41 sites across the country and over 2000 staff it’s no surprise not everyone is happy with work as is the same for all large companies. The times award for best business to work for is judged on staff responses to questionnaires they have to fill in, which I think says a lot about LV to place where we did. The problem is the only restaurant operator to place higher than us was TGIF. Something we hope to exceed in the future by altering the areas we received criticisms on.

        If you can explain why you and so many others are disgruntled with working for LV it would be appreciated. The hours are long as they are in every bar and the work is tiring. The pay isn’t the best but the job should be enjoyable and all staff who are passionate about what they do should be proud of where they work. And I believe the vast majority of ours are.

        I started to work for LV in 2004 as a bar back in Prohibition Leeds. I’ve come and gone a few times and have worked my way up the company to now be the bar ops manager. Compared to the other 7 bars and restaurants I’ve worked for, LV is far more organised and controlled giving more ability and training to staff than any other I’ve experienced. I’m sure the elite independents invest more time in their teams and training. It’s a lot easier to do it with 5 bartenders than it is with 300+ in 41 locations.

        I am sorry for critiquing your writing. Your article annoyed me and I’m on holiday.



      2. Hi Ray,

        That was more of the type of response I was hoping for from you than your previous one. You make some very good points, all of which are extremely valid.

        LV’s training regime has never been questioned. I do try and make it known that whenever I speak about the company: the training will never be bettered by anyone else in the near future. As a former LV trainer myself (unofficial, never formally promoted) I know how gruelling it is on not only the trainee, but the trainer – both physically and mentally.

        Thank you for explaining the top 100 cocktails and the reasonings behind them. I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t accept a good point that questioned and challenged mine.

        The issue that some people feel that bartenders can only work an LV bar after their training is something that has been talked about before, and I never fully place all of the blame (if people feel there should be any in the first place) of “one bar bartenders” on LV’s shoulders, it has to be passed around other bars and also to the bartenders themselves.

        Purely speaking from things that I have been told: I feel that there are a lot of managers and owners, and other bartenders that have spoken about their experiences of having to “break” an ex-LV bartender from their habits that might not particularly be beneficial to their new place of work. It’s only a theory, I’m not God.

        In regards to how I feel training can be improved, I unfortunately don’t have the answer. I don’t think one man or one website can solve that, but if we get people talking about it, we might slowly change the way that companies do things, and I have gotten people talking about it – if everyone wants me to stop now, I will, but I’ll still have achieved something.

        I spoke about possible issues with bartenders in a previous article which you referenced and whilst I mentioned LV (which is something I felt like I had to do, they have a huge influence) I discussed the rest of the industry in a lot more depth.

        In regards to the tips and service charge system: it’s not 2008 anymore. I personally don’t know what other options were put forward to the staff so I cannot speculate on the choices they were given to make them vote for the one that hasn’t changed for seven years.

        The party comment was in jest…Fake palm trees aren’t that expensive anyway.

        Personally, I am not wholly disgruntled with LV. I recommended that two of my close friends experience the company and how they do things. If I was disgruntled, I would never have sent people I care about to work for Living Ventures. I think the article talks about why so many people have issues and are “disgruntled” and I think it does have a point. I can only apologise for not making it seem more apparent.

        I don’t think the reasoning of “the pay isn’t the best but you should enjoy your job,” is going to make people feel better, especially when you’ve stated that the company expect to turnover £100m this year. If you can afford to pay for your staff party, you can afford to look into the possibility of a company wide standard living wage for the employees that are enabling you to have that party in the first place: banter, enjoyment and a christmas party doesn’t pay for food and electricity. Pay is an issue not just within the hospitality industry but pretty much everywhere as a whole, and is something which I am yet to talk about, so please don’t think I’m just on an LV witchhunt, I just haven’t got there yet.

        I’ll agree that LV are further ahead than other bars when it comes to training, I’ll also say that LV can afford to be further ahead. I can only respect your opinion and further hope I can make people discuss the industry, albeit not being my sole reason for writing articles for this website. It is an industry that I hold very close to my heart, and I give full credit to LV for awakening it within me. It’s an industry that I never want to fall into ruin and it’s discussions like this that I always wanted to create…I wanted to make people laugh more, though.



  3. Arron says:

    I have worked for LV for 5 years now, every bit of growth and development I have had in the industry is because of them. Having come from never making a cocktail in my life to having the opportunity to write menus, participating in world records to training & developing bar teams and concepts all over the country, I am forever grateful to Living Ventures for the time and money they have invested in me.

    My attitude towards conflicting opinions in our industry is one that I teach every single new and existing staff member that works for us, if you do not like the way someone in our industry does something then don’t go back there. Don’t be a dick about it; we are here for a good time and life is too short.

    You are more than entitled to your opinions Steven and I genuinely wish you the best with whichever path you choose take down our industry in the future.

    I have chosen mine and it one I will continue to follow.


    1. Full respect for this reply, Arron.

      I wish you well in your career.


  4. Danny Murphy says:

    i was sent the link to this article by a fellow ex-LV colleague. I read it, hoping for a balanced critique of a company close to my heart. It isn’t. It basically reads as a rant, which every few paragraphs reminds you, “this isn’t a rant. Promise”.
    I am disappointed that the article didn’t compel me to mount a robust defence of the company’s MO.
    However, I will say this: I work in Liverpool, a city that has undergone a fantastic resurgence of it’s drinking scene, led by a handful of independent companies. All of those companies are led by guys who are ex-LV at some point in their careers (3 of them for a good period of time).
    In London, Shake Rattle and Stir, the attraction currently rated #4 and #6 on trip advisor’s “things to do on a night out” (correct as of 9/§0/2015) is the brainchild of an ex-LV guy, and hosted by an ex LV girl. Having enjoyed this event, I can categorically state that a huge part of the event’s success is as a result of the training these guys received in “How to be friendly”.
    As a legacy, I’d prefer to focus on that, rather than a few disaffected guys n gals who were upset with small wages and big menus.

    1. I can only apologise that it didn’t come off as being as balanced as I’d hoped. There wasn’t an initial intention for it to just simply come off as a rant, I’ll only ever improve as a writer. I stick by the issues raised though and I don’t think it can be written off as “a few disaffected guys n gals.” Focusing on a legacy rather than the negatives is fair, but shying away from saying negative things just because good things have happened doesn’t do anything.

      1. Ray says:

        I think it’s your lack of knowledge and understanding that frustrates me more than anything else.

        £100m turnover is not profit, that’s the sales. You have to then take out all of the costs (wages, COS, rent, rates, gas, electric,water, PR agents, door staff, Marketting, bin collection etc…..) so the profit is far from this figure and not one Kam going to discuss with you. Not that you know much about the LV business structure but we have various financial investors in some of our business and have committed to roll out plans to build the brands. With this in mind we are now doing around 10 openings a year and aiming to do 14 next year. That’s a bar every 3/4 weeks. These are not cheap as it happens with a typical new opening being around £2m and the biggest planned in Liverpool next year for a cool £6m with a slightly smaller one at £5m also in Liverpool. That’s a chunk of money being invested back into communities which also create jobs for 600 or so new staff a year and helps boost the economy.

        As your suggesting we share all our profit with all the bartenders this would be very difficult to achieve. The living wage is happening, you don’t need to write about it and I hope you don’t if this article is anything to go by.

        If employers feel they need to break an LV bartender for them to be able to work in another bar then I can only say I’m very Happy with the job my trainers and training team have done. They have produced staff that are exactly what we want, the industry recognises this training and also what the consumer enjoys in terms of service. If the LV bar tending style is such an issue then why do so many new and existing bars keep stealing staff from me? Fortunately they tend to return the majority of the time as I have done in the past myself.

        My reference to “the pay isn’t the best” refers to all low payed income jobs in the UK and not just what we pay our staff. We pay above minimum wage and more if you progress through the open to all training program in place of which 100 bartenders have done, 21 of which have gone on to become master bartenders. The tips are generally good in our wet led business, the gratuities and service charge system weave in place is fair. In a restaurant environment why should the entire tip go to the server? At no point in any of your writing have you mentioned chefs? After lol a restaurant like the one you used to work in needs some food and hey are the work horse behind half of it. They don’t get further training courses or someone explaining tasting notes of wine and spirits to them, nor do they get incentivised to sell items. We also pay staff a monthly bonus which very few if any other companies do?

        I’m pretty confident at our rates of pay, with the hours offered in the busy venues along with tips and bonuses, no one is going hungry. When I was bar tending and moved into a salary position it took me 4 years until the salary was higher than my bar tending incom was.

        If your crediting LV so much but passing uneducated comments about us in a social media article hoping for some industry awakening then you’re a fool.

        I now look on what you write very much as the. Blind leading the blind. And it’s just not right to share your uneducated opinion with have the public.

        Look forward to the next great read, maybe it will have a point.


      2. Hi Ray,

        I hope your weekend’s been good.

        Here’s my “next great read” for you, I apologise straight away because you’ll probably critique its quality and end up calling me mean names.

        I said: “ I can’t say exactly where and how the money gets spread out, I’m merely speculating, but my guess is that it goes towards buying fake palm trees for their annual celebration[…]”

        To which you said: “The money certainly isn’t used to fund our management party. We are hoping to turn over as Tim has stated already this year £100m, so I think we can pay for the party ourselves.”

        To which I said: “you’ve stated that the company expect to turnover £100m this year. If you can afford to pay for your staff party, you can afford to look into the possibility of a company wide standard living wage “

        To which you said: “I think it’s your lack of knowledge and understanding that frustrates me more than anything else. £100m turnover is not profit, that’s the sales. You have to then take out all of the costs (wages, COS, rent, rates, gas, electric,water, PR agents, door staff, Marketting[sic], bin collection etc…..) so the profit is far from this figure and not one Kam [sic] going to discuss with you.”

        I didn’t claim to have business acumen. I was using your boast of how much money you’re planning to make as a counter-point, and you didn’t like it very much.

        You mentioned this: “As your [sic] suggesting we share all our profit with all the bartenders this would be very difficult to achieve. The living wage is happening, you don’t need to write about it and I hope you don’t if this article is anything to go by”

        I don’t know what this is in reference to? When did I suggest that you should share all of your profit with the bartenders? Was it before or after you decided to list all of the things you’re spending your money on that means you can’t put people’s wages up, and then went on to say that you’re putting people’s wages up?
        Also, this comment was a little bit mean, Ray. Jeez. I’m gonna write about it now just to spite you… JK probably wont.

        You said: “If employers feel they need to break an LV bartender for them to be able to work in another bar then I can only say I’m very Happy with the job my trainers and training team have done.”
        Fair play, be happy with it. Other bars are still going to be frustrated that they need to teach their new bartenders how to work on a bar properly. (THAT’S THEIR OPINION AND THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO IT.)

        You said: “The tip and service charge system was actually the chosen system as voted for by staff back in 2008.”
        To which I responded: “it’s not 2008 anymore.”
        So you said: “The tips are generally good in our wet led business, the gratuities and service charge system weave in place is fair. In a restaurant environment why should the entire tip go to the server?”

        All I said was that it wasn’t seven years ago anymore. If the company is that confident in the system, have a staff vote again. It’s only a suggestion. Jeez.

        You: “At no point in any of your writing have you mentioned chefs?”
        I can do, if you want? If you want me to, I will speak to former LV chefs and ask them what their opinion is of LV. I’ll even speak to some current ones if you want? I don’t mind doing it. I’ll show you the questions I’ll ask them as well, to make sure they pass your writing standards test…I’m just getting petty now…In all seriousness I think that might be a good idea. I know plenty and as you rightly mention: I don’t talk about the Chefs. It is unfair to not show them some representation. I apologise.

        You: “We also pay staff a monthly bonus which very few if any other companies do?”
        Are you saying that you don’t think ANY other company pays monthly bonuses? Really?

        You said: “I’m pretty confident at our rates of pay, with the hours offered in the busy venues along with tips and bonuses, no one is going hungry.”
        I guess that shuts everyone up then.

        You mentioned: “When I was bar tending and moved into a salary position it took me 4 years until the salary was higher than my bar tending incom was.”
        I left the company and my bartending income increased in a week. Like a boss.

        You said: “If your [sic] crediting LV so much but passing uneducated comments about us in a social media article hoping for some industry awakening then you’re a fool.”
        Thanks Mr T. I guess I should just stop trying then, right? How dare I even try. I mean, the sheer gall of it, imagine me writing an article that has got everyone talking. What an idiot I am. As for the uneducated comment, that’s a bit harsh isn’t it? Meany.

        You begin to sign off with: “I now look on what you write very much as the. Blind leading the blind. And it’s just not right to share your uneducated opinion with have [sic] the public.”

        You’re pretty adamant on labelling my opinion as uneducated, aren’t you? I guess that’s your right to an opinion, though. I now look upon your responses as ill-advised angry typing. Opinions are great aren’t they? Btw, I am flattered, but it’s nowhere near half the public, that was a bit uneducated of you.

        You seem to have taken the defensive route here, you’ve taken from this article that I am pi**ed off at the company and I wish to see hell rain down upon it, repeatedly asking me what my point is, as if you’ve never been on the internet before. I’m not. I was discussing it. I apologised because my article didn’t come across as balanced as I had initially hoped. That was my bad. I still stand by everything I discussed though.

        SKETCH TIME:

        Article: “There appears to be a lot of people that dislike LV, here are some reasons as to why they might dislike the company.”
        LV: “What’s your point?”

        Article: “Jealousy, pay rates, tipping systems, perceived quality of ex-staff are all issues as to why people might be harbouring feelings of negativity towards LV. Isn’t that interesting?”
        LV: “What’s your point?”

        Article: “LV are a big company, that’s why there appears to be a larger amount of people that have issues, because they’ve had a lot of staff.”
        LV: “What’s your point?”

        Article: “In discussing LV, it is merely a case of making an example of a larger company that is in the public eye a lot more than a smaller company. That’s why we’re discussing this.”
        LV: “What’s your point?”

        Article: “This is an article that is intended to get people to talk about it.”
        LV: “What’s your point?”

        Article: “It’s an opinion piece. Aimed at discussing opinions.”
        LV: “What’s your point.”

        *Plot Twist* LV reads parody of the comment section and continues to ask the question “What’s your point?” Until they have it trademarked. Scene ends.

        Furthermore, I’m not admitting to any of my flaws anymore, because everytime I swallow humble pie and admit when I’m wrong: you just get meaner and meaner.

        Happy Monday, I’ll look forward to my next berating and public beat down because I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m surprised they even let me on this typey typey witchcraft machine.



      3. Ray says:

        Sorry Steven for being a mean. Public criticism is never very nice.

        I’m of course interested in improving everything snd anything possible when it comes to training and developing staff and if you do come up with any ideas then please let me know.

        Would happily meet up to discuss what your trying to achieve and hopefully contribute to future discussions.


  5. Greg says:

    I didn’t want to get into this but I’m irritated because I still don’t see your point.

    Train people to be friendly? We hire people who are friendly, and actively encourage people to be themselves behind the bar using the personality they were hired for (this is written into our core manual and has been for years). If wanting friendly staff in our venues is a crime, we stand guilty as charged.

    “Bartenders are only trained to a standard beneficial to the every day procedures of their venue”. If training someone who is going to work at The Botanist to be a Botanist bartender is a crime, I hold my hands up as guilty. Surely as a business you want the staff working there to be trained appropriately to that venue? Training somebody in the use of molecular mixology when they’re going to work in a concept like The Botanist would be a bit daft, no?

    “I wasn’t a model employee, not everything I did was deserving of a pay rise. I’m not being delusional here. I had my moments when I probably didn’t even deserve to keep my job”
    And you wonder why you never got a pay rise?

    I’d also like to point out the The Times top 100 companies to work for is not based on a vote system, it is based on questionnaires sent by The Times to members of staff from the companies being assessed which are filled out anonymously, thus giving a true representation of what workers actually think of their employers, based on that I’d say we’re doing pretty well

    To be clear on our “flaws”, we employ friendly people and encourage them to be friendly with our government uests, train bartenders appropriately for the venue they’re working in, don’t offer pay rises to average bartenders who at times don’t deserve to keep their job, only give people pay rises when they are promoted or pass certain tests or criteria, and encourage people to learn on their own rather than be spoon fed from a textbook?

    I’m proud of what I do and who I do it for, I hope one day you’ll be able to say the same


    1. Hi Greg,
      It’s great to hear from you.
      You make some good points here. Thank you for that. In response to a few things, If you read the article, it tells you exactly why I didn’t get a pay-rise, silly. I could have been the worst bartender on the planet but if my memory was spot on I’d be getting paid more. True story, that.

      I think my comments about the bartender venue training are a bit vague, I should have explained it more, I’ll make a change to it and let everyone know. Thanks. My point was that if a bartender moves from a bar in the NQ to another bar in the NQ, they slot straight in…that’s how some people see it. I didn’t make it clear enough. I’ll do that. Thanks.

      Just because everyone is teaching me about everything at the minute, can I ask you where LV placed in the Times Top 100 for past two years, just because I can’t find it online and I’m genuinely interested. Please don’t get angry because I asked you a question. Thanks.

      My mum’s proud of me, does that count?

  6. JJ Goodman says:

    i owe my career to LV. I think this article is softly spoken enough to seem fair, but infact the message is anything but. All aspiring staff should get at least 18 months under their belts as a LV crew member and get in touch with their “sub conscious understanding”. Life is what you make it, and LV is a fantastic spring board to success

  7. Ace says:

    I’ve just read everyone’s comments, That was Fun.

    I Think a lot of good points have been raised however the only people defending against a Bartenders opinion: Granted used to be bartenders themselves for a few years each. Are now a lot higher up within the company Bar Ops and head of training Etc,

    As regards for Pay, when the minimum wage was £6:50 being trained as a bartender saw a 25p /hr increase this was seen as a substantial reward for passing 2 weeks of hard training. Now that the minimum wage has increased to £6.70 this now means that being trained from a barback see’s workload and responsibility and pressure both increase for a now mere .74% pay rise almost doesn’t seem worth the extra effort. With regards to tips yes they are better as a bartender but nothing is guaranteed and barback a still receive a portion of this.

    I am currently a happy LV bartender but I did find this very interesting


    1. Ray says:

      Hi ace, the pay rates have just been reviewed and increased inline with the NMW increase this month. Your pay will move to £7.50.

      I can only encourage you to progress and get your bar blade to take you to £8 and then your master bartender to take you to £9. All very achievable.

      Thanks for the input.


  8. A. Guy. says:

    OK. So this article is aimed to get us talking. So let’s talk, like adults. I enjoyed this article and some of the responses seemed to make good points. I like that. I want to see a balanced argument even if the initial article doesn’t seem to be so. Lets put away our guns and try not to keyboard warrior too hard. Save that shit for Facebook, or internet trolls hiding under their respective 4Chan bridges. I love this industry but it is far from perfect so it’s refreshing to see someone stir up a discussion that doesn’t consist of the Buzzfeed-esque “1000 reasons you should fart on your mac’n’cheese” that seems to fit the bill for good writing these days. LV is a massive company, everyone in the industry is as familiar with it’s name as Tesco or Sainsbury’s. It’s somewhat of a brand name in Manchester, and for that reason alone, it’s worth discussing.

    First things first then, I do not hate LV, I worked there for a year and despite being told I would hate it, I did not. I got to work in one of the most well known establishments in Manchester (Australasia) and my colleagues were the shit. Seriously, you guys are fucking awesome. I admire LV’s business prowess, those guys know how to make money and have transformed much of Manchester’s (specifically Spinningfields) bar scene into a seemingly high class drinking/dining experience.

    However, every point in the article is valid, nothing is fabricated. I do not believe it to be poisonous or slanderous in any way. Just an honest opinion based on his own experience, and a desire for the industry to keep growing and improving. Don’t forget ‘failure of success’ after all, just because LV does a lot right, doesn’t mean we should accept it’s shortcomings. It seems every person defending LV in the comments currently works there, it’s in your best interest to defend your employers and probably did so instinctively. Which is why your comments hold little merit, you’ve clearly taken this very personally and have resorted to childish comments about the writing itself. Nobody is going to stop working for you or stop visiting your sites because of this article so let’s all stop acting like we’re insulting each others mothers.


  9. Jack says:

    Many moons ago I worked at a junior management level at LV for 2 years, I won’t mention the venue as a) it’s of no significance and b) I fear the LV hit squad hunting me down and cutting my tongue off for harbouring opinions. I look back on those times in a dull light, but I cannot use my one experience to base an entire opinion on a massive company. What I can say though is that the training is fantastic, even if it is venue specific. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be in the position I am now without LV training (GM).
    When hiring, if a CV comes through from an LV bartender I will know that they can work on a bar and won’t need an awful lot of training to get up to scratch in our venue. However there will always come a time when a customer asks for something off the menu and they will panic. “Which spirit should I use? Whats the count? How many times should I stir it?”. Upon learning they have some creative freedom I am met with a vacant stare and an inevitable break down, usually ending in 5 minutes of hair stroking and “shh, it’ll be ok” as they recite the “to give every member of living ventures…” ethos over and over.
    I’m aware that our method makes it a bit harder to control stocks, and in a larger company that difficulty would be multiplied, but that’s the joy of working in an independent bar where the owners use the “quality over quantity” theory.

    An extremely brief googling defines “the point” as –
    A single item or detail in an extended discussion, list, or text.

    I think the title of the article sums up “the point”, are we allowed to talk about LV?
    With it being such an big company there are going to be a lot of ex-staff lurking around other bars, and we do talk about LV. It’s a thing we have in common. There is the recurring theme though of negative opinions, and these are from people who in some way owe their current position to their time in LV. I don’t know why this is, and I think Steven has brought that up.
    Now don’t get me wrong, there isn’t an underground group meeting every week to slag LV off and there are definitely a tonne of positives about the company. So why does LV seem to be the nemesis of the independent bartender?

    I’ve tried to keep this reply as vague and pointless as possible.

  10. Paul says:

    As someone that no longer works for LV, I hope this can be seen as a non bias response. (Excuse the punctuation, I’m typing on my phone from a train). Working for LV was my first ever job. I had 0 experience in the industry, and I was just a young lad glass collecting for some extra cash. I fell in love with the industry and strived for more, and after years of hard work and commitment, I became a trainer for the bar team with the luxury of being able to float about to different venues across the country doing what I enjoyed. See people, this is the thing, I enjoyed the training, the hard work, and putting everything in. I didn’t mind missing a break if I needed to, or taking one for the team and picking a shift up. That’s just work for you. Not working for LV, just work, no matter where you are or what industry your in. People that are bitter possibly couldn’t handle the training, or the high expectancies that were part of what makes LV so great. Other companies strive to be as good. They really are the pinnacle of what they do and fair play to them. During my time with them, I saw people come and go. Some people moved into greatness, others just because they didn’t like it. I feel some of what I saw may have been due to a lack of work ethic, maybe because they were use to an easier life somewhere else, or even that they didn’t enjoy the industry. That’s just life unfortunately. I left because of other commitments, but I’ve taken my training with me and now work for an independent using my skills acquired from LV to help develop their operation. I feel this is something I couldn’t have done without the things I was taught by LV. Other people I worked with have their own success now, whether that be their own business, or running someone else’s. The top 100 is a key ingredient as its great for a guest to be able to have something off menu. Yes it’s hard to learn, and yes it very “LV” but all it does is increase knowledge for the bartender, and give more suggestion for the consumer. The idea that these are only useful if you work for LV is none sense. Let’s pretend that LV have their own specs for every cocktail. That’s fine. Go around Manchester and order a Mojito in 10 different venues and let’s see how many different ways you get it. That’s standard. If bartenders want to learn more, then buy some books, that’s what all the good bartenders I know went and did. LV is a business, not a school. They train you to optimise yourself for their business, not somebody else’s. However the training that goes out company wide can help you on any work place as I’ve seen. I realise I’m going off on silly tangents here but the point I wish to make is that they are top of their game, but just like any work place, they can’t please everyone, guest and employee alike. That’s just life folks. But they are the reason for so many individuals success. I got one am grateful.

  11. Antony says:

    I started working for LV at the age of 18, and worked along side bartenders who I envied! The reason for this was the training that they had recovers and also because of their own efforts! After having the pleasure of spending 2 weeks getting trained by one of liverpool’s finest bartenders, I realised that I had been taught everything I needed to succeed as a bartender at that site! That wasn’t enough for me! I wanted to be as good as my fellow bar team. In my opinion of you are as passionate about the industry as I am (and a lot of my ex colleagues in LV) you have to go and do your own research to achieve this! You can’t be the best in the business by knowing one thing, and giving you the opportunity to learn more is what the “barblade” and “master bartender” programs do. As an ex manager for LV it’s something I am very upset that I never got the chance to dedicate my time to!

    The Ops team for LV do a fantastic job, and I’m a firm believer in being yourself and failure of success. This has to come from the individual!

    Having spent a night with people I worked with for LV, we have discussed this in great depth. We are all of the opinion that it’s up to each individual, that work is work no matter what industry you are in. LV is a great company to work for and if you work hard then your potential there is unlimited, you just have to be very patient.

    Personally I have a lot of friends there, a lot of people I have spoken to in a long time. But they invested a lot of time in to me and I’ll back them until the end. At the end of the day, you either buy into their ethics or you don’t, if you do whether you still work for LV or not, you can usually tell who has. If you haven’t, then good luck to you.

  12. Bart says:

    I worked for LV for quite a while in its formative years and honestly believe the bar scene would be a bleaker place without its influence on the industry.
    You don’t know how bad things were in the late 90’s, nobody was doing anything properly, there was no fresh juices or fruit, bar tending pretty much didn’t exist outside London hotel bars, the idea of training a bar person was ridiculous to a bar owner. LV stepped into this gap with a 2 week training program before you were allowed to set foot on the bar.
    Yes it’s formulaic, repetitive and necessarily simplified but it has to be to train the volume of people that are needed, people from all different backgrounds with different skills and strengths, to all man a station on an LV bar. Of course the training is LV specific, when I get a new employee I always train them to work in the bar that they are going to work in! It’s naive to suggest that an Nq bartender can work any Nq bar, im not sure which “people see it” that way but it’s not the people running the bars in the Nq.
    The people that went through the training and were successful in the company for over 18 months (as JJ says) are now the people who own and run bars up and down the country, with a special emphasis on Manchester and Liverpool where LV had early success.
    LV seems to pay pretty much the industry standard wage, the tips in the busy sites are good, yes it’s hard work but it’s proven to be a solid grounding for future success in this very competitive industry.
    As a point of balance an so as not to come over as a stooge I will say that the ‘bonus system’ that is in place for employees is a complete myth. In my experience you never get paid your bonus.
    Weirdly I can’t argue with the main point of the article as nobody has expressed a dislike for LV to me since Beau Myers in a Pampero comp in Socio Rehab about 12 years ago. I want to hear the opinions of some ‘haters’ out there, I thought that’s what the Internet is for.


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