Established in 1976, WFC is now one of the leading specialist fit out and refurbishment contractors, delivering projects within the hospitality and leisure sector. WFC is responsible for more than 50 projects each year, for more than 30 different clients, and in 2016 posted an annual turnover which exceeded £40m.
Keen to find out a little more about WFC, Premier Hospitality recently caught up with WFC Managing Director, Steve Howle and WFC Executive Director Philip Waggett. Steve and Philip discussed a milestone project for WFC, highlighted the challenges their team face on a daily basis and gave us an insight into some of the projects which will be taking the company forward into 2018 and beyond.
Hi guys, thank you for taking the time to speak to Premier Hospitality today. Please tell us a little about WFC, perhaps starting with some of your most significant projects.
Phil – “It is hard to pick out particular projects, as a project that is relatively small to us may be hugely significant to a client trying to establish themselves in the sector. It is essential therefore that every project gets the attention it needs and deserves. From a business point of view, a project may be significant because of the future opportunities it opens up with a particular client, designer or project manager, rather than because the project itself is particularly high value or high profile. I am also hesitant to pick out particular projects, as to name just a few means not mentioning many other projects and client that have been equally important to our success.”
That’s a very fair comment. Are there any projects in particular that are perhaps defining projects for WFC?
Steve – “There is no doubt that an important milestone project in our business was The Delaunay in Aldwych for Chris Corbin and Jeremy King. Not only was that project the start of an enjoyable working relationship with them and their business; it also put WFC on the map as a contractor capable of delivering high quality work at the premium end of the restaurant market. Establishing that reputation has led on to high profile projects such as Hutong and Aqua in The Shard, the bars and restaurants in the Sky Garden, Bob Bob Ricard in Golden Square, 100 Wardour St, and more recently Isabel in Albemarle Street. Relationships established at Delaunay also led indirectly to three major projects that ran concurrently at Cherkley Court in Surrey in 2015 and 2016.”
What projects have you been working on over the past 12 months?
Phil – “We complete in the order of 50 projects per year, so this could be a long answer!
“The highest value projects recently have included works to create bars and a club at Dreamlands Margate, the completion of the clubhouse at Cherkley Court golf club, and two restaurants for D&D in Leeds. In London we have delivered Mnky House in Dover St, Duck & Waffle on Haymarket, two restaurants in the Nova Victoria development (Aster and Stokehouse), Isabel, and Marylebone’s new gym BXR.”
Steve – “Other interesting projects have included the extensive alteration and fit-out to the Bower House in Shipston-on-Stour, and the refurbishment of the function rooms at the boathouse at Dorney lake, for Eton College. In addition, we have continued our long-term relationship with Deltic (nightclubs) and completed fitness studios for Frame, Barry’s Boot Camp and Boom Cycle.”
Have these projects differed in any way to your usual line of work?
Phil – “The work at Cherkley Court involved an unusually high proportion of general building and landscaping work, as well as the interior fit-out. The Bower House project also involved significant structural alterations to an old building. Another slight change from the norm was the fit out of a children’s nursery in Putney for Purple Dragon. The views over Dorney lake, the beach at Margate, and the golf course at Cherkley Court, all made a pleasant change from the usual London skyline for our site teams.”
When working on a project, what are the biggest challenges you face? And how do you overcome them?
Phil – “The biggest challenge is usually getting information in a timely fashion. Clients and their designers like to maximise the time they take to make final decisions on all aspects of the scheme that we are trying to build, then challenge us to deliver with no impact on cost, quality or program. Add to that planning permissions, listed building consents, landlords’ approvals and missing incoming services, and you begin to get a sense of the list of obstacles in our way before we start! Then we are of course reliant on a diverse supply chain that is subject to material shortages, manufacturing failures, continental holidays, customs clearance, third party couriers and in-transit breakages. We have not yet mentioned the human factors that may prevent tradesmen arriving on sites – illness, family issues, lost keys, vehicle breakdowns, traffic jams – or the possibility that when the materials and men do get to the same place at the same time they have a lapse in concentration and hang the door the wrong way around!
Steve – “We try to manage all these, and other, issues by following processes and procedures that we have developed over 40 years of managing fit-out projects. These are designed to ensure that we ask the right questions at the right time, and have in place sufficient checks and balances to maximise the chances of success. Finally, we will always lay odds that there will be an unexpected curveball at a crucial stage of the project, so we make sure that we have excellent lines of communication within and outside the business to a network of resourceful and experienced individuals who can help us overcome whatever challenge is thrown our way.”
Are there any projects you’ve found too challenging?
Phil – “Not yet! We relish a challenge as it sets us apart from the competition, and forces us to review and improve on what we do and how we do it. We would shy away from a ‘mission impossible’, but are happy to take on any challenge as long as all the stakeholders understand the risks involved, and the part they need to play in managing them. We keep a careful eye on the commercial risks – we will not jeopardise the future of the company – and of course will insist that the work we are undertaking can be completed safely.”
Moving forward, what projects do you have on the horizon?
Phil – “Client confidentiality prevents me from giving a full answer to this question, but I can tell you that we are currently on site creating a restaurant in the Leadenhall Building, and state-of-the-art leisure facilities in a prominent new high-rise London residential building. We are undertaking an unusual project creating food outlets in Spitalfields Market, a new fitness studio in the Battersea Power station development, and an Asian restaurant in Albermarle Street. Further afield, we are working on a night-club refurbishment in Hull.
“In the pipeline, but not yet confirmed, are a Covent Garden restaurant, a restaurant in the renovated Centre Point building, a refurbishment at a well-known London theatre, a new London flagship restaurant for an internationally renowned restaurant chain, a golf-themed entertainment venue, plus a number of fitness studios.”
Wow, that is a lot of projects we’d best not keep you much longer. To conclude, as a company, what are you most proud of?
Steve – “Our people and our values. We have assembled a fantastic team who continue to go from strength-to-strength, learning from every experience and challenging each other to get better and better.
“We share a set of values that run through the core of who we are as individuals and as a business. Those shared values ensure that we take our work very seriously, but don’t forget to have a lot of fun along the way.”