As well as boasting its superb permanent team, many young people and students in and around the Cotswolds, look fondly on Relish as their holiday, weekend, or seasonal jobs. Friends made and great relationships formed whilst working at prestigious events, weddings, corporate venues, cafes, pubs and restaurants are eagerly recalled.
Relish, as the creative and innovative foodie group it is today however, did not begin in the Cotswolds. From the outset Relish has taken its inspiration from its founder Philippa Sawyer and food stylists all over the world. Philippa joined the entirely new events division of brewing behemoth, Whitbread PLC on the graduate training programme at its famous Old Brewery head office at Chiswell Street London EC1. She rapidly shot through the ranks to lead the division, attracting prestigious clients including the Queens Tennis Tournament, Ascot, Goodwood and many high end corporations. Following Lord Youngs 1989 Beer Orders Act, and the forced sell-off of pubs by breweries, Philippa Sawyer purchased Whitbread’s events division from Sam Whitbread in an ‘eventful and entertaining meeting’ for the princely sum of £1, and established Relish.
Philippa, as the child of a former publican, bought The Old Royal Ship public house in Luckington and in quick succession ran The Vine Tree in Norton, Simply Oz, Great Somerford and The Harbour in Lyme Regis. Philippa and her father had jointly purchased a lease on pub in Castle Street in Cirencester, aptly named ‘Somewhere Else’, after a family reference to visiting places not associated with work. The town bar remains a key venue in the Relish Group portfolio and is today owned and managed by both Philippa and her business partner Andy Sampson. A refurb during the recession of 2009 saw a relaunch and new look the following year and today Somewhere Else is a well-established and popular meeting place for refreshments and fine service and is populated by business lunches, friends gatherings and all manner of visitors to the Cotswolds.
The evolution of the corporate, sporting and festival scene and, more specifically, the desire to support the ‘main event’ with an equally involved hospitality feature, focussed Relish on the provision of high end events with an astounding array of food and drink offerings. Contracts with the likes of Porsche at the UK’s leading testing and proving ground soon progressed to a wide ranging portfolio of partners and preferred supply appointments within the automotive and competitive racing industry both in the UK and beyond. The Relish management, including niece Eve in events and celebrations, Adam in events logistics, Jason as executive chef, Wendy as confectionary supremo, Ollie in finance, Rachel in branding and marketing and Louis, Jack, Angus, Bianca, Holly, Laura, Tim, Mark, Debbie and others too numerous to mention have created an unbeatable team.
Meanwhile Rob Goves, was rising through the ranks in the culinary world seamlessly turning his passion for cooking into a professional career. After completing his studies at Charterhouse School, Rob took a year out to explore his passion for food in London. He spent the year training at Youngs PLC in Chelsea, London working in a series of Michelin star kitchens and hungrily taking every food-related course he could find until finally returning to Bristol to complete his studies. His love of gastronomy, food photography and the draw of the busy kitchen led him to accept a job as Sous Chef at one of Bristol’s busiest and most popular restaurants on the very day he graduated. He worked for three years in this role and engaged with industry contacts whilst making a name for himself.
From here Rob took on the challenge of three different pub restaurant catering contracts in Bristol, turning them around and establishing them firmly on the culinary map. It was during this period that Rob developed a passion for supporting local trade and sourcing seasonal ingredients which to this day remains an integral part of the Relish ethos.
A move to The Cotswolds in 2007 and a new non-executive role with Relish saw the start of a new business partnership. During the operation of the largest transient event in Europe, The Country Land Owners Game Fair in 2011, Relish engaged Rob to manage the members food offering and develop the countryside and sustainable themed menu for this event. From here Philippa engaged Rob on a number of assignments where it became clear that Philippa’s own passion for supporting local trade and sourcing local ingredients was matched precisely by Rob’s own ethos. Over the following short period they struck up their current business relationship, culminating in Rob joining Philippa on the board of Directors as a partner in the Relish Group.
As creative lead for Relish, Rob is a foodie at heart. His love of food styling and his photographic training has seen him published in over 20 books and countless food magazines. As a Director of the business and lead on many projects, his flair and passion for food inspire the team around him. The use of local ingredient-led cooking is paramount to Rob, and you can still expect to see him with his whites on at all of Relish’s big events. A cook first and foremost but with a creative touch over all parts of the business.
With an ever burgeoning reputation, enthusiasm and skilled teams to match, Relish has taken up appointments within large elite corporations such as St James Place Wealth Management PLC to provide their own staff with superb benefits and healthy refreshments. At the same time, the Relish ranges of wraps, sandwiches, paninis, cakes and other products have been sought after by premium locations and are now established as the ‘Pret-style’ offering in many locations around the West Country, Midlands and M4 corridor.
Not one to sit on her laurels, and through opportunities presented by her partner John, Philippa was quick to breathe life into a venue on the Cotswold Lakes at the Visitors Centre and now very popular Gateway Café. Through the same introduction Philippa and Rob joined John to develop and bring back to life the captivating café on the infamous Black Jack Street in Cirencester. Flanked by narrow cobbled streets and located within an area of historical significance and enchantment, today Jacks Tea Room and Kitchen Café has a loyal and devoted customer following, with its signature cakes and artisan lunches drawing both regulars and visitors alike.
The following year a similar case for tender at the café at The Old Prison in Northleach aligned to the wishes of The Friends of the Cotswolds who purchased the Prison building via a crowd funding initiative. Philippa, Rob, John and team have already re-established the café within this amazing, history packed tourist magnet, to provide the local community with a much needed indoor and outdoor venue and are assisting the Friends in reinstating the Prison as a museum and place of historical interest.
Whilst the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020 had a catastrophic impact on both the events and catering aspect of the hospitality sector, the team at Relish embraced the opportunity to reassess the strategy of each venue, taking time to evaluate the target market, the product offering, consult with industry and market trends and predictions and of course account for the inevitable changes that the pandemic brought about. The results of which have delivered a more unique and exclusive customer offer, exciting new updates to menus and in-house events, a reinvigorated team and a clear strategy for the Relish Group as a whole.
The launch of Relish Online was accelerated during the lockdown period and quickly served as a go-to for many of the loyal Relish customers who were desperate to once again enjoy a Jacks signature cake, house burger from Somewhere Else or stone-baked pizza from The Gateway. In fact, the online ordering proved so popular that it is now an established business with an extensive menu, including drinks, daily provisions and the option to order meals for full scale catering.
Relish has taken an exciting journey to date and has moved through the recent turmoil of the hospitality sector with a careful yet progressive approach for its team and customers alike. Having been created over 25 years ago and growing to a turnover of in excess of £15m a year, Philippa and Rob believes that Relish is only at ‘the end of the beginning’. Cotswold Destinations in terms of new venues is a focus as well as the embracing of technology for on-line ordering of both products and entire events, are at the forefront of medium term planning.
The future looks bright for Relish with new proposals representing further new exciting venues, an enhanced and broader culinary offering to our clients and customers and no boundaries in terms of what can be achieved. We can’t wait to share our plans and we hope you’ll be as excited as we are!