Casual dining chiefs share their insight

GBK plans to put kitchen equipment at the heart of its overall restaurant design.

The chief executives responsible for some of the biggest restaurant businesses in the UK will be sharing their wisdom with the market when the much-anticipated Casual Dining Show opens its doors to trade buyers and suppliers tomorrow.

Karen Forrester, CEO of TGI Friday’s, Stephen Holmes, CEO of ASK Italian and Zizzi, and Alasdair Murdoch, CEO of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, will all take to the stage to deliver keynote speeches on the trends and issues shaping the industry and their operations.

Their presence underpins a free Keynote Theatre programme that is scheduled to run on both days of the show and is tailored to the business needs of multi-site operators plying their trade in the pub, bar and restaurant sectors.

The Casual Dining Show is only in its second year, but it already appears to have cemented its place in the industry calendar given the significant growth of the casual dining sector in the UK. Last year saw an impressive 120 technology, equipment, food and drink exhibitors take part in the event, with almost 3,700 attendees, many of them equipment buyers, checking out the latest wares.

This time around the organisers expect the numbers to be even higher after confirming that the available exhibiting space at the London Business Design Centre has been increased by 45%, taking the show up to the venue’s upper feature level for the first time.

For Trevor Reeves, purchasing and supply chain manager at TGI Friday’s, the show offers a valuable insight into where the market is moving. He certainly hopes to get as much out of this year’s event as he did 12 months ago.

“The Casual Dining Show brought small independent businesses and large chains together in a unique venue with lots of innovative companies showing us the future in casual dining,” he says.

Steve Holmes, managing director of ASK Italian Restaurants, says the launch of the show wasn’t before time and he is enthusiastic about seeing what this year’s show has to offer. “It’s great to finally have a trade show dedicated to our industry,” he comments.

Jenny Elliott, head of food development at JD Wetherspoon, said she would definitely be attending this year. “Casual Dining is a great addition to the industry calendar,” she says. “It is a fantastic opportunity to meet potential suppliers and strengthen working relations with existing ones.”

With the UK’s casual dining scene now attracting an extra 47 million visits a year compared to five years ago, it is imperative that the kitchens of foodservice operators around the country are equipped to cope with the demand.

Buyers visiting the show this month can expect to see a raft of major exhibitors from the equipment world. The likes of Electrolux Professional, Ambach, Gamble Foodservice Solutions, Nisbets, Gram, Adande and Winterhalter will all be unveiling their newest innovations for the kitchen.

Casual dining kingpins

StepheBOX-OUT 1 - Stephen Holmesn Holmes, CEO, ASK Italian
Stephen Holmes has led ASK Italian through a significant period of change over the last five years, executing a multi-million pound transformation that has touched every aspect of the extensive brand. With 109 sites and over 2,000 employees, the business, originally founded in 1993, is now enjoying considerable momentum — and growth. Holmes’ keynote will outline ASK’s journey to date and illustrate how people — from the front of house team to the chefs — are the key to creating a winning customer experience.

Karen ForrestBOX-OUT 1 - Karen Forresterer, CEO, TGI Friday’s
Voted ‘most people-focused CEO’ at the HR Excellence Awards in 2013, Forrester is widely credited with the revival of the brand over the last six years. Great customer service will be the focus of her keynote as she discusses the traditions that have been upheld by Friday’s for almost 50 years, as well as the renewed values key to its success. “Friday’s is differentiated by offering experiences that connect emotionally with our guests,” says Forrester ahead of her Keynote. “Our theories and philosophies provide teachings to drive decision-making and behaviours aimed at strengthening those emotional connections and removing any obstacles.”

BOX-OUT 1 - Alasdair MurdochAlasdair Murdoch, CEO, Gourmet Burger Kitchen
With more than 20 years’ experience in the restaurant industry, Murdoch is well-placed to comment on what it takes to ‘stay relevant’ in the £7 billion casual dining market. He joined GBK as its CEO three years ago, implementing a growth strategy that has led to the turnaround of the brand. By investing significantly in the quality of the food, re-investing in the restaurants and developing the GBK teams at each site, the company is poised for sales growth and has set out plans to take its estate up to 100 outlets in the next three years.

Casual Dining: Show shorts

Date: 25-26 February 2015
Location: Business Design Centre, London
Sat nav: N1 0QH (Parking must be booked in advance)
Nearest tube: Angel (Northern Line)
Nearest station: Kings Cross & Euston
Opening times: 10.00-17.00
Exhibitors: 170
Registration: www.casualdiningshow.co.uk
Twitter: @CasDiningShow

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