Casual dining stars to debate pub innovation and profitability

Casual Dining

Boosting pub menu innovation and profitability will be a key theme at next month’s Casual Dining trade show with the free keynote line-up set to include experts from Marston’s, Young’s, Geronimo Inns, Hippo Inns, Fuller’s, and Living Ventures in addition to Bob Ivell, non-exec chairman of Mitchells & Butlers.

Over 200 exhibitors will compete for business across three floors showcasing a host of new products, equipment and services for the on-trade at the Business Design Centre in London, on 22-23 February.

On day 1 of the show at 2pm, Andrew Andrea, Marston’s chief financial and corporate development officer, will discuss how the 183-year-old brand, which operates 2,150 pubs (including the Pitcher & Piano brand), is attracting younger customers through positively embracing the emergence of casual dining. The operator has taken advantage of changing consumer tastes, increasing its like-for-like sales over the past three years.

Living Venture’s CEO and co-founder of the Bars to Fine Dining Group, Jeremy Roberts, will also be making his first speaking appearance on the first day of the show at 3.30pm. He’ll be talking about the journey from the early days, with the late Tim Bacon, and how the unique Living Ventures business model has evolved into a successful incubator of high street concepts and brand development.

“Casual dining – whether it’s in pubs, bars or restaurants, is where the majority of the sector, by definition, operates. So this is a great opportunity to get together to discuss the issues of the day with friends and colleagues,” said Roberts.

The renowned husband and wife team behind Hippo Inns, Rupert and Jo Clevely are also looking forward to sharing their insights on the sector at Casual Dining. After selling Geronimo Inns to Young’s in 2010, Rupert and Jo started Hippo Inns, in partnership with Enterprise Inns. Their Keynote on the second day of the show at 12.30pm will focus on meeting customers’ increased expectations through good food, service and innovative interior design.

An exclusive panel session will see experts discuss the future of pub food. Growing awareness of provenance, seasonality and naturality, for example, combined with special diet requirements – are far from passing food fads.  They have been shaping consumer demand for years. Pub operators that don’t provide these options as standard, could potentially be missing out.

Chris Knights, group executive chef at Young’s Pubs and Geronimo Inns, explained: “Our guests are more knowledgeable on food than they ever have been – provenance, seasonality, artisanal and freshness are among some of the foodie buzzwords that we associate with our guests.  Our menus reflect these buzzwords and provide dishes that are flexible to what time of day it is, ensuring that our guests use our pubs more casually.”

Knights will be appearing, alongside Paul Dickinson, head of food at Fuller, Smith & Turner. Chaired by Mike Berry, head of content at Fleet Street Communications, the expert panellists will examine recent successes, share trends shaping their pub menus in 2017, and look beyond to predict where food in pubs will be years from now.

“As well as many other trends that influence our menus, and pubs in general, a trend that I feel will have great traction for 2017 will be authenticity,” added Knights. “A pub serving proper pub grub, it’s homely, nostalgic and tweaked for a more foodie generation.”

“Pub menus have improved dramatically over the past five years, thanks to increased quality and provenance of ingredients,” added Dickinson. “For the chefs at Fuller’s, it’s the availability of seasonal produce that set the trends, and the craftsmanship of the chefs that create the theatre around the dishes. With this, we aim to exceed customer expectations.”

Casual Dining 2017 will feature 18 free business seminars – including exclusive Keynotes, interviews, and market updates – across two days.

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