MARKET INSIGHT: Head honchos from CDG, Pret, Tossed and Welcome Break talk business

Lunch! 2016 keynotes 6

The Lunch! show was packed with high quality speakers giving hints and tips and an exclusive insight into the foodservice sector, as well as the latest on some of the biggest names in the industry, including CDG, Pret, Tossed and Welcome Break.

FEJ was there to report live and here’s a run down of the key points to come out of the keynote sessions.

Emma Read, director of marketing and business development, Horizons Food To Go – What The Future Holds

– Lunch is 46.9% of food to go market but snack time and breakfast are growing.

– Blurring of meal times is changing QSR sector. What the consumer wants is evolving all the time and operators need to adapt to that. Consumers demand faster pay methods, Read says – a large show of hands in the audience confirms this.

– Survey reveals eating out penetration is up 4% since June 2015 – great news for operators!

– Health and lifestyle changes are evolving! LEON and Tossed are two brands who have really cashed in on this and offer customers diet specific menus and more healthy choices, according to Read. Operators who respond to these changes can be very successful.

– “Pulled” trend has probably reached its plateau – but personalisation is on the way up. Five Guys offers a huge range of combinations on its food and drinks.

– Read insists that queue busting tech and faster paying systems are in massive demand from the consumer. Industry legend Luke Johnson, yesterday, said foodservice is a people business and tech should not be a priority – discuss.

Exclusive Interview: Caroline Cromar, Group Director Of Food, Pret a Manger

– Cromar reveals that since Brexit, Pret is doing better than before – partly down to an element of relief in the consumer (and of course, the great taste of Pret food, she says). But competition from disruptive delivery is hot on their radar.

– PRET EXCLUSIVE – In January, Pret will be launching ‘top secret’ lines – Cromar will say no more, despite pressing from the audience. But she reveals they have a big tech project under way.

– Cromar says Pret considers veganism to be ‘more important’ than vegetarianism.

How to Run Award Winning Juice, Smoothie & Shake Bars with CEO’s of Juicafe, ShakeTastic, Crussh

– Question from the floor – what brings more profit, smoothies or juices? Answer – it depends what’s in them. CEO of Crussh says they have found growing trend towards functional drinks like protein smoothies. These are the main sellers.

– Again, the idea of customisation comes up. Customers are increasingly after customisation.

– ShakeTastic have stayed true to their brand, rather than branching out into food and coffee, in spite of the potential profits these products could bring. Crussh CEO, says they use ‘wonky veg’ with real pride.

– Site selection is half science and half art, according to Crussh. Use a bit of your instinct, on top of all the footfall analysis.

– Site selection can be difficult and everyone makes mistakes when starting out – Juicafe reveals that first landlord was recently on the BBC’s Rogue Traders programme!

– ShakeTastic says marketing is such a massive part of any business. If you get an award, shout about it. Crussh says a willingness to not rest is what separates an average business from a great business.

– Have fun, don’t compromise and enjoy yourself – the three top tips the panel ends on, in regards to businesses starting out.

Andrew Stephen, CEO, The Sustainable Restaurant Association The Importance Of Sustainability To Your Customers

– Consumer data surrounding sustainability is pretty problematic – polls and schedules aren’t really representative.

– Association’s Food Made Good movement has gone from 50 to 6,500 member sites in six years, with chef, Raymond Blanc at the helm. But Stephen says, food industry and sustainable food movement aren’t well connected.

-“We’re the only people in the world who are trying to do this as broadly as we are, in the foodservice industry” – Stephen champions the Food Made Good movement.

– Veggie Pret is a great example of taking a leap into the unknown on sustainability. And they’ve announced opening two more by 2017.

– LEON is an example of a brand who caught sustainability early and are helping to lead the way. Last week, they moved to 100% clan energy across their estate. Vacherin is another brand who are at the forefront of the sustainability framework.

– TIP – don’t wait for customer data to come in, go on a hunch and take a leap, says Andrew. It can pay off, like it has for Pret.

Increasing Profits For Your Café – Alex Stone, Henry Ayres, Jay Morjaria

– As an independent, getting a site is so difficult, you have to just take any opportunity when you’re starting out, the audience hears.

– Henry Ayres from the Gentleman Barista aims to kick out coffee snobbery.

– When sourcing products, start-ups shouldn’t be afraid of shopping around and building a relationship with a supplier is absolutely key for any small business, says Morjaria.

– Question – should you compromise on profits for the purpose of quality? Alex Stone, director of Trade, believes you should. You’ve got to think of it from the customer stand point if you want them to keep coming back.

– Addressing the full house, Morjaria and Ayres both say that enthusing the staff is important to maintaining vibrancy in the business. It’s not about the skills, it’s about the personality, says Ayres – you can teach skills, he adds.

– EQUIPMENT TIP – Stone confesses that his biggest mistake starting out was not investing enough in good quality kitchen equipment! Henry agrees you need to research and can’t cut corners.

Exclusive Interview with Steve Richards, CEO, The Casual Dining Group on Rapide by Café Rouge

– Richards casually mentions how the group opened 28 sites last year and are looking to take number up to 400 in the next couple of years. Sights set on Middle East, too.

– Grab and go is becoming huge in transport hubs. But by grab and go is still much smaller than casual dining during lunch.  Brunch has become a big institution on the weekends, Richards says, although ‘the oldies’ like it mid-week, he jokes.

– Sunday lunch at pubs are by far the biggest section of the lunch market, says the CEO. “It’s something about comfort, family and sharing. And that’s definitely a thing that pubs can do, it’s very difficult to compete with that,” says Richards. He adds that Café Rouge are looking to re-launch Sunday lunch in response to the massive popularity of the meal.

– Since the Brexit wobble, the whole sector has got stronger, says Richards. Is it because of a sense of relief? “I don’t think any of us know,” is his reply. Seems to be the most popular view at Lunch!

– In a meeting last week, which discussed allowing EU citizens (many of whom work in the foodservice sector) who are working in the UK to stay here, Richards says the government seems to be in ‘listening mode’, which is a relief, he says. But he notes how it’s unsettling for investors.

– INVESTMENT HINT – “It’s a good time to buy”, says Richards. He says Las Iguanas was about the right thing for group to be investing in, but equally they’ve set up an incubator fund to help smaller establishments grow.

– INVESTMENT HINT – Richards says, “there will be more of that”, speaking in regards to acquiring La Tasca, who were bought because of their sites.

– Richards reveals 14% of Bella Italia’s customers are giving them 50% of their revenue. Most of those are value conscious women with children.

– Bella Italia are putting much more focus on improving pasta now, whereas formerly they focused on pizza.

– Speaking on the group’s experience of Deliveroo, Richards says most sales are in Exeter and students buy loads of it.

The Innovation Challenge Live – The Results

– Booja-Booja Dairy Free Ice Cream win silver! Judges declare they “love the brand” and that the company is “taking dairy free ice cream to the next level.”

– It’s bronze for ButterflyCup!

– Dragonfly Tofupot are second bronze winners.

– Third bronze is announced – it goes to LavAzza Elaganza for their Expresso Plus. There are hushed whispers in the audience about the piece of kit.

– Freaks of Nature win gold!

Vincent McKevitt, founder & top tosser, Tossed, The Healthier Eating Cashless, Till Less Place

– McKevitt notes how hot food has been a big area of growth for Tossed.

– The reason for introducing cashless was to bust queues, according to the founder.

-“Would your customers walk 10 minutes in the rain for your product?” – McKevitt says this is a key thing to think about when deciding on your products.

– Tossed launched its self-service kiosks launched this year. It uses Android tablets which are cheaper than Apple. He says it’s important to use a consumer tablet, unlike the expensive McDonalds kiosks because customers are used to using consumer tablets.

– TIP – have confidence in your own ideas and be bold, even if it seems to go against what guests want, says McKevitt.

– Is it working? Tossed has increased its capacity but it’s still early days and they’re still learning, McKevitt says. He adds, “I am adamant we have created the best front of house ordering system in the world.” A bold statement.

– McKevitt claims that the guests like the system. It gives them more browse time and takes away the pressure, which is really good for drawing in new customers, he says.

– He insists that very few people miss cash and that the vast majority of people don’t need any guidance on how to operate the kiosks, as they’re so used to using devices like tablets.

– Getting rid of paper from a business can help drive efficiency, and that’s certainly a big goal Tossed has.

– On a final point, McKevitt warns that businesses in the foodservice sector that don’t keep up with technology and adopt it will suffer and be overtaken. I wonder what Luke Johnson would say to that?

Rod McKie, CEO, Welcome BreakFrom Self-Service Cafeteria To Emporium Of Brands

-Welcome Break now operate 14 brands over 32 locations and are always looking to evolve this, says the CEO.

– Reflecting what Tossed CEO said earlier, McKie says that if businesses don’t change and adapt with the times then they will die.

– Since going fully branded the company has seen its footfall increase by 5 million. It has a £72m pay roll.

– Claims to have the most diverse customer range out of anyone, more so than airports, which makes it attractive for brands.

– Customers now expect contactless, says McKie. He adds that customers are gob smacked when you turn around and say you don’t offer contactless. It seems as though most operators are headed towards contactless and cashless!

– Surprisingly, drive thru’s are massively on the up at motorway services and Welcome Break is planning to open two more very soon, adding to its current 16.

– Recently opened Pret site at Welcome Break is hopefully the first of many, according to McKie. He adds or Welcome Break, it’s all about brands and they will continue to evolve them accordingly. He reveals the company is talking to a number of brands currently.

– Customers want speed! Average dwell time at Welcome Break is 20 minutes and operators have to be able to get food out quick, McKie says.

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