CEDA Conference business day opens dealer eyes to new foodservice perspectives

L-r: CGA’s Peter Martin, London Union’s Jonathan Downey, Twisted’s Tom Jackson and Harry Bamber, and entrepreneur Angela Malik, debated the most pressing topics at the CEDA Conference 2018 business day.

Friday’s business day at this year’s CEDA Conference had the aim of educating dealers on the latest trends and issues they need to take note of for their enterprises, and the programme more than delivered.

Peter Martin, vice president of research firm CGA, opened the day at the St George’s Park Hilton Hotel by giving a ‘state of the nation’ overview of the foodservice market.

He reported that while the big boom in restaurant launches seems to be over, the growth rate of pubs is now equalising with that of restaurants. He predicted further pub growth, likely at the expense of the casual dining sector, as consumers are driving premium drink growth more than food.

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Martin also cited 67% of business leaders as believing they have been negatively affected by the decision to leave the EU, up from 44% last year.

Second up to the stage was Jonathan Downey, co-founder of London Union, which owns the Street Feast brand of large scale street food markets.

Downey detailed that his team can build the entirety of a street food market facility in around 3 weeks, containing eight to 16 mini kitchens, and that the Dalston Yard market in London can attract 10,000 visitors in a weekend.

With 70% of the Street Feast audience between 18 and 34 years old, he feels that this demographic are “discovery and experience hunters – they always want what’s new and next”.

This cutting edge theme was continued with the next speakers, Tom Jackson and Harry Bamber, co-heads of food at online media house Jungle Creations, who both work on the Twisted food brand.

From Twisted’s beginnings in March 2016 as an online food community which shared recipe videos, within 9 months of trading it had commercial partnerships with Yo Sushi, Doritos and Oreo.

Twisted then opened a delivery-only restaurant in November 2017, the first time a digital only brand has done so, reported Jackson and Bamber. This reverse-launch demonstrates the power of social media, with Twisted’s videos clocking up 45bn views in 2017.

Next on, chef and entrepreneur Angela Malik teed the dealer audience up for the technology they will have to consider, going forwards. “We’re moving into the age of Internet 3.0, the Internet of Things – all devices and appliances will be connecting to each other,” she underlined.

“The connected workspace will mean fewer catering equipment repairs and faster response times, plus you will get a better idea of asset depreciation and wear and tear.”

Malik further questioned that with advanced vending machines able to make food to order, and robotic cooks on the horizon, will we even need chefs in the future? Conversely, she also believes that we are in an era of hyper-personalisation, and that all businesses need to think about how they are adding value to the end customer by personalising their experience.

Suzannah Nichol, chief executive of Build UK.

The afternoon session began with Suzannah Nicol, the chief executive of construction industry body, Build UK, detailing that the collapse of Carillion has been a catalyst for change in the construction industry.

“Any aspects of our industry’s failings are all there in the Carillion case,” she said. “We all have to change if we want the industry to change.”

Measures in the pipeline include benchmarking Build UK members, using a league table to detail their payment terms; getting rid of retention money; and introducing a cross-industry agreed question set to replace pre-qualification.

Arguably the headline speaker was Tim Martin, chairman of pub chain giant, JD Wetherspoon. He proved to be as controversial as his reputation suggests, saying that he does not regret the brand’s recent withdrawal from social media: “We need to concentrate on clean glasses and good beer rather than social media.”

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin was interviewed by CGA’s Peter Martin.

He was similarly bullish on deleting customer data which had previously been collected, believing that the group didn’t lose any money from the data deletion. However, he did admit that he was wrong about the Wetherspoons app – he did not think it would work at all, but it has proved to be a big success.

Martin was fairly dismissive about the gastropub trend, saying: “Pubs have overdone food, a lot of them can’t even really be called pubs anymore,” though he later admitted that around 37% of Wetherspoons sales are from food. This is a fairly hefty contribution to the business’ £1.7bn turnover.

Next up was motivational speaker Richard West, who warned: “If we don’t think outside the box, our competition will knock us off our perch.” He believes that the best performing businesses have focus: “They are clear about what they want to achieve, they are constantly learning, and they have a winning culture,” he remarked

“High performing organisations need a one team mindset – the silo mentality needs to be removed.”

The day was closed with a light-hearted session led by food and drink broadcaster, Nigel Barden, who treated the dealer audience to a food and drink tasting session, with everything from milk-distilled vodka to chilli-infused salami on the menu.

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