Q&A: Anita Murray on sailing, singing and Springboard’s best charity panto yet
 
 
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"Performing definitely draws people closer together, as we’re working towards the same goal."


Later this month, our CEO Anita Murray is swapping her laptop for a panto script in the hospitality industry pantomime, Dick Whittington. Oh yes she is!  

On 29 January – 1 February, Anita will join familiar faces from the likes of The Ritz, The Caterer, Marriott, Handpicked Hotels and Searcy’s in the all-singing all-dancing West End extravaganza, raising funds for hospitality industry charity Springboard.  

We catch up with Anita on how rehearsals are going, taking to the seas with Springboard, and why Dick Whittington will be the charity’s best show yet.  

Tell us a little about your involvement with Springboard.

Springboard has been one of the main hospitality industry charities I’ve connected with since I joined William Murray ten years ago. 

I’ve been involved in a number of initiatives and activities, as I really believe in what Springboard is doing, giving disadvantaged youngsters a leg up in what is a fantastic industry. After all, the industry needs new waves of people coming in to make it even better.  

I’m involved in Springboard’s fundraising committee, which looks at all the ways to raise funds through different events and activities. I’ve also been lucky to take part in sailing regattas with the charity. It’s a magical experience of racing with a team, and the camaraderie you get dealing with rope burns when winging your way across the water! Last year the Springboard boat came second, which we were pretty chuffed with! This experience and the panto have been real personal highlights for me - truly creative and inclusive ways of bringing the industry together to fundraise.  

Springboard has always been incredibly inclusive, promoting team work and collaboration that ultimately break down barriers. One minute you're being introduced to someone from The Ritz and the next minute you’re hugging them because you’ve been involved in a great panto performance, or you’re commiserating with them while struggling with them on a boat. All of this makes for developing better relationships in the industry.

What part are you playing in Dick Whittington? 

I'm one of four singers. We're performing some great numbers and I get to fulfil my lifetime ambition of being in Abba! The question is...am I the blonde or the redhead? 

How are rehearsals going? 

As we’re now at the stage to rehearse the whole performance together, it's amazing to see how all individual rehearsals and scenes are meshing together to form one show.  

Rehearsing the opening number has been particularly uplifting. Having a cast of 50 people dancing together means we all leave rehearsals on a high with massive grins on our faces! Without a doubt it will be the best Springboard panto yet. There’s funny parts, amazing songs and witty dialogue that’s very hospitality focused of course! 

Have you formed new friendships with your panto castmates? 

I’m getting very close to my Abba comrades ‘Benny’, ‘Bjorn’ and ‘Agnetha’ - we're having an amazing laugh together. Performing definitely draws people closer together, as we’re working towards the same goal.  

Why do you think the panto will be a hit this year? 

We've harnessed momentum from the first and second years and come into the third show so energised. Everything’s bigger and better – the performances are more professional than before, and the dancing numbers are more ambitious. From the get-go, everyone’s been so focused on making it special for the audience.  

What would you say to anyone who hasn’t bought their ticket yet? 

What other chance will you get to see your industry peers perform in the West End?! And it’s all for a fantastic cause. Buy a ticket – you'll be doing good and feeling good!   

Break a leg Anita!  

A limited number of seats are still available, click here to secure yours now.

 
Rosie Carr
Bisto gives competitors a roasting as UK’s most talked about gravy
 
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Bisto was the consumers’ go-to gravy brand for the festive period, with 66.5% share of voice, followed by Oxo (24.3%), Maggi (7.5%), Knorr (1.2%) and Kallo (0.6%). 


Using social data from the 2018 Christmas period, we kept track of what people said about gravy and the foods they associate with it and the go-to gravy brands for that perfect roast or winter warmer. After all, what would Christmas be without gravy?

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Managing director Dave Greenwood said: “We have developed a new social listening tool, Delve. This means we can keep our ears close to the ground on what consumers are talking about online, as there’s a great deal we and our clients can learn from these conversations and attitudes.

“During Christmas 2018, over 2,000 unique UK authors spoke about gravy. It’s clear the traditional, iconic Christmas dinner is still just as important to consumers, and it has been interesting to understand their preferences for the biggest meal of the year.”

When it came to perfect flavour combinations, UK consumers had their eyes on the festive prize – turkey. It was by far the most popular meat mentioned alongside gravy, (68.6%), followed by beef (14.6%), chicken (11.8%), lamb (3.3%) and duck (1.6%). 

Further proving the nation’s obsession with the traditional Christmas Day roast, the most popular keywords used alongside gravy were ‘Christmas’, ‘dinner’, ‘roast’, ‘xmas’, ‘turkey’, ‘stuffing’ and ‘potatoes’. Consumers also enjoyed posting about their Christmas dinners, with the biggest spike in traffic on 25 December between 4-6pm.

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In true 2018 fashion, the topic of veganism was front of mind for many. In posts discussing special dietary requirements, 56.4% mentioned veganism, followed by vegetarianism (29.9%) and gluten free (13.7%). 

Through Delve we can understand social trends and influence at play and use this unique insight to map out a client’s marketing strategy based on real time information. 

Want to know more about how Delve can give you unique insights into your brand, competitors or customers? Or how we can help you understand more about a category and what’s really being said about it? Then pull up a chair.

 
Big Data: The Gamechanger
 
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“If you’re able to understand and act upon business data, your decisions are smarter, operations more profitable and customer experience is more personalised.”


With less than week to go until BigData: The Gamechanger roundtable at The Foodservice Show on Tuesday 22 January, we thought we’d share just some of the questions we’ll address during the session.

  • What does big data actually mean?

  • How can big data help businesses evolve and become more efficient?

  • And how can we use it to personalise the customer experience? 

Matt Napleton from Zizo software, who works with Marks & Spencer, the BBC and Experian is co-hosting the event with us to share his expertise and insight. 

All attendees will be offered a review of how to leverage the commercial benefits from their data and a competitor social media audit. 

This exclusive roundtable is a fantastic opportunity to connect with CEOs, buyers, chefs, and food, drink & hospitality business leaders. We’ll also be publishing a report, which will be shared with everyone who attends. 

 We’re excited to have representatives from:

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Keep an eye here on our blog. Shortly after the event we’ll be releasing an exclusive report shining a light on the key talking points of the day. But, for now, visit the Eventbrite page to secure your place.

You can find us in the Concourse Suite 23, Hall 9 at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on 22 January between 13.30 and 14.30.


 
All in good taste #2: Tears for Piers
 
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Welcome to your latest All in Good Taste, the monthly round up of PR gold stars and faux pas. Gregg’s refused to rollover this month, briefly subbing out baking for roasting with a series of witty twitter retorts around the launch of its vegan sausage roll.

Elsewhere, Doritos’ development of a female-friendly chip unsurprisingly landed on the shoulder of feminists nationwide, and Cadbury’s adopted a golden (plated) egg style competition with a poor prize pot. Here’s this month’s mostly-meaty marketing moments and mishaps:


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Tears for Piers

Demonstrating ROI in modern PR is a doddle if you can coax a public reaction from UK media marmite Piers Morgan, generating huge amounts of opportunities to see and audience engagement. So, when Gregg’s launched its vegan sausage roll (had you heard?), all-out war broke out between the two most vocal groups on Twitter, behind One Direction’s legion of pre-teens; vegans, and the Morganite daytime talk show enthusiasts.

Fortunately, Greggs came prepared. Instead of misused memes, and empty pre-approved apologies, the Greggs’ team rightly embraced a bit of personality, and flew out with the witty retorts, building more authentic engagement than any ad-campaign would have. You go Greggs’, you’re on a roll.

And at the centre of this sausage-ish roll are our good friends and long standing client Quorn – so we couldn’t not take the chance to mention some of the great work we’ve delivered for them over the years.

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Chip off the old block

From BIC to Brewdog, you’d think the lesson in sexist marketing, tongue-in-cheek or not, would have been well learned by now. Doritos, it’s nacho place to tell the world how ladies like to crunch their crisps, even less so to make a misjudged marketing gimmick of it. But, as is the way of the free market – if it’s not your bag, you don’t buy it. And while they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity – we’re not expecting to see #boycottdoritos appearing on packets any time soon. 

 
 
 

Golden ticket, or bad egg?

Before an ill-fated recipe change, Cadbury’s had the crème-of-the-crop in the filled chocolate egg space. But without despairing at the £6m in lost revenue – they’ve come up with a cunning, ingenious marketing move to get back in the good books – an egg hunt. Hidden among the millions of eggs on the market, lie a handful of white chocolate eggs worth £50-£10,000 in prizes to the lucky few finders.

ButThe Handbook’s Phil Clarke has done the maths, and he wasn’t eggsactly eggstatic (sorry); the verdict is that the Willy Wonka impression is lacking enough Willy Wonga to have any impact, after all if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. In summary, if you’re burying fabled white eggs, maybe dig a little deeper

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2018 food trends: what really happened
 
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"Confused as we were? The ‘Cronut’ combination achieved global fame, but ‘Crossushi’ is another matter entirely. You’ve guessed it. Fish meets pastry."


 

When each new year begins, our screens and inboxes are filled with crystal ball predictions on the hottest new trends in food and drink.  

The cronut? (croissant/doughnut hybrid). That happened. Sugar loaded Freakshakes? We were bouncing off the walls. Mushroom lattes? We’re not so sure... 

They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so with this in mind we’ve dug out six foodie trends that were predicted to cook up a storm in 2018. Did they stick, or die out as fast as you can say “Dry January”? 

Culinary crowd pleasers…

MINDFUL EATING AND TRACEABILITY

Many 2018 predictions surrounded our increased awareness about the foods we’re eating, where they come from and ethical and environmental concerns.  

Research group Mintel predicted food traceability to be a hot topic and concern for consumers, regardless of their social background or income.  Whether this is due to a growing mindset of ethical responsibility, or recent scandals such as the horsemeat fiasco, knowing where our food (in particular, our meat) comes from has become increasingly front of mind. In a 2018 poll of 2,000 Brits conducted by The Grocer and Harris Interactive, 65% of meat shoppers say traceability is important to them.  

The power of plants  

In an Eater London survey with some of the UK’s most influential voices in food, plant-based dining was a hot topic for 2018. Suze Olbrich (freelance food writer and Eater London contributor) and Laurel Ives (former food editor of The Sunday Times’ The Dish) predicted a continued surge in plant based products and menus in 2018.  

According to Mordor Intelligence, the global plant protein market is currently worth £4.6bn, and expected to deliver annual growth of 7% between 2018 and 2023.  

This surge in plant-based products has definitely been the case for Waitrose. Take milk alternatives.  25% of the supermarket’s milk range is made up of non-dairy options. According to the Waitrose Food and Drink Report 2018/19, sales of almond milk were up by 26%, coconut milk by 60% and oat milk by a whopping 116%. Find out more about the boom of plant based dairy alternatives in this article.  

With the plant based food trend recently becoming mainstream, it’s even being advised as a savvy business concept for 2019. 

‘Dirty vegan food’ 

Vegan food was definitely not new in 2018, but it continued to transform and be celebrated in many different ways. In Eater London’s survey (above), food writer Victoria Stewart predicted a surge of ‘dirty vegan food’ in 2018. She wasn’t wrong.  

Talking of London’s obsession with vegan food, Laurel Ives wrote for Eater London “Meanwhile, the other major new strand of veganism is a thriving, so-called “dirty” food scene which is shattering an old-fashioned and once arcane image, as well as repudiating the assertion that vegan food, by necessity, has to be “healthy.” There are now fast food offerings like kebabs, fried “chicken,” and doughnuts, which appear designed to appeal to a wider — and younger — generation.” 

Last year, the Great British Bake Off even taught us that vegan doesn’t mean boring or necessarily healthy, with challenges featuring vegan pastry and pavlova.  

What’s more, the popular American comfort food chain, Dirty Bones, known for its ribs and burgers, thrived with a ‘Dirty Vegan’ menu. ‘Dirty Vegan’ pop ups in Shoreditch, London, proved incredibly popular, serving vegan mac and cheese, waffles and even ‘hot wings’, with sessions selling out within an hour in March 2018. 

foodie flops... 

Funghi fad


In late 2017, Whole Foods made a number of predictions on the food products lining our shelves. Among the strangest was a fascination with all things funghi. Don’t get me wrong, mushroom soup on a cold winter’s day? Champion. Mushroom SOAP? Not so much. The health focussed brand also hedged their bets on bottled drinks, coffees, chocolate and smoothies with mushroom inclusions. It looks like this one hasn’t hit mainstream in the UK, with (thankfully) no mushroom flavoured high street coffees or Dairy Milk in sight.   

Breakfast pizzas 

As much as we wished for it, predictions for the Italian masterpiece to feature on the breakfast menu flopped like a soggy slice of pepperoni. Eurostar predicted we’d be eating small, nutritious ‘grab and go’ pizza portions for breakfast, a concept popular in Italy’s Roma region for fuelling energy for the day ahead. We’re sad to report no sighting as yet. Maybe this year? 

‘Crossushi’ 

Confused as we were? The ‘Cronut’ combination achieved global fame, but ‘Crossushi’ is another matter entirely. You’ve guessed it. Fish meets pastry.  

Perhaps it’s a Marmite thing, you’ll either love it or hate it? Either way, we’re in no real rush to find out. 

Despite being put up for debate by the likes of the Evening Standard and Mashable as 2018’s biggest food trend, the ‘Crossushi’ combo of the croissant and sushi doesn’t appear to have made its way to the UK yet. We can’t speak for everyone though - with restaurants in LA, San Francisco and Seoul, serving up the fish/pastry combo.

 
Rosie Carr
All in good taste #1: Fowl Language
 
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While the timing of any ill-fated PR stunt-turned-disaster can be way off, ours is spot on. Enter All in Good Taste, our new monthly round up of PR gold stars and faux pas, which is landing just in time for a retrospective round-up of the year’s best and worst foodie FCK ups and how they were handled. Is all publicity good publicity? It would make our job a lot easier, but we’ll leave it to you to decide.


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KFC pulling legs 

With a disasterclass in crisis recovery, an ill-advised change in supply chain left the colonel’s crew short of chicken, and having to shut stores. Keeping abreast of the public’s reaction, they published a series of ads in The Sun & The Metro under a clever FCK motif, apologising for the lack of chicken.

The puns came thicker and faster than the chain’s gravy side – ‘The chicken crossed the road, just not too our restaurants’ – but are the chicken quips enough to placate a nation of hungry customers, or is this one to chuck in the family sized FCK-it bucket.

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Brewing up a storm

‘Craft’ beer brewing bastion, Brewdog, made the headlines most months this year. But the standout was a stab at a stand over the gender paygap; with an overtly sexist rebrand of their Punk IPA – Pink IPA – which would be cheaper for female identifying drinkers. Cynical headline-grab making light (beer) of a serious issue, or heartfelt attempt at effecting change? 

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Don’t be an idiom

PETA, the group that divides opinion with its radicalisation of anti-animal cruelty messages, in an attempt to stop people ‘trivialising animal cruelty’ with every day sayings, managed to trivialise the struggle of victims of homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and for that matter – most other ism’s. While we’re sure carnivores and vegans alike are about to stand side-by-side in dropping ‘bringing home the bacon’ for ‘bringing home the bagels’, I’m not sure they’ll be making 2019’s Oxford Dictionary.

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If all else fails, quit

Not all comments will sit well, Will Sitwell, and while the inbox of any journalist would be enough to drive most of us to murder – we’d proceed with caution when verbalising it, or in this case emailing. The social-media bandwagon takes no prisoners, and in no time at all Will’s reply to a PR pitch suggesting ‘a series on killing vegans, one by one’ went viral, the only actual casualty being a career.

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Frozen festive feels

Finally, a festive feel-good as Iceland managed to make a monkey out of mainstream media. When the ode to the palm oil was found to be too political to broadcast, the budget supermarket managed to save a few quid on ad-slots by posting the full advert, and reason for not broadcasting, on its own channels. Queue the viral uproar, and more impact then the TV spots could ever have made.

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The brands championing sustainability
 
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"Shops, retailers and cafe chains are rolling out a host of eco-friendly packaging, using weird and wonderful alternatives to plastic."


With Christmas on the way, indulging by eating out more and stocking up with all the festive favourites at home becomes the norm throughout December in the lead up to the big day.  

We’ll no doubt be making our way through tubs of Celebrations, slurping festive hot drink concoctions and testing out this year’s Christmas menus.  

But let’s think about this for a second. UK shoppers are set to spend £21.6bn on groceries this Christmas, and no doubt indulging at restaurants and bars too. That’s a lot of plastic. 

The good news is that both consumers and the hospitality industry have woken up to the reality of careless consumerism, becoming more cautious and smarter about what they are using. In its recent report, Waitrose has revealed that 88% of people have changed how they use plastics since watching the eye-opening final episode of Blue Planet II. While our efforts to reduce consumption of materials have picked up, we could be doing more to achieve a sustainable planet for 2019 and beyond. 

Shops, retailers and cafe chains are rolling out a host of eco-friendly packaging, using weird and wonderful alternatives to plastic. So if you agree that small changes create a big impact, why not get behind these eco initiatives popping up across the UK?  

Here are just a few brands and innovations joining the fight for a greener planet.  

Walkers launches crisp packet recycling scheme 

Partnering with recycling company TerraCycle, Walkers has launched the UK’s first crisp packet recycling scheme to address the public’s environmental concerns of plastic waste. The UK’s largest crisp brand is rolling this scheme out via established recycling points across the UK. There’s even a dedicated courier service free of charge for those who can’t get to recycling centres. There’s no excuse now! 

Find out more at https://www.walkers.co.uk/recycle  

GOING PLASTIC FREE AT Bulk Market

Stocking more than 300 items in the pop-up shop in Hackney, Bulk Market is London’s first plastic free shop. Huge glass kilner style jars and dispensers allow customers to measure out products such as whole grains, nuts, herbs and spices, pasta, fruit and veg and bakery. Therefore, the need for plastic is eliminated.  

https://www.bulkmarket.uk/  

Pret’s plastic pledge 

To reduce the amount of cups used, Pret gives a 50p discount for customers who bring their own reusable cup.  

The café chain also partnered with start-up Chilly’s to create branded reusable bottles suitable for both hot and cold drinks. Once purchased, they can be filled up with free water at many Pret locations across the UK.  

Earlier this year, it also promised to launch a new line of cutlery in 2019 that can be composted once used, in a move to limit plastic waste.  

View Pret’s global plastic pledge here: https://www.pret.co.uk/en-gb/sustainability  

costa’s contactless cups

Pret isn’t the only one championing the reusable cup. With contactless payments immensely popular, Costa has tapped into the trend with its ‘Clever Cup’ which allows you to make payments at both the coffee chain and other retailers. What’s more, a 25p drinks discount is given to anyone with the cup, saving single use cups and encouraging customers to be more sustainable.

Carlsberg ditch the plastic ring 

Danish beer brand Carlsberg is phasing in a new ‘snap pack’, which it says will reduce the amount of plastic used in plastic ring multi-packs by 76%. Despite being used widely in manufacturing across the industry for 50 years, Carlsberg is moving towards recyclable glue to package up multiple cans. If you’ve seen the impact of traditional plastic rings on marine life, you’ll know this will make a huge difference to reducing ocean pollution and marine life welfare.   

Vegware plant based packaging 

Vegware is developing entire ranges of compostable packaging made from plants, offering anything from cups, to salad boxes, sushi trays, bin liners and cutlery. Its products have proved particularly useful for contract caterers and foodservice companies for a range of different foods, and to considerably reduce plastic waste.  

Elior uses Vegware across its business, in stadiums, universities, hospitals, care facilities and more.

 “We use Vegware packaging because it has been produced using lower carbon plant based material and it also has the ability to be composted commercially. Our customers are really behind us using sustainable packaging due to increased awareness of environmental issues, and they also like the design of our sustainable packaging, which is a bonus! As a result of using Vegware we’ve been able to save 39 tonnes of virgin materials and 135 tonnes of carbon – that’s equal to 156 flights from London to New York. As a large business working across many sectors it’s really important for us to be using sustainable products in all of our sites.”

Charlotte Wright, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Elior UK

Further information can be found at https://www.vegware.com/  

Seaweed sachets from Just Eat 

In March this year, JustEat announced new measures to reduce the impact of takeaways on UK plastic waste levels. Partnering with sustainable packaging start-up Skipping Rocks Lab, it introduced a trial of compostable sauce sachets made from seaweed. The company works with 29,000 partners in the UK, and is currently assessing the feasibility of offering the sustainable sachets more broadly across the JustEat network.   

It’s safe to say that companies within the foodservice and hospitality industry in particular are recognising their role in combatting plastic waste, reducing their footprint and satisfying environmentally minded customers. We’ll be staying tuned to more weird and wonderful creations to come.

 
The pictures changing plates
 
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"Most businesses are embracing our obsession with amateur food photography. Put simply, it’s free publicity. "


From fine dining to street food, most of us are guilty of a cheeky food snap. Just Google food photography and you’ll be lost in pancake stacks, sushi and pasta for hours.  

Apps such as Instagram have had immense impact on how we share food photography and manipulate it. Anyone, no matter how skilled, can capture their own food art in just a few clicks. Bringing food to life on screen has never been easier, with Instagram filters achieving the perfect ‘colour pop’ many strive for.  

Whether you enjoy in-situ food photography or think phones have no place at the dining table, one thing is for certain. It's a driving force for innovation and creativity in the food and drink industry. 

how has this changed our food, plates and restaurant experiences?

Most businesses are embracing our obsession with amateur food photography. Put simply, it’s free publicity. So, both high end chefs and fast food chains have cooked up ways to be increasingly visual, engaging and memorable.  

Think colourful combinations, creative food styling and scientific Blumenthal-esque surprises.

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food styling and crockery

Simon Hulstone, chef proprietor, at the Michelin starred Elephant Restaurant in Torquay said: “I think the use of social media has increased the presentation and styles of chefs’ food immensely. Crockery has become a major focus and getting the right crockery to frame a dish is almost as important as what’s on the plate, ultimately though it’s the quality of the photography and camera that decides how good a dish looks on social media, so chefs have really worked out how to promote their skills by taking a semi professional picture.” 

 
 

flavour experimentation

Andrew Klimecki, VP design at Steelite International said: “There have been some interesting trends in food fairly recently where traditionally ‘beige’ food types have been given the black treatment: bagels, burgers, hot-dog buns, macarons, croissants – even ice cream. This is being driven by the need for novelty in the hospitality industry to engage and fuel the Instagram generation.”

fast food finds

Fast food joints across the globe are cooking up increasingly creative food, such as Poptata, drizzling bright pink garlic mayo over delicious parmesan fries.  

For Taco Bell’s chefs and food scientists, Instagram is also always front of mind. When the team develop new menus, how products look on Instagram is a key consideration. It takes just a few Instagram complaints (notably, that the cheese isn’t as stringy as portrayed in adverts!) for the social media team to intervene with food preparation reminders. They even track of the most-Instagrammed menu items, and last year relied solely on diners’ Instagram snaps to advertise and build trust in a niche new product, the Naked Chicken Chalupa, setting up launch parties with bright lights and props to encourage photo opportunities and all-important recommendations.   

setting the scene

Ambience is also key. Upserve Restaurant Insider' s report #FoodPorn Instagram Marketing for your Restaurant encourages restaurants to consider lighting, installations, and branding opportunities to make their décor more appealing and memorable for Instagram. Many upscale London restaurants wow diners with immersive interior design, such as Clos Maggiore’s spectacular garden room and Sketch’s opulent and colourful furniture, walls and curtains. Unsurprisingly, they are often recommended as the most Instagrammable foodie spots to visit.  

Clos Maggiore

Sure, foodie photos are nothing new, but the Instagram revolution has undoubtedly given hospitality businesses another tool to boost their operations. Whether this is most useful for promoting new products, interacting with existing diners or getting food in front of new customers, businesses that fully embrace this creative culture of sharing will surely give consumers something to remember.

 
The rise of the food hall
 
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"In recent years food halls and markets have given street food a new lease of life, transforming it into an entirely new dining experience."


Starting with humble roots, street food may once have been considered a far cry from a gourmet dining experience, at least in the UK. But gone are the days of boring burger vans.

In recent years food halls and markets have given street food a new lease of life, transforming it into an entirely new dining experience. Covered markets with trendy dining spaces are a welcome change, offering variety and a bustling atmosphere. Borough Market, Mercato Metropolitano (Elephant & Castle) and Pergola (Paddington) are just three of London’s many food halls offering unique dining experiences with fresh tastes from around the globe. Adding to this list will be the arrival of ‘Eataly’ in 2020colourfully described as a ‘foodie theme park’. 

The food halls and markets outside of the UK will also blow any foodie’s mind. A melting pot of colours, flavours and aromas inside markets such as Mercado San Miguel in Madrid, Mercato Centrale in Florence or Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.     

Digging deeper into this growing trend, here are three reasons why food halls are shaking up the street food scene and getting such a positive response.  

THE DINING EXPERIENCE

According to McCain’s 2018 Casual Dining Report, dining experience matters whatever the price. Consumers are more likely to spend when their food comes with an experience, so food halls and markets offering cosy dining spaces, culturally diverse cuisines, Instagrammable spreads and entertainment are transforming street food into an experience. 

VARIETY

Eating in large groups can be difficult if not everyone wants the same thing. Considering the rise of vegetarianism and veganism, amongst other dietary requirements such as allergies, food halls offer that all-important variety. From spicy foods to keto options or dairy substitutes, the chances are that larger groups can enjoy a sit-down meal together no matter what they buy. 

NEW CULTURAL EXPERIENCES

Bruschetta for lunch, Pho for dinner? Sure!  

The growing popularity of food halls is also down to the cultural variety on offer. Each visit is a new experience with global cuisine.  

Take London’s Borough Market. In the space of an afternoon, customers can become gastronomic globetrotters across France, Spain, Ethiopia, Japan and even the Caribbean island of Grenada.  

In the age of experiences, it’s no surprise that street food has become an opportunity to enjoy food with friends and discover new cultures. A far cry from that boring burger van.

 
Technology’s growing impact in food & hospitality

“Joined by industry leaders and thinkers, we had a lively debate on technology’s growing impact in food & hospitality.”

We asked, “What do diners want from a restaurant experience?” and were intrigued to hear that nearly half (47%) of customers prioritise WiFi connectivity. This led us to wonder what is ultimately driving the market. Is tech driving food, or food driving tech?

Experiential dining, big data, business growth initiatives and personalisation were all hot topics discussed as we got to grips with understanding this tech revolution.

Want to learn more? Keep an eye out for next week’s full report!

Just two days to go…
 
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"We have entered an age of transformation and ground-breaking discoveries disrupting the status quos. Perhaps these are at the highest rate of change the industry has ever seen."


Technology has always played a major role in food, drink and hospitality. From equipment innovations in the kitchen, to game-changing guest management software in hotels, the wider hospitality industry is awash with game-changing tech. It feels like only yesterday that we put technology in the takeaway market under the blog microscope.

We’re in the middle of an incredible time for technology. Artificial intelligence, robotics, block chain and other ‘deep’ technologies have grown from wishful sci-fi thinking to a modern day reality. With technology’s undeniable impact on food and drink, it’s never been more important to think about and prepare for the future.

There’s a lot to think about, but don’t panic, we’ve got you covered. To kick start your thinking, we’re excited to be hosting a roundtable on Thursday 8 November at the Plexal Centre in East London. The session is running as part of Informed Funding’s ‘Funding for Deep Technology’ event.

The table will be filled with leaders in deep tech, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors, all excited to explore the opportunities and challenges of adopting new technology in our ever-changing industry.

We’re excited to have representatives from:

  • APICBASE

  • Corkscrew

  • EtherSec

  • Frasers Hospitality

  • GIG

  • Hope & Glory

  • Kitchen CUT

  • Office Serve

  • OpenTable

  • Ordamo

  • Premier Foods

  • Radegast Digital

  • Store Performance

  • Tested Works

  • Threep

  • UCL

  • Yumpingo

  • Zizo

Keep an eye here on our blog. Shortly after the event we’ll be releasing an exclusive report shining a light on the key talking points of the day. But, for now, visit the Funding for Deep Tech website to learn more.

You can find us in the:

Lynn meeting room
12.45 -1.30

Plexal Centre
14 East Bay Lane,
The Press Centre,
Here East,
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park,
Stratford,
London
E20 3BS

 
The expectations of the modern consumer
 
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“It is getting Harder and harder to please the modern consumer. With fast, Cheap and reliable a standard commodity how do you stand out?”


We attended Caffe Culture and The Independent Hotel this week and both were packed with insight. At Caffe Culture we had the excitement of the SCA UK Latte Art Championships and more coffee than we knew what to do with, I haven’t slept since!

At these recent shows some themes have been constant, such as sustainability, the rise of veganism and the nod to the healthy life. However, with these two shows the demand of the modern consumer and the call for an experience stood out.

The rise of the experience

The focus on experience is a game changer. Restaurants and hotels can’t just supply their primary function of great food or an amazing room, they have to have an edge. This is due to the rise of demand from the consumer. They want more bang for their buck.

Specifically looking at hotels, the development of Airbnb hasn’t helped their case. A hotel has become more of a luxury commodity than ever before. The Airbnb model is amazing – it allows the guest to have an experience around the primary function of a warm bed to sleep in. It means you can stay in a homely property and gives you an opportunity to meet the owners and share life stories. It gives you something extra.

I’m not on commission I promise, other booking websites are available!

Using tech to manage the consumer’s expectations

There is definitely a balance that needs to be found. Looking at engagement, tech is a great way to optimise this.

1 in 10 diners post their meals to social media. Using this information and engaging people over social media by tagging and acknowledging their visit makes them feel special and valued. It is important not to over step the line. Guests are happy for relevant engagement, but if it’s irrelevant it becomes annoying and leaves a bad taste.

Using technology you can build a profile of a guest so when they return you know more about them. You’ll know it they are allergic to nuts or prefer to be sat in the window. Acting on this information creates a unique experience and again makes the guest feel valued. This allows every guest to be treated as a regular, which is what they all want.

The stigma around the use of technology

There is still a stigma attached to the use of technology. 33% are still uncomfortable with privacy invasion regarding data collection. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal has acknowledged that whilst tech is important to the unique experience, they have kept it firmly in the background. Stuck to pencil and paper chits rather than tablets for front of house staff, all EPOS systems are hidden away and they only interact once a guest has interacted with them to allow them to feel comfortable.

So it seems technology may be the way to tackle the modern consumer and boost the all-important experience. Just use it appropriately.

 
Pubs: what the future has in store
 
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"The stories of pub closures paints a bleak picture, but the statistics suggest a brighter future."


The Restaurant Show was a great event yet again. There is something slightly mesmerising about watching chefs in full flow, and this was definitely the case during the Craft Guild Chef of the Year competition. It was fantastic to see Chef Kuba Winkowski crowned National Chef of the Year, and watch him receive a hearty congratulations from the runners up.

Away from the competition I had a look at the key themes from this year’s show. Notable mention being the rising popularity of Kombucha, it’s absolutely everywhere! However, what really struck a chord was the news from the dining sector.

 

Is pub culture dying?

MCA looked into how pubs are performing in the current market compared to restaurants. The stories of pub closures paints a bleak picture, supported by the growing fear that the high street is becoming redundant to the modern shopper with rates, Brexit-induced staff shortages, and rising food costs taking its toll on the dining sector.

However, the statistics paint a healthier picture. Pub turnover is up 2.7%, which shows the end of the decline in the market. Furthermore, visits for the casual dining sector are up by 7% for the year ending June 2018.

7% represents an extra 35 million visits to British casual dining restaurants compared with the previous year.

 

What changed?

Wet led pubs are the answer, for now (but we will touch more on that later). Drinks-based venues are driving growth within in the market. They are doing this by focussing on quality over quantity, with consumers happy to pay for something more premium.

In order to beat the competition of restaurants, MCA has seen that pubs focussed on being family friendly and good value for money are edging ahead of restaurants, although they still are more successful overall.

MCA research shows that lunch and dinner visits have increased in the younger demographic, which suggest that pubs are adapting to accommodate the next generation’s needs in order to stay current. A key factor in continual growth throughout the market.

 

How to stay ahead of the curve?

Despite wet led pubs seeing a resurgence in the pub industry, 24% of consumers are trying to consume less alcohol and 5% are cutting alcohol completely.

This shows that the industry is changing, and fast. In order for the growth of pubs in the market to continue, they need to continue to develop as well.

 

What will be the next innovation?

That is the million dollar question. Almost half (40%) of 25-to-37 year olds prefer ordering food on their phones to table service (according to a report taken out by McCain). Will we see fully tech integrated pubs lead the way in the future? It may not match the feel and décor of an old-school country pub, but in bars and pubs pushing for a younger demographic, this could work well.

What we can see is now that the pub market has turned positive, it shows no sign of slowing down. By 2023 we will see a positive number of pubs compared with what is expected, showing the end of pub closures for the foreseeable future. Great news all round.

 
Ice cream will be the next big sweet trend. Guaranteed.
 
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“We’re certain ice cream’s going to be the next big trend. Why? Because it covers every other major trend imaginable.”


Summer may officially be over, but ice cream is the only thing on our mind. Like an overeager ice cream man, it just won’t leave us alone.

 

We’re certain it’s going to be the next big trend, whatever the weather. Why? Because it covers every other major trend imaginable.

 

Indulgence

First up, indulgence. Our world is full of more fitness freaks and health conscious consumers than ever before. But, all of that looking after yourself means when you do have a treat, you really indulge yourself.

 

Ice cream is pure indulgence. Scoop on top of scoop (on top of scoop) of pure naughty goodness. So, as more of us want to indulge, more of us will fancy a scoop or two.

 

Eye-catching

The next big trend of this year and beyond: bright colours. We’re simpler people than you may think, and just like magpies with any remotely shiny object, we are immediately drawn to bright colours, especially when it comes to the sweeter side of food.

 

And is there anything in this world more colourful than an ice cream bar? It’s enough to make a rainbow blush. Which, in all fairness, would just make the whole rainbow a bit redder…

 

Vegan-friendly

Flexitarians, both veggie and vegan, are continuing to grow in number. This means flexi-innovations and vegan-friendly NPD are continuing to grow right there with them.

 

Brands are adding flexi options to their ranges, often with sorbets leading the way. But, the fully vegan ice cream scene is certainly growing. There’s an influx of flexi-friendly flavours and favourites finding their way into the market. And that’s just a taste of the alliteration we could put in this blog, but we’ll leave it at that.

 

Healthy(ish)

OK, it’s a big ‘ish’, but ice cream is jumping on the health bandwagon. An ice cream is unlikely to ever be truly healthy, but healthier options are popping up more often. Low calorie, dairy alternatives, protein-filled – you name it, ice cream claims it.

 

This is an even better option for the sweet-tooth-having health-conscious consumer, who can still indulge, but without the guilt.

 

Nostalgia

What was your favourite ice cream growing up? I was always partial to a Screwball. It sounded a bit rude when you ordered it and it meant I could sneak in some bubble-gum without anyone knowing. Win-win.

 

I ask because ice cream is nostalgic, and while the industry innovates and changes with every passing month, people adore nostalgia. They love the familiar with the crazy, because as much as we all want to try something new, we all have our favourites. Even if my childhood passion for Screwballs hasn’t stood the test of time.

 

That’s what makes ice cream so special, it’s as nostalgic as it is new.

 

On the go

Cone or cup, ice cream is designed to be enjoyed on the go. With the buzz around street food just continuing to grow, consumers always want food that they take with them. The days of sitting down and taking a break are long gone. We’re all far too busy for that.

 

A platform for future trends

Above all else, ice cream is a platform for flavour. On our searches we’ve seen everything from bacon to mayonnaise flavoured ice cream. This means whatever the next big flavour trend is (hopefully not mayo), ice cream can provide it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

 

This is just the tip of the understandably chilly iceberg. Ice cream will come back as one of the leading figures in sweet treats in the near future. And we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is. If we’re wrong, the Screwballs are on us.

 
Does Michelin matter anymore?
 
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"The Michelin Guide has been around for an astonishing 118 years. But, has it run its course?"


The Michelin Guide returns later today, but it’s not been the best year for the guide. With chefs giving stars back and politely requesting inspectors don’t enter their premises, it begs the question: does Michelin matter for chefs or consumers anymore?

Before we get to that rather big question, here’s a quick run through of what’s been going on.

 

A recent guide to the Guide

Last September, Le Suquet restaurant in southern France was the first restaurant in history to have itself removed from the Michelin Guide. It had held an incredible three Michelin stars for 18 years, but chef Sebastien Bras said enough is enough, and requested to be removed. He found the pressure of retaining stars was too great and held him and his team back from serving the food they really wanted to.

More recently, The Checkers in Montgomery, Powys, also handed back their one star, which it’s held since 2011. Their reasoning was to “put family first” after “years juggling the kids with working split shifts and late hours”.

And then there’s Marco Pierre White – the original rock star chef who continues to own the news. The enigmatic chef told an Asian lifestyle website “I don’t need Michelin and they don’t need me”. He’s stated that the Michelin Guide does not have permission to visit and inspect his new Singapore restaurant, The English House.

 

Why are chefs turning their backs?

So, it’s been a tumultuous year for the Guide, which for so long has been considered the pinnacle of restaurant reviews worldwide. It’s famed for high standards, incredible expectations and brutal honesty. And therein lies the problem.

Getting a star is still an exciting achievement for any restaurant and head chef. But retaining it becomes as big a part of the job as pleasing customers. An inspection can happen at any time, meaning all-year round, a restaurant has to tick the many boxes that Michelin is looking out for.

Not knowing when a restaurant could be reviewed makes trying out something new an even more terrifying ordeal. What if the inspectors arrive on the day a new menu is introduced, and it’s just not quite right? The star’s gone.

So, it’s best to just stick with what you do.

 

Does the Guide take everything into account?

The judging criteria used by inspectors is a mystery to most. In a recent tweet, Michelin said that it’s the food on the plate that’s judged, which is why street food vendors have an equal chance of winning a star.

In a way, this is great news. The food is what matters most and great food deserves praise, wherever it’s from and however it’s served. But, speak to any chef and you can be sure that it’s not all they care about. Food is experiential, more so than ever. The décor, the feel, the atmosphere, the restaurant as a whole, they all play into the dining experience, not just the food.

If the Guide is purely critiquing the food, is that really enough? Because food today is much more than just what’s on the plate, however pretty the plate may be.

 

The cost of creativity

Chefs are inherently creative individuals. They want to cook and create the perfect menu that represents them, their tastes and their culture. Holding back a creative person is like locking a cheetah in a cage. It doesn’t want to be there, it’s not going to be happy, and the moment it gets out, you know it’s going to run.

The constant pressure of inspection causes even longer hours and even greater expectations in an industry that’s already full of long hours and great expectations. And these hours and expectations often occur at the detriment of profit, with margins often said to be lower at Michelin-focussed restaurants.

But, is that why chefs and consumers are turning their backs on the Guide? Or is it because the world of reviews has changed?

 

Reviews beyond the Guide

The Michelin Guide has been around for an astonishing 118 years. But today, there’s a world of reviews beyond the guide.

Bloggers, journalists, TV critics and review aggregator websites such as TripAdvisor have changed the face of reviewing. The Guide sits at the top, but for the average customer, why would they listen to a Guide that’s criteria for success is a secret, when they could just see genuine peer-reviews?

Restaurant A has a star, but the last 20 people that visited had a dreadful experience. Meanwhile, Restaurant B is star-less, but has page after page of flawless reviews. Where would you eat tomorrow?

We live in a society where everyone is now a critic, and everyone has a platform to share comments, pictures and reviews. This happens every day, not just once a year, making the Guide essentially behind the times as soon as it’s released.

 

Who is the Guide really for?

This begs the question, who is the Guide really for? Is it for chefs or for consumers?

Consumers undoubtedly want to enjoy the best cuisine and cooking possible and the idea of eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant still has a great appeal. It has pulling power, but it’s no longer the only factor a consumer looks at.

For chefs, winning a star is still one of the highest culinary accolades out there. It can change a career in a heartbeat. But, as we’ve seen, retaining a star is often a step too far for many creative chefs. It limits them and stifles creativity; two things that a lot of chefs won’t enjoy very much.

At the end of the day, the Michelin Guide isn’t perfect. But, it still matters a great deal to chefs and consumers alike. As Adam Coghlan, Eater London Editor, puts it: “Like driving a car on a treadmill, Michelin appear to be moving forward all the time, but really, they’re standing still. The thing is — they’re still driving the car.

One thing’s for sure. We’ll still be watching to see the updated list, because today it still is the pinnacle. The question is, how long will that last? And will we see any restaurants ask for their star to be removed in the same week the Guide’s released?

 
The art of changing your brand perception
 
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"Perceptions can change, it just takes a change in approach to food, marketing and messaging in equal measure."


It was another successful year for the Lunch! show, with an event full of vibrant food stalls serving up some delicious samples and great insight.

 

Nutrition’s impact on brand

There was a clear theme this year with every stall looking to emphasize the health benefits of the food. In the past food could just taste good, now it has to do good. And this has a big impact on marketing, messaging and brand.

David Ross, head of category at Greggs, spoke about the difficulties of changing the perception of your brand. As soon as you read Greggs, I’m sure your head filled with the thought of sausage rolls and doughnuts. This is a brand association that Greggs has spent the last 4 years trying to change.

Ross said that if you are part of the obesity problem, you need to be part of the solution. In 2014, Greggs launched a balanced choice menu, contributing to 42 products on the menu. Ross referred to the fact Greggs is committed to meeting the Public Health England 20% sugar reduction on all products by 2020.

If it keeps going down this path, read the word Greggs in a couple of years’ time, and there won’t be a sausage roll in your head.

 

How to change the perception of your brand

Jack Hinchliffe, innovation director at KFC, was having a similar problem to Greggs. They were being marked as junk food that uses mutated chickens to make their food. Not the best image. So, how could they change that?

Hinchliffe felt that to make a real difference they needed to be disruptive, so they launched the campaign ‘the whole chicken and nothing but the chicken. The eye-catching campaign featured a live chicken, something that had been avoided in previous campaigns as they were keen to avoid the link between a live chicken and their fried chicken. After much deliberation the advert was launched.

It became the most complained about advert of 2017 in the UK with 755 complaints. Despite this, people were no longer associating the fried chicken with battery hens or mutated chickens, they were associating it with a live healthy chicken that happens to love east coast hip hop. It caused disruption and it got people thinking. Marketing doesn’t really get better than that.

The truth is, being the company they are people will always have a bone to pick. So, they stopped trying to appeal to them and worked to change their perception in order to not get left behind.

And even after some well documented delivery issues stopped a lot of their chickens crossing roads all across the UK, their brand is looking stronger than ever.

 

A changing approach to marketing

Both Ross and Hinchliffe alluded to the same point; the foodservice industry evolves so quickly that if you are not ready to adapt you will get left behind. KFC is continuing its new look and feel, updating all of their restaurants and promoting the story of Colonel Sanders. Meanwhile Greggs is becoming an innovator in the way it presents its menus, showing the traffic light system on all products online as well as in store.

And their approach to marketing is shifting. Instead of spending millions in TV adverts they are focussing on marketing stunts. ‘Gregory and Gregory’ saw the brand go undercover at a food festival, to the shock and awe of guests. Meanwhile, ‘Ministry of Greggs’ saw a massive rave in a Greggs store, with attendees enjoying steak bakes and doughnuts. This had a huge reach. My invite must have got lost in the post.

What this all shows is that perceptions can change, you just have to change your approach to food, marketing and messaging in equal measure.

 
Protein: Is there a more powerful word today?
 
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"PROTEIN IS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL WORDS IN FOOD TODAY. AND IMPORTANTLY, A VERY PROFITABLE WORD AT THAT."


I don’t know what you’re up to while you’re reading this. To be honest, it would be weird if I did. But, if you’re having a bite to eat, some yoghurt for breakfast, a salad at lunch, or a quick snack, take a look at the packaging. There’s one word that’s probably big, bright and bold on the packet: protein.

And that’s no surprise. It’s one of the most powerful words in food today. And importantly, a very profitable word at that.

Over the last few months, we’ve noticed more and more brands, across retail and foodservice, are shouting about the amount of protein in their food. The question is, why? And should you be doing more to shout about the P word?

 

WHY PROTEIN HAS BECOME SO POPULAR

Protein isn’t new. We all know it’s an integral part of a healthy, balanced diet. But in recent years, more and more people are looking to increase their protein levels, and embark on high-protein diets. 

One part of this is health. As more Protein is key to rebuild muscle after exercise. With healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle more popular than ever, it’s no surprise that protein has become even more vital. Whether it’s to repair muscle or just to keep a diet balanced, people clearly care more about it, and are looking for it in every meal.

But, are people getting their protein fix from food or from something different?

 

SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTS OR A SUPERB SUPPER?

Much like all those protein-powered lifters at your local gym, the supplement market has grown a heck of a lot in the last decade. In 2007, the market was worth £73m in the UK. Last year, that reached £358m[1]. For anyone wondering, that’s close to a 400% increase.

While they are very popular, there are a whole lot of reports looking at the potential health issues of supplements[2]. The jury’s still out on all of this, but one thing’s clear: there’s a lot of profit up for grabs in protein. So it’s no surprise food is trying to grab some of the audience.

 

HOW TO PROFIT FROM PROTEIN

The UK has seen a huge increase in demand to satisfy consumers’ protein cravings. To reach this audience, being loud and protein proud on your packaging is a clear tactic. From the 10g somehow squeezed into a snack bar, to the 5g elegantly placed into a smoothie, it’s always a number to shout about.

Away from the shops, get clever with your menus. Highlight how much protein is in each meal, or better yet have a dedicated menu. Healthy eating is a trend that won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, so you’ll get a lot of usage out of those menus.

For a perfect double-header, get your protein profits from plant-based products (try saying that five times quickly). Flexitarians are everywhere, and just like protein sales, that number keeps on growing. People may not want the meat, but they still want to meet their protein daily quota. Plant-based products are the solution.

So, if you’re not shouting about protein yet, now’s the time. This is a trend that’s going nowhere soon. 


[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/727396/market-value-of-sports-related-protein-products-uk/

[2] https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-risks-protein-supplements-6597.html

 
LACA 2018: Our Highlights
 
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"Plant-based food hasn’t just arrived in foodservice, it’s here to stay."


Health, sustainability and plant-based products were the unmissable trends we saw at this year’s LACA Main Event in Birmingham. 

Often we see foodservice trail behind consumer product development. But, it would seem that brands right across foodservice are now doing all they can to create products to meet growing demand from savvier customers, particularly teenagers and secondary students. 

 Health

As school meal standards continue to improve, reduced salt and sugar was a key focus for Kraft Heinz, who has launched healthier versions of its beans and tomato ketchup into schools. 

On their stand they had a blind taste test pitting an own-label ketchup against their regular and reduced product. We passed the test with flying colours, proving once and for all that William Murray knows its ketchup.

Sustainability

The global push for greener products and less environmentally-damaging supply chains continues. Quorn’s campaign encouraging kids to eat meals that are as good for them as they are for the planet aligns with the growing number of young people adopting alternative diets in order to reduce their environmental impact. 

 Elsewhere, Young’s was promoting not one but three sustainable fishing accreditations across their products, proving that sustainability and responsible sourcing continue to drive schools’ purchasing choices. 

Plant-based

2018 really has been the year when the vegan diet went mainstream. At LACA you couldn’t look to a stand without seeing the ‘V’ word leading a list of products or featuring as a hero, something that just wouldn’t have been the case just a few years ago. 

Vegan pastries from Délifrance, a new vegan-range from Kerrymaid and an entire stand from the UK’s first entirely vegan football club, the Forest Green Rovers, were just the tip of the iceberg. 

Plant-based food hasn’t just arrived in foodservice, it’s here to stay.

 
Pubco tax equality day: what does it mean for the industry?
 
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"At the moment, food and drink in pubs is subject to 20% VAT, whereas no VAT is charged for food sold in supermarkets. "


With a day of protest planned on Thursday 13 September by Britain’s boozers (or maybe just JD Wetherspoon), we thought we’d step away from the full English and take a look at what the Pubco Tax Equality Day means for the industry.

For those not familiar with the campaign, the day is aimed at highlighting the benefit of a VAT reduction in the hospitality industry and is being backed by UK Hospitality and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).

At the moment, food and drink in pubs is subject to 20% VAT, whereas no VAT is charged for food sold in supermarkets. This means supermarkets can use the saving to sell alcohol at a discounted rate, which in theory means less people go to the pub for a bite washed down with their favourite tipple.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Wetherspoon, who must be rubbing its hands in excitement, largely drives the day. On the same day last year, it’s 900+ pubs saw like-for-like volume sales increase by 17%. No wonder Tim Martin is a fan.

And not wanting to sound cynical but Tim commented on Thursday by saying: “We’re aiming to make it the busiest day of the entire year in our pubs and would urge other pub and restaurant operators to participate too.”

The larger than life character initially backed the Jacques Borel campaign to cut VAT but pulled out in 2015, only to set up a new organisation two years later to continue driving the campaign. There was no Tax Equality Day in 2016.

Industry urged to take action

It’s reported that that the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and UK Hospitality are urging other venue owners to join in. But looking at the BBPA website, we couldn’t find a list of any other pubs taking action.

The website claims: “The BBPA will continue to lead the campaign for lower tax on beer. The Government has plans to increase beer duty again this year and we will be campaigning hard to stop this from happening. We hope you will join the campaign to #cutbeertax”.

MPs call on government to reduce tax burden

It’s got the interest of our MPs. According to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), more than 100 MPs have backed an Early Day Motion that calls on the UK government to ‘reduce the tax burden’ on pubs.

The campaign is also being backed by Nigel Evans MP for Ribble Valley and President of the Parliamentary Beer Group, he said: “The hospitality campaign to recognise tax equality is a welcome and much anticipated event which now resonates with our national consciousness.

“This year’s Tax Equality Day has a special significance as it could be the final year before it achieves its goal as a result of the tax cutting freedoms which Brexit will endow the government with.” An interesting point Nigel, but very unrealistic.

But for an industry that generates £3.5 billion in beer duty alone, will the government really sit up and take note?

There was some joy last year, when Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in his Autumn Statement that duty on beer, cider, wine and spirits wouldn’t rise in keeping with inflation.

It’ll take a BIG change to taxation

However, and I might be wrong, but the last time we saw a change of this scale to tax was in 2001. Then Chancellor Gordon Brown announced that the current law, in which the government collected a betting duty of 6.75% from bookmakers and passed it on to betting shop punters as a 9% tax, was being scrapped.

This was after years of campaigning by the bookies and in response to stem the loss of betting turnover to online operators, which already offered tax-free betting. As part of the deal bookmakers agreed to a tax on their gross profits at a rate of 15%.

So, what does it all mean?

But, back to the bar. For punters, they’ll save 75p for every £10 they pay up or stick on a tab. For the industry, the BBPA say it would create at least 78,000 new jobs and provide a big boost to the economy.

Tim Martin said: “A reduction in the level of VAT on a long-term basis will create a level playing field and generate jobs in an important and vital industry.”

But what’s not clear from all the hype is how the money will be reinvested into the industry.

The revenue gets less money, punters spend increases, but how much will be invested back into the industry to create the jobs and skills training that Tim is claiming? And how much will go into the coffers of pub groups like JD Wetherspoon?

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against JD Wetherspoon, and like the rest of the country I’ll be there on Thursday making my protest. In fact, I’m already looking forward to staggering home with more cash left in my pocket.

 
Theatre, timing and health: get food-to-go right
 
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"Food is more of an experience than ever before, and food-to-go needs to embrace the experiential."


The Speciality & Fine Food Fair was full of great food and even finer insight. Panels made up of Adam Sopher (Joe & Seph’s Popcorn), Theo Lee-Houston (Kerb) and Katy Moses (KAM Media) debated the big topic of the show: the food-to-go market.

Food-to-go: adaptable theatre

The adaptable nature of street food was a stand-out topic. According to the panellists, food must deliver an emotional connection and give customers a sense of theatre. Consumers expect an experience as well as a premium product. Street food producers are achieving this by bringing noise, colour, interaction and excitement into production.

As a serious lover of all-things Teppanyaki, arguably the original ‘performance dining experience’, I completely understand the appeal. Food is more of an experience than ever before, and food-to-go needs to embrace the experiential.

Timing is key

According to Theo Lee-Houston, timing is key to a successful lunch time business. You have a two hour window to hit and should aim to make a portion every 20 seconds.

Trading on Mondays and Tuesdays have become redundant and therefore non-existent. Trading really starts on a Wednesday and continues getting busier throughout the week before reaching its peak by Sunday.

This makes sense. As part of human nature Monday brings the start of the week for most people. A fresh start, a chance to turn over a new leaf. People begin the new week how they would like to go on, eating healthy home cooked meals (perhaps leftover from the weekend’s dinners).

However by Wednesday this has gone out the window. As the saying goes, old habits die hard.

A nod to a healthy lifestyle

Food-to-go doesn’t need to be utterly healthy, but it needs to give a nod to a healthy lifestyle. According to Katy Moses, 16% of Generation Z are vegan, compared to 1% of the world’s population. 9% are actively cutting down sugar and 8% are with fat. This shows the direction our food is heading.

While street food doesn’t need to be ‘healthy’, it does need to nod to healthy trends. Vegan food isn’t guaranteed to be healthy, but it has the image of a healthy lifestyle (this is a major topic for another day). Stephanie Peritore (Mindful Bites) believes food-to-go shouldn’t just show off a monetary value, it should show off a health value as well. Eating junk food can be cheaper than making a well-balanced meal, but when you take into account the health implications of junk food, it costs considerably more.

Expect to see food-to-go getting even more flexi-friendly, and slightly healthier, in the near future.

In summary, in order to achieve a successful lunch time eatery you have to hit genuine customer needs. Offer a healthy(ish) option that brings a bit of theatre to lunch hours, especially for Wednesday and beyond.

Who knows, get it right and you might even convince people to come down on Mondays…