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…

 
The new challenge: FDIN ‘Global Trends’ conference highlights
 
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"Ethics are leading the way in driving consumer behaviour."


Earlier in the summer, we were at the FDIN ‘Global Trends’ Conference. An exceptional setting, exciting speed-networking and expert speakers made it an event to remember. Here are some of our highlights.

A plate of sustainability, with a side of ethics 

Snact co-founder Michael Minch-Dixon discussed one of the biggest topics in food and drink today: sustainability and the environment.

Vegetarian and vegan approaches to food aren’t simply fads. They are both very much here to stay. But more than ever, being veggie or vegan is less about the food you’re eating, and more about the environmental issues you’re preventing. Ethics are leading the way in driving consumer behaviour.

Michael flagged water scarcity as the ‘next palm oil’: a global epidemic that will affect food production, agriculture and ultimately, survival. So, a pretty big deal.

Keep an eye out for brands becoming ‘water neutral’ – it may well become the ‘next big ethical credential’. The brand that can’t make that claim may end up suffering because of it.

The ‘average shopper’ is no more 

Variety is the spice of life. It’s also a spice that’s killed the concept of the average shopper according to David Jago, trends & innovation director at Mintel. Curiosity, broadened tastes and greater choice mean that now more than ever, no two shopping baskets are the same.

Today’s ever curious shopper has triggered a whole lot of product development. David said that a whopping 250,000 new products come to market every single year. NPD in the food and drink space has grown 20% in four years, largely caused by the rise of the flexitarian.

Veggie snacks and alternative dairy products are stealing share from traditional brands. And everyone’s favourite hipster stereotype (and still the coolest new kid on the coffee scene), cold brew coffee, is expected to sit at the forefront of upcoming NPD.

Pack it up, pack it in, let plastic-free begin 

Philip Chadwick, editor at Packaging News, named Theresa May and David Attenborough the “two most influential people in packaging today”. After the (not-so) genius of the subtitle above, I hope I’m now at least third on the list.

Philip discussed the resurgence of metal and glass as standard packaging options. Not only are the two simpler to recycle that plastic, they provide a more premium feel. The fight against plastic looks set to continue, with ‘plastic free’ in-line to become a ‘trust marque’ in years, if not months.

Despite this, there’s a blunt reality in the world of recycling. Philip explained how the UK doesn’t have a commercially viable or practical infrastructure to recycle all the products that end up ‘mixed together’. Consumers still need greater education on what, when and how products should be recycled. Everyone knows they should, but the practical advice on how to do it is still lacking. Brands that can lead the way in education may lead the way in customer trust and loyalty.

Nothing beats something new

Gü Puds international sales director, Simon Bullen, was on hand to talk about the nuances / Güances (sorry) of NPD.

Simon has seen great success at Jordan’s, Twinings and Gü, with each brand always looking to drive NPD around localised tastes. He explained that too many companies try to run before they can walk. Focus on the tastes in your domestic market before even thinking about going global. As he put it, until you’ve faced the challenges that can arise on your own backyard, you’re not ready for those that appear on someone else’s.

All the speakers covered different themes and topics, but one message stood out. Nothing beats something new. Whether it’s a new approach to recycling education; a new strategy to appeal to the domestic market; the newest must-have ethical credential; or one of the 250,000 new products everyone enjoys each year.

New is always exciting, but it always comes with challenges. How many of those 250,000 products will survive into next year? Will cold brew stand the test of time, or be taken over by the next big thing? Will any investment into glass and metal packaging be redundant as plastic recycling technologies improve?

That’s the problem with new, you never know what will happen. It’s a challenge, but one thing’s for sure – it’s always an exciting one.

 
Jack Stoker
Timing and technology: today's takeaway takeaways
 
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“Your pizza is on the road.”

Well pick it up will you, we’re all watching…


Takeaways are always a guilty pleasure. I’m fairly sure it’s impossible to order a takeaway without a little guilt. Haven’t bothered shopping? Takeaway. Have food but can’t be bothered to cook? Takeaway. Hungover? Bacon sarnie… then a takeaway.

But, you’ll be pleased to know you don’t have to feel too guilty. Everyone dabbles in the odd takeaway here and there. And new research has shown that wherever you are and whatever the reason for your order, one thing is almost always the same. The time you order. In fact, time is everything for today’s takeaway-er.

A timely takeaway discovery

Nicolas Scrutton Alvarado and Tyler J. Stevenson, from the School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, have looked into takeaway-based Google searches. The searches show a “remarkably consistent rhythm of people wanting to find food online at about 7pm and again at 2am.” This is the same in the UK, US, Canada, India and Australia.

The two also commented on how unsurprising this really is, because of habits first seen a long, long time ago. These timings, attitudes and food-based behaviours match the foraging habits of our pre-historic ancestors – despite the takeaway industry really struggling back then. Hard to Deliveroo anything without the wheel…

Time matters when people order. But it’s also the one thing on people’s minds after they order.

Deliver on time (people are watching)

Zonal and CGA’s latest ‘Go Technology’ report has revealed that 33% of consumers want to know their exact delivery time as soon as they order.

In today’s ‘Just-Eat’ world, takeaways have more competition than ever before. Long gone are the days of digging out the pre-circled menu, dialling up and reciting your picks like lottery numbers. A meal arriving late, however great the taste, may not be good enough.

If a site can consistently deliver good food on time, it grabs attention. If not, reviews may plummet. And if reviews plummet, it will be very difficult to compete.

As with tricky photos and every risky joke ever told, timing is everything.

Technology’s growing role in takeaways

Technology and takeaways go hand-in-hand like that hungover pizza and a sense of regret. The Go Technology report also revealed that 22% of consumers think ordering through artificial intelligence (Alexa, Siri, etc.) will become more commonplace in the near future. The other 78% just felt embarrassed about screaming ‘Pizza’ at their Amazon Echo.

What this all shows is that while the takeaway market continues to grow – Just-Eat recently announced a 30% increase in orders in the 6 months leading up to June 2018 – the impact of technology within it is growing too. From GPS delivery tracking, to reviews and comments online, a takeaway site that doesn’t stay on track with the latest tech trends could see all its loyal customers taken away.

 
Coal drops year: A template for the future of retail?
 
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"The new shopping district is the biggest development in central London for more than 150 years."


Morty & Bob’s is the latest Instafamous restaurant to join Coal Drops Yard when it opens this autumn. It’s part of an already starry line-up of eateries, including Barrafina, Casa Pastor and The Drop, all of which are set to open in the new King’s Cross development on 26th October 2018.

The new shopping district is the biggest development in central London for more than 150 years. It forms part of the King’s Cross regeneration plan which, once complete, will be home to 50 new buildings, 1,900 new homes, 20 new streets, 10 public parks and squares and 26 acres of open space. It’s so beefy it’s even got its own postcode.

With constant news headlines about the death of the high street, is Coal Drops just what the UK retail scene needs? With the aim of becoming a neighbourhood amid an era of generic townscapes, it’s a scheme that – if it proves a success – could provide a template for urban retail for decades to come.

Here’s why.

BESPOKE ARCHITECTURE

The mix of sweeping modern curves, concrete and historic architecture designed by hip Heatherwick studio and realised by developer Argent is taking its final shape and is nearly 75% leased. The location of every retail unit has been cleverly determined. Michelin-starred French chef Alain Ducasse’s café and shop, Le Chocolat, is near the entrance, so the smell of warm chocolate wafts along the canal, drawing people in viscerally.

IT’S BARELY BRANDED

Even the hoardings around the development and its head office are discreetly labelled. It’s the antithesis to Westfield’s near-generic blueprints, which feature mostly indoor shopping spaces.

IT RECALIBRATES WHAT GROUP RETAILING MEANS

As well as homes, offices and education (Central Saint Martins is just next door in Granary Square), its village-like layout has plenty of opportunities for outdoor events based around music and culture. Public areas and wow factor brand concept spaces act as a conduit for engaging with young trendsetters and tastemakers that can’t necessarily shop at this stage, but are future spenders.

THERE’S A SHREWD MIX OF HIGH AND LOW END RETAILERS

Like a petri dish for the evolving retail sector, Coal Drops packs in a wide variety of shops, from global names like Samsung and Paul Smith, through to artisanal brands like eyewear label Cubitts, eco-luxe accessories company Lost Property London and cult homewares designer Tom Dixon. Concept-led stores offer everything from pencils and candles up to lighting and furniture. After all, shoppers rarely stick to one price point nowadays.

AND IT MAKES THINGS MORE ACCESSIBLE FOR SMALLER RETAILERS, TOO…

Several collectives in Lower Stable Street, which comprises smaller units, will be given over to smaller retailers and collectives, many of which will undertake events like product-making workshops with local schools. There’s also specific space for service-based tenants in the grooming and beauty world such as barbershops, beauty salons and a tattoo joint.

FINANCIAL POTENTIAL IS CONSIDERABLE

With the halo effect of the commercial-institutional heavyweights set to open, Coal Drops could be registering a potential spending power of approximately £1.6bn per year – if it can deliver the concept authentically. With only three months to go, we don’t have to wait long to see if a retail scheme 160 years in the making will succeed where other high streets have failed.