The market’s tough—but people are still going out

CGA’s wealth of data indicates plenty of negatives in the market—including sketchy confidence among both consumers and business leaders; rising property, people and food costs; and disruption from start-ups. Add in the uncertainty of Brexit and 2018 is shaping up into another challenging year. But CGA research showcase at the Conference at least shows that people are still willing to spend well on their out-of-home eating and drinking if the offer is right. “Competition is tougher than I’ve ever known it, and there’s more choice for consumers than ever before… but people are still going out,” said CGA’s Peter Martin.

 

2 The government may be starting to listen

The 2020 Conference came hours after the Chancellor unveiled his latest Budget. As the ALMR’s Kate Nicholls pointed out, while it hasn’t delivered everything that the sector had hoped for, it didn’t bring any nasty surprises either. Alcohol duties have been frozen and various measures have been brought in to put a little more cash in people’s pockets, while there are signs that a deal to secure EU workers’ rights is close, Nicholls said—thanks in large part to ALMR lobbying. “Nothing much has been better, but nothing’s been made worse either—and that’s a huge step forward.”

 

3 Brands need to look after their managers

In a popular head to head interview with Peter Martin, Leon co-founder and CEO John Vincent emphasised stressed the need to empower and reward team members—and general managers in particular. “We pour a lot of effort into the wellbeing of our general managers,” he said. “It’s a false comfort that head office can drive sales… trust and delegation is important.”

 

4 Experience is king

In a round-up of some important sector trends, CGA CEO Phil Tate flagged up the need to give consumers a distinctive and value-added experience, rather than just good food and drink. “Experience is king in a market where loyalty is a thing of the past,” he said. “Consumers are thirsty for new experiences.” Stocking a “compelling and customer-centric” range of drinks can help brands to stand out, he suggested—and so can smart use of technology, like ordering apps and interactive menus.

 

5 Marketing has changed forever

“For years we’ve been marketing safely—now it’s about blowing everything up and starting again,” said WE ARE Spectacular’s Mark McCulloch in one of the Conference’s future-gazing sessions. Smartphones and social media are where millennials live now, and brands need to master platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram if they want to win their spend. Micro-marketing, inboxing, chatbots and voice searching are other issues to consider if marketing teams want to capture people’s attention on their devices, McCulloch said. “We need thumb-stopping content”

 

6 Watch the US for drinks trends

Not every trend in the US inevitably comes across to the UK, said CGA’s Alex Martin—but many do. So it’s worth noting that the craft beer trend Stateside is even more advanced than it is here, suggesting that there’s headroom for craft sales to grow further. The cocktail trend is still evolving too, with rising interest in sour varieties, while whisky and tequila are increasing their share of spirits sales. “People want speciality and limited edition… it’s all about trying something new,” Martin said.

 

7 Teams need to be on top of GDPR

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is causing headaches for many businesses at the moment, and Christine Andrews of the DQM GRC consultancy ran through some of the steps they need to take to comply with the new laws. There are three things to aim for, she said: accountability, transparency and demonstrability. “GDPR is all about putting consumers first and putting them in control of their data.”

 

8 Tech is transforming experiences and efficiencies

New technology is giving consumers new ways to interactive with brands, but it is also making the supply chain more efficient, Yfood’s Nadia El Hadery told the Conference. Hydroponics solutions like EvoGro are changing food production, and applications like Provenance are improving traceability, but perhaps the greatest impacts of technology will be felt in food waste. Innovations like Bio-Bean, Winnow and Olio have the potential to dramatically reduce waste, bringing both environmental and financial benefits.

 

9 It’s a fierce battle for market share…

Leaders on a special panel session to close the Conference agreed that the scrap for growth in pubs and restaurants was fierce. “It’s a massive fight for market share… a survival of the fittest,” said Oakman Inns’ Peter Borg-Neal. Property costs are adding fuel to the fire, and the challenge of retaining the best staff is another issue, said Living Ventures’ Paul Moran. “We’re thinking a lot more about how to keep and motivate people.”

 

10 … But we need to stay upbeat

Leaders on the Conference panel suggested that amid all the challenges, pubs and restaurants had plenty of reasons to be optimistic. “We’re in danger of talking our industry down… casual dining still has a long way to go,” said Boxpark’s Roger Wade. “There are a lot of things to be positive about,” agreed Caravan’s Laura Harper-Hinton.”

 

 

CGA’s Peach 2020 Conference and Hero & Icon Awards were supported by platinum partners Asahi, Bookatable by Michelin, Coca-Cola European Partners, Coffer Corporate Leisure, CPL Online, Diageo, Flyt, Fourth, HGEM, NatWest, WE ARE Spectacular and Zonal; and by network partners Casual Dining, Chapman Ventilation, Fishbowl, Reynolds, RSM, Steelite International and Yumpingo.

     

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