This week’s sell-out Peach 2020 Conference, co-hosted by CGA’s Peter Martin and Mowgli founder Nisha Katona, brought together the sector’s top decision-makers to talk about the burning issues of 2019. Here are just ten of the messages from a jam-packed day.

1 The market’s tough, but the best still thrive

Opening the 2020 Conference, CGA’s Phil Tate flagged up signs of a tough market—including modest like-for-like sales growth of 1.7% from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker in the last 12 months, and a 4% drop in Britain’s number of casual dining restaurants. But he also pointed out that leaders’ optimism, as measured by CGA’s Business Confidence Survey, is currently at an 18-month high. “For the right outlet and the right proposition there’s still a big opportunity,” he said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a harder time to be an operator in this market. But I genuinely believe this is the best hospitality market in the world—the most resilient and the most adaptable to change.”

2 Experience is everything

Many of the most successful brands at the moment are those that offer a compelling experience, Phil Tate said—something much more than just food and drink. Street food spaces like Dinerama, immersive and game-based concepts like London’s The Mind Palace and The Bletchley, Manchester’s Point Blank and Nottingham’s Penny Lane, and rooftop bars like Frank’s Café and Goodness Gracious Roof Garden, all made people feel excited and on trend, he said. “Fundamentally it’s about social currency—updating the brand of self.”

3 Good brands flex fast

Another quality shared by many successful operators is the ability to react quickly and pivot. A 2020 panel of entrepreneurs featured David Abrahamovitch, founder of Grind, which has transformed from a coffeeshop brand into a cocktail, all-day food and retail destination too. “We try new stuff, iterate change and ditch what’s not working… all businesses go through that journey to find their brand values.” Stephen Crawley told how a brewing business in an unpromising location had evolved into the thriving Love Lane Brewery, Bar & Kitchen, while Ollie Hunter of street food specialist Kerb said collectives like his gave start-ups the space to test, incubate and refine their concepts before opening permanent restaurants.

4 People want brands with a purpose

Consumers are more engaged with environmental and ethical issues than ever before, CGA’s Karl Chessell said in a 2020 session dedicated to sustainability.

With BrandTrack data showing that nine in ten people think it’s important that brands use environmentally friendly ingredients and packaging, there’s no hiding place. “Consumers care about your why—the purpose behind profit… If you’re not showing your environmental credentials, they’ll go somewhere else,” he said.

For examples to follow, he pointed out the work of operators including the Green Vic in London and Lucky Beach in Brighton.

5 It’s time to think about food supply

A special 2020 session on the food supply chain brought together the National Farmers’ Union’s Philip Hambling and the government’s food strategy lead Henry Dimbleby. Hambling said it was “a transformational moment” in food and agriculture-related policy-making, adding: “We need to think more tactically and strategically about where our food is produced.” Dimbleby said: “We have a food system that we should be incredibly proud of—a price and quality unimaginable to previous generations… There’s an opportunity to lead the world on sustainable farming and innovation—to create a culture of great British food.”

6 Hospitality helps regeneration

In a Conference survey of the fast-changing political landscape, UKHospitality’s Kate Nicholls suggested there were two possible outcomes to the forthcoming General Election: a Conservative majority or a hung parliament. Whatever the result, it will be important for the pub, bar and restaurant sector to champion its contributions to the UK economy and society. “Food and hospitality can help to regenerate communities and unlock public sector investment,” she said.

7 If it’s not on social media, it didn’t happen

With CGA data suggesting that 45% of consumers post photos or videos on social media from most or every night out, platforms like Instagram have become a major battleground for brands. On 2020’s closing panel session, Revolution Bars Group’s Rob Pitcher said his business had responded by making bars and cocktails more photogenic and shareable. “If it’s not on social media it didn’t happen,” he said. “We have to provide rich content throughout the night—a night out on its own isn’t enough any more.”

8 If you put people first, profits follow

The final panel session of 2020 agreed on the pivotal importance of recruiting and retaining top talent. “If we get the people right, we’ll get the offer, sales and profit right… [retention] is something we all need to work much harder on,” said Wendy Bartlett of Bartlett Mitchell. “We’re all going to be fighting for the best people,” added multi-group chair Jane O’Riordan. “When times are tough you should start looking inward and invest in your people.”

9 Team communication is key

Another people-focused panel at the Conference stressed the urgent need to keep people engaged with the board they work for. Kavi Thakrar of Dishoom said: “We think a lot about how the business is relevant to the people working in it… good communication is key.” Chris Hill of the New World Trading Company added: “You’ve got to find people who have at least a subconscious alignment with your values, or they’ll be pulling in another direction to you.” Giving staff a share in the business or a portion of profits can be a great motivator, said James Brown of BrewDog. “It boils down to making people feel start of the business’ story.”

10 Location, location, location

With data from CGA’s Outlet Index showing a 5.6% drop in Britain’s licensed premises in the last five years, but double-digit growth in places including major regional cities, pinpointing the right spots to open has never been so crucial. As Karl Chesell told the 2020 Conference, CGA’s MATCH segmentation tools can help to work out where a brand might work best—and they can help to optimise ranging and pricing too.

CGA is grateful to the sponsors of this year’s Peach 2020. Our platinum partners are Asahi, Bookatable by Michelin, Caterer.com, Coca-Cola European Partners, Coffer Corporate Leisure, CPL Online, Diageo, Fourth, Groupon, Omnivore and Zonal. Our network partners are Casual Dining, Chapman Ventilation, Fishbowl, Freeths, Garden Gourmet, Majestic Commercial, Reynolds, RSM, Shield Safety Group, Yumpingo.

     

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