What do the next few years have in store for eating and drinking-out businesses? A Peach 2020 panel of leaders from three different sectors—Bartlett Mitchell’s Wendy Bartlett, Revolution Bars Group’s CEO Rob Pitcher and Jane O’Riordan, chair of several big brands—explored some of the big challenges.

The rise of office catering

For restaurants, pubs and on-the-go offers, lunchtime trade is challenged by office catering facilities. Wendy Bartlett (pictured left), executive chair of contract caterer Bartlett Mitchell, said more and more big businesses saw it as a must-have. “We have clients coming to us now and saying they need to provide catering on-site, because they know that if they are going to recruit and retain the best people they have to give them a good experience.”

Millennials still drinking—but demanding more

There was much talk at Peach 2020 of young adults adopting healthier habits, but Rob Pitcher, CEO of Revolution Bars Group (pictured below-right), pointed out that many of them still enjoy a night out. “Millennials and Generation Z are still drinking.” But behavior is changing, and these groups want social media-friendly live events from their bars. “The way people are going out is different… We’re having to offer more and more rich content throughout the night—providing a night out on its own won’t pass anymore. It’s more expensive, but if it’s good then they’ll reward you with their loyalty.”

Experience counts

Jane O’Riordan, chair at Caravan, Turtle Bay and Flight Club (pictured below), echoed the view that more consumers demand tangible experiences now—whether that’s Turtle Bay’s combination of bar and restaurant or games like darts, which have dramatically broadened their appeal. “We’ve moved away from the image of darts as big old men with pints… the majority of our customers at Flight Club now are women,” she said.

Sustainability to the fore

All three leaders agreed there was mounting pressure on brands to prove their commitment to sustainability and making a positive impact on communities. “Social enterprise has become a massive thing—I haven’t had a tender over the last year that hasn’t mentioned it,” said Bartlett. Revolution’s consumer research proved the need to be seen to do the right thing, added Pitcher. “It’s not that they want us to be perfect off the bat, but they need us to be on that journey.” And O’Riordan said it mattered to employees too. “Your sustainability agenda is really important to your team—people want to work with a company that cares.”

People at the core

“The big future challenge for all of us is going to be about finding and keeping hold of good people,” said O’Riordan. “When times are tough you should be looking inward and investing in your teams.”

Hospitality needs to work harder to sell itself as a place to build a career, Pitcher said. “There are clear progression opportunities, and we don’t talk enough about the general management skills that you can get… you’re doing a micro MBA by becoming a GM.” Bartlett added: ”Our five-year plan is all about the people. If we get the people right we’ll get the offer, sales and profit right.”

Tech a big challenge

Technology is transforming the way consumers engage with restaurants, pubs and bars—but harnessing it is a massive challenge. “It wasn’t so long ago that the IT team was kept in the basement and was mostly used to fix your printer… now technology has to exist in every function, and that shift has only just started to happen,” O’Riordan said. “Integration is the big issue—getting all these communication channels to plug into your system so you’ve got one portal or dashboard to work from,” Pitcher added.

CGA’s Peach 2020 Conference was supported by platinum partners Asahi, Bookatable by Michelin, Caterer.com, Coca-Cola European Partners, Coffer Corporate Leisure, CPL Online, Diageo, Fourth, Groupon, Omnivore and Zonal. Network partners were Casual Dining, Chapman Ventilation, Fishbowl, Freeths, Garden Gourmet, Majestic Commercial, Reynolds, RSM, Shield Safety Group and Yumpingo.

     

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