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CGA’s latest webinar brought together a host of experts from across the industry and across the world to explore the fast-changing landscape of the out-of-home eating and drinking market. Here are ten of their top messages.

1 Technology is on the march

Several webinar guests pointed to a rapid acceleration of technology across the sector—especially at the ordering and payment stages. “If you didn’t have digital technology in your business before, you need to have it now,” said Paul Wainwright, Director of Harrison Asia-Pacific. Loungers Chairman Alex Reilley said the pandemic had sped up its adoption, with 40% of transactions now done from people’s seats. “We were concerned about trying it before… but the technology has very pleasantly surprised us.”

2 Conditions are changing fast

With pandemic trends and government regulations changing by the day, all businesses around the world have to be more alert and agile than ever before. “Government regulations can change so quickly—it’s very hard to put a finger on what’s going to happen next,” said Paul Wainwright.

3 Front of house needs training and tech

In the effort to give guests an experience that is both safe and pleasurable, the commitment of frontline teams has been crucial. But not all of them have been given the training and tools to do their job well. Training in safety—as well as conflict management and mental health in these stressful times—is vital. “It’s absolutely crucial to look after your people,” said Peter Willis, Director of Harri. Technology has a part to play here—not just by supporting safety measures, but by optimizing shift patterns and speeding up pay.

4 Lessons can be learned from QSR

As US operators scramble to adapt to restrictions on eat-in dining, many Quick Service Restaurant operators are showing the way. Brands like Chick-fil-A and Panera have been moving fast to make drive-through and pick-up faster and easier, said Terry Varner, President at Herman/Stewart—and popularity is such that some venues might not ever go back to inside dining, even after the pandemic is over. Eat-in sites are still crucial for others though, said Farmbird Co-founder Andrew Harris. “We’re a nascent brand and we want to be out there in communities where people can come inside and get familiar with our food… a big part of our storytelling has to happen in the real world.”

5 There are more business failures to come

Many big restaurant brands have announced site closures, CVAs and takeovers lately, including Carluccio’s—whose former CEO Mark Jones said others will follow. “There’s been a tsunami of CVAs and restructuring… and I think there’s more to come.” He was optimistic for the future of Carluccio’s though, despite its reliance on older people who have been slow to return to restaurants. “The brand has survived… and I think the new owners will make a success of it.”

6 It’s a good time to experiment

Restaurants facing existential challenges and long periods of closure have a great chance to innovate and explore new sales channels, said Jack Gibbons, CEO of Front Burner Restaurants, which has stepped up its technology and take-outs in particular. “We’ve got nothing to lose so we’ve tried everything… we’ve used the time to do things differently.”

7 People want local

With so many people working from home and seeking community, demand is increasing for operators that are rooted in their local areas. That trend plays particularly well to the street food sector, said Food Mutiny Founder Richard Johnson. “People want to support local, independent businesses and get something that feels handmade with a back story… we can do all of that.”

8 There are opportunities for flexible brands and start-ups

Some of the best brands are born in times of crisis, and Mark Jones said good property deals would work to the advantage of new operators. “New entrants can come into the market and pick some very interesting sites.” The future also looks relatively bright for operators that work in residential rather than work-dependent locations, and that can flex to suit many markets. “The best positioned brands cover off a number of different dayparts,” Jones said.

9 New restrictions are a worry

The webinar came close behind the government’s announcement of new limits on social gatherings, and CGA’s Peter Martin reported new research that indicates many people will now be reconsidering their out-of-home plans. It will be a growing concern as the Christmas party season gets closer, said Alex Reilley. “A lot of businesses make a lot of their turnover [at Christmas]… If we can’t accommodate parties it’s going to be a strange month.”

10 Consumers tastes are evolving

As they return to pubs, bars and restaurants, consumers’ tastes are changing, said Paul Wainwright. A spike in comfort food, more interest in grazing rather than three square meals a day and a wider spread of trade over dayparts are just three of the changes. Lockdown has also reminded people why they love hospitality, he said. “People are desperate to get back into bars, restaurants and hospitality spaces… as much as we’ve tried to recreate things at home, you can’t recreate that experience.”

The ‘Redefining the out-of-home experience’ webinar was hosted by CGA and Peter Martin’s Atlantic Club, in partnership with Harrison, Herman/Stewart and Harri. You can view the webinar recording here

 

     

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