Guest author, James Hacon, development, growth and brand strategist for restaurant and hospitality companies, working as brand strategy director at Thai Leisure Group and a select group of other clients, delves into the key trends from the Global Restaurant Investment Forum.
The Global Restaurant Investment Forum welcomed more than 300 industry professionals last week to Fairmont, The Palm Dubai. Several key trends dominated the conversation over the three-day event, from key growth areas such as restaurant delivery, online ordering and digital technology to the need to invest in talent and focus food and beverage businesses around people.
These were highlighted by keynote speakers, Stuart Gillies, Gordon Ramsay Group chief executive; Amir Nahai, AccorHotels chief executive for food and beverage; and Martin Morales, managing director and chef at Ceviche and Andina Peruvian Restaurants in London. Here are the top ten key trends I identified from the event:
- Delivery dilemma: It’s undoubtedly the biggest consumer trend affecting our industry right now, but raises lots of debate and questions. Get into bed with one of the big delivery players and you get the best percentage deal – share the love and you’ll probably drive more volume – or – invest in your own peddle power, taking the risk, but perhaps reaping the rewards. Whatever you choose, be sure to make certain you’re not reliant on it and be aware that investors are concerned about what “giving away your customers” means to your business.
- Brand promiscuity: It’s time to face it, your customers are cheating on you! They’re going elsewhere – even to your direct competitors. The number of brands customers visit is on the rise, with new launches and interesting products elsewhere turning their heads – but it’s your job to make sure they don’t steal the heart too. Figure out what you do, what you stand for and make sure you deliver against your brand promise consistently – keep it simple!
- Keep it realistic: As well as inflated value expectations, brand owners are often overly ambitious in their business plans, with our investors only remembering one or two occasions when a company has over delivered. Keep it realistic when planning your roll-out – you’re not going to open 100 sites in five years!
- Know when to walk away: When you’re on a roll-out it’s almost inevitable you’re going to fail from time to time, it’s human nature. Closing a site is the hardest decision to make, but you’ve got to make it, and quickly, for the sake of your business and brand. Investors understand and would prefer to make a commercial decision rather than a sentimental one.
- It’s all about the chemistry: Whether you’re talking about finding an investor in your business or a franchise partner in another market, it’s all about the chemistry. Make sure you’re upfront, clear in your expectations from the outset and share values. People do business with people, your books and brand could be amazing, but you or your leadership team could cost the transaction.
- Poles apart: When it comes to the latest food trends, it’s a mixed bag; sweet and decedent is in – but so is healthy and sugar-free. It’s all about the occasion. Plant-bias continues to rise, with vegan and vegetarianism becoming increasingly popular, as well as chef experimenting more with creative vegetable dishes.
- Instabragging rights: With even the French fine dining establishments allowing photography at the table now, the floodgates are very much open. Customers are no longer just keyboard critics they’re photographers too. Make sure your proposition stands-out from the crowd, but don’t over complicate things. When posting your own content, share a story, not just another food photo.
- Crazy levels of competition: There’s very few markets where the competition in the restaurant space isn’t fierce. Brand and site growth is explosive across most of North America, Europe and the Middle East. Expect a five-year return on investment, not the three many brands have come to expect and make sure you cut through the noise by building a multi-faceted lifestyle brand, driving greater awareness and loyalty. Get creative and think differently – if you’re lacking inspiration, just think about how a former Apple executive, turned chef, is taking his brand on a national tour as a stage show!
- Troublesome travel hubs: Although attractive on paper with the massive footfall and big revenues, travel hubs are far from an easy option for an operator. The commercials are difficult, operations challenging and deals often tied up as multi-site packages. Even the most well respected brands have struggled, but don’t let that put you off. Do your homework, take advice and consider a partnership.
- Have fun: It might look like all glitz and glam to the outside, but it’s hard work as you know, remember to find the joy in what you do – have fun – be sure to come back next year to catch up with some of the most amazing industry colleagues about your year just past and what’s ahead.
Follow James Hacon on Twitter @jameshacon