Author: Jo Biddle, 07 March 2018

When compiling a list of F&B operators who have hit the headlines for the wrong reasons you could be forgiven for thinking the restaurant market was on its last legs. We've seen the downsize in big players including Jamie's, Byron, Strada and Prezzo, Eat has called in advisors and Square Pie has closed altogether, and that's just this year. According to The Caterer, restaurant insolvencies grew by 20% in 2017 on the previous year with 984 entering administration. The falling pound, a rise in business rates, employment and food costs partnered with decreased footfall and more spend-thrifty diners, F&B operators face continued challenges in the months to come.

To overcome the downturn in success, James Spragg, COO of The Casual Dining Group spoke at the Casual Dining Show in London last month and highlighted the importance of nurturing the brand, listening to customers and being brilliant at the basics. None of which is revolutionary or ground-breaking but Jon Knight (new CEO of Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group) spoke at the same event and gave a very honest review of the Group. Knight explained it hadn't listened to demand, invested in its estate and lacked evolution. As a result competition such as Franco Manca has caught up and is trying new things, catching the eye of perhaps once loyal consumers.

Newcomers and Growers

Having already mentioned Franco Manca, there are other newcomers and growers in the market who are also reporting expansion plans.

Newcomers & Growers

All of which offer something different; whether that be international cuisine with the likes of Comptoir Libanais or Mowgli; a different dining experience such as that found at Yard Sale Pizza and Giggling Squid or offering something different in amongst the mundane such as Wrap Chic and BrewDog opening in airports. Where operators offer originality and something unique for customers there is scope for growth in the F&B market.

Innovation and Resilience

Where newness is a key selling point for operators with limited presence in the market, there are those who have previously dominated and are now struggling to maintain their position in a crowded F&B world. This is where risk and resilience come into play.

Managing Director of Vietnamese restaurant brand Pho said when Just Eat launched that he "didn’t see a problem with the original method of calling up a restaurant to place an order". Fast forward a decade or so and the food delivery service is changing again. With the introduction of Deliveroo and Uber Eats, there is the opportunity for consumers to dine from their favourite eateries on a regular basis from their own home. When the snow last week stopped people leaving their homes, the recent video emerged of a Deliveroo driver skidding down an icy hill on his front with his Deliveroo rucksack on his back, encapsulating the desire to meet the customers' demands! The health and safety conscious among us, look away now!


The Casual Dining Group (CDG) which consists of Café Rouge, Bella Italia, Las Iguanas and La Tasca, Belgo, Huxleys and Oriel Grand Brasserie has announced that it will be launching a new delivery-only brand 'Stack and Grill' in the next few weeks. Meals will be cooked in 80 Café Rouge kitchens throughout the UK and will largely consist of croque monsieurs, burgers and craft beer, admitting Café Rouge's beef bourguignon doesn't travel well! By using its own kitchens CDG will be utilising existing space and staff, therefore, limiting the cost to offering this additional service. Also, by using Deliveroo there is no capital outlay on building a delivery network..

Similarly The Restaurant Group which consists of Bunning & Price, Chiquito, Coast to Coast, Frankie & Benny’s, Garfunkels and Joe’s Kitchen announced this morning that it would be launching a similar trial. It intends to set up a new brand of gourmet burgers with a menu that will only be available via delivery. The food will be cooked in existing kitchens in a small number of locations before being increased should the trial be successful. Both concepts aim to prove that innovation is a means to remain profitable in the market.

With innovation comes an element of risk; Amadeus (event F&B provider) has launched a completely contactless payment system at Arena Birmingham (formerly Barclaycard Arena - very apt!) Customers are now only able to pay for food and drink using contactless cards or other app-based payment systems helping mitigate lengthy queues. This certainly embraces the ever-changing technology-driven world we live in so it's easy to agree it makes sense. Amadeus are showing innovation and listening to customer demands (well most of them). However, there will be people who prefer not to pay using contactless technology, don't have that function on their credit or debit card (yes there are some out there) and who don't have online payment apps, it is hoped these groups of people have been considered.

With the retail domain in a whirlwind of its own, closures and relocations have left vacant retail space in their wake. The biggest hole on London's Oxford Street was carved out when BHS went into administration in 2015. Part of this space has been taken by a Polish retailer, the rest has been earmarked for the UK's largest Market Hall featuring 25 restaurants, 10 food stalls, 4 bars and a demo kitchen over 36,000 ft². Covering such a large area and the opportunity to taste a variety of cuisines moves the food and beverage market on again, offering a wholly different dining experience to what consumers are used to. Following along this trend is the recent announcement of Eataly’s UK debut. Billed as an enormous new Italian food hall which is set to open on Broadgate in the City of London, albeit not until 2020. Covering 42,000 ft² the marketplace will fulfil a simple idea of offering diners the best Italian products under one roof and the ability to eat shop and learn at the same time.

Fine Dining holds its own

With casual dining on shaky ground and smart innovation needing to pave the way to profitability, more premium dining is quietly on the up. San Carlo announced at the end of February that it would be opening a new restaurant offering its Italian fine-dining on London’s Regent Street adding to its 20-strong group already in large cities in the UK as well as Bangkok and Qatar. The Ivy Collection also announced last month that it was taking its iconic brand to the Midlands with the opening of a new restaurant in Birmingham. In a statement, the restaurant said: “The brasserie will exude the familiar luxury of its sister restaurants, but with a focus on accessibility as well as glamour." Where the casual dining market is heavily competitive, with a robust brand and loyal customer base, there is scope for growth in the premium F&B sector. It is important to recognise that the opportunity for fine-dining is much smaller than mass-market everyday restaurants.

In conclusion, it is no secret the F&B market is a challenging and often unforgiving one, but where there  is innovation and the opportunity to offer something different there is scope for small steps of growth. There is, however, a real need to maintain a strong foundation; a comfortable dining environment, newness on the menu and above all good customer service.

FSP can help with location planning to ensure your F&B brand is positioned in the best possible place for your target consumer. Contact us to find out how.

Tags: F&B, FSP View

Post a comment

FSP’s Virtual High Street: An eye on the future

Continue Reading

FSP View: Vegan Retail – Fad or Trend?

Recent news that Superdrug has opened a Vegan pop-up at Box Park in Shoreditch opened up an interesting discussion in the FSP office on the place of Veganism in the retail industry as a whole.

Continue Reading

FSP View – Shopper Engagement

The term ‘shopper engagement’ is increasingly used as retailers compete to entice shoppers to spend money. A collaborative approach between landlords and retailers is key to success, but what level of shopper engagement is correct for your scheme?

Continue Reading