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Summer 2019 - Editors welcome by James Hacon

Another summer trading period is here with a very different outlook to last year, well at least as far as the weather goes.

Another summer trading period is here with a very different outlook to last year, well at least as far as the weather goes. Politically we remain in what seems eternal purgatory, yet through it all consumer confidence is up and many operators have seen a slight increase in spending.

For the most established operators and largest brands, saturation and dynamics such as delivery and changing consumer behaviour are still causing major problems, some of it making the front pages. For the entrepreneurial and nimble it seems opportunities are plentiful, with some incredible property deals to be had. On the investment front we see trade consolidation as a key driver, with a number of smaller deals into smaller groups.

This quarter our innovation and campaign trackers have been hard at work to provide some brilliant initiatives we’ll talk about in this edition.

On the campaign front we’ve seen Zizzi lay claim to hiring the first resident food Instagrammer in a bid to help diners discover the real stories behind the restaurants, putting a line in the sand about the importance they place on content and social. The pub sector, meanwhile, seems to have gone hyper-local with its summer campaigns, with large-scale activity and festival programmes the go-to activations. One company to go big on this has been Stonegate Pub Company, which launched more than 5,000 activities under its Best Summer Ever campaign, aiming to drive footfall and pre-booked sales and increase dwell time in its units.

Productisation of restaurant brands continues to be an alternative growth mechanism companies are turning to while site growth is slow. One such brand is YO! Sushi, which recently launched its first “at-home” range to join Nando’s, Las Iguanas, Giraffe, Ed’s Easy Diner, PizzaExpress, Wahaca, Reds True Barbecue and Gourmet Burger Kitchen on the shelves, to name a few.

Continuing the product theme our event partner, Coca-Cola, has made some big launches including a new premium dark spirits mixer range, while we’ve seen the first output of the Costa acquisition via a new grocery range.

On the digital front Google Maps now highlights photos of restaurants’ most popular dishes within a map-pack listing – the latest innovation by the company highlighting it might be taking a keener interest in the restaurant sector.

As ever, McDonald’s has been in the news, this time trialling plant-based packaging in the US and a commitment to a 60% reduction in the number of Happy Meals plastic toys.

Another trend we think worth highlighting is the resurgence of concepts created around licensed movie and television brands. Since our last newsletter we have seen MasterChef launch its first restaurant experience in Dubai and Primark open its first Central Perk Cafe, based on comedy series Friends, in partnership with Warner Bros.


James Hacon is co-founder of Restaurant Marketer & Innovator, managing director of Think Hospitality and an investor in early-stage concepts with a bright future