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Fri 24th Mar 2023 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Targeting a more mature audience means bigger returns, British taste buds have gone global – here’s how traditional takeaways can compete, sweating the midweek asset, so many great things to shout about
Authors: Glynn Davis, Sam Martin, Katy Moses, Ann Elliott

Targeting a more mature audience means bigger returns by Glynn Davis

Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) has been all over the news in recent weeks following its collapse after foolishly over-exposing its clients’ money to certain savings instruments. When markets turned against it, the bank had to be bailed out. This wasn’t the only duff decision it has made recently. When releasing its annual State of the Wine Industry report for 2023 (as well as lending to tech start-ups, it also had a premium wine lending arm), it came to the conclusion that the future of the wine sector depended on bringing a new generation of young drinkers into the category. 
This was the wrong decision again by SVB. The reality is that great swathes of young people don’t touch wine, and they never have done. Consider that as many as 35% of people in their 20s don’t drink vino at all, whereas in contrast, the majority of wine is consumed by the over-40s. What actually happens is that many of these younger drinkers ultimately move over into the wine-drinking camp as they get older, and possibly more discerning with their alcohol choices. 
The fact that youngsters are not interested in wine is not the fault of the drinks industry and hospitality operators, it’s a fact of established patterns of taste and consumption. Companies should therefore avoid falling into the trap of focusing all their marketing budgets on the younger demographic. There is an obsession with pouring money into attracting the 18 to 35-year-old grouping and forgetting about the older crowd. Even more worryingly, these efforts to draw in the youngsters can sometimes alienate those older consumers. 
This is a double-whammy of a mistake in the current market, because there has arguably never been a time when the older generation represents such an important segment to the hospitality industry. For starters, the spending power of this grouping is continuing to grow, with over-65s enjoying a 75% increase in spending between 2001 and 2018, according to KAM, which is forecasting that by 2040, this demographic will be spending an incredible 63p in every pound in the UK economy. This is being partly fuelled by the growth in the numbers of older people, with the over-65s predicted to make up 26% of the total population by 2066.
What makes this group especially valuable today is the current dire economic backdrop, which is having a massively detrimental impact on younger people. They are most exposed to a housing market that is sucking an increasing amount of disposable income from their pockets. There will be at least £11.5bn less discretionary spending this year, according to business consultancy CACI, as a result of 45% of UK households being hit by either an increase in rents or mortgage payments. There are 1.75 million mortgages up for renewal this year, which will see current average interest rates of 2% for most people moving up to more like 4.5%. CACI suggests this rise in rates will pose problems for the hospitality industry for the next three years.
Meanwhile, 25% of the population is sitting pretty. These are aged over 45, largely mortgage-free and living rather comfortably, with plenty of disposable income. But they have moderated their behaviour in line with the rest of the country and reduced their frequency of visits to pubs, bars and restaurants.
Drawing these people out of their homes more often must surely represent a major opportunity for the hospitality industry? They need to be given more confidence, and reasons, to get spending again, and this could involve some really simple things like increasing the print size of menus, adjusting the lighting and addressing one of the biggest bugbears of older customers – the high volume of music in many venues.
Apparently, London’s restaurants are the second loudest in the world (avoid San Francisco), according to decibel meter SoundPrint, which might be fine for hospitality venues with a purely Generation X, Y and Z audience. But if it is broader, then moderating the volume, or adding some fabrics into the décor to suck in some of the noise, could translate into more cash falling into the coffers. It would also be advisable to limit marketing to the younger cash-strapped audience, because right now, this is likely to fall on deaf ears.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

British taste buds have gone global – here’s how traditional takeaways can compete by Sam Martin

When we think of British takeaways, what immediately comes to mind? Most likely traditional staples like fish and chips, wrapped in newspaper and doused with vinegar; a hearty portion of pie and mash topped with liquor; or perhaps even chicken tikka masala, widely considered Britain’s national dish. 
A vital part of British history and culture, these dishes will undoubtedly evoke nostalgia for many and, at one time, would have been the only game in town. Fast forward to 2023, and these dishes are no longer what Britons are tucking into most regularly – our tastes have changed. 
With the continuing march of globalisation, our appetite for travel and new experiences – and more importantly, their accessibility – has dramatically increased. Perusing the platform of any delivery aggregator, such as Deliveroo, UberEats or Just Eat, only confirms this. Countless restaurants now supply a huge variety of global cuisines at the touch of a button.
From Mediterranean fare like falafel sandwiches and grilled kebabs to American fast-food favourites like burgers and fried chicken, plus options like pizzas, poké, pho, and pad thai – the list goes on and on. Today, the iconic British takeaways of yesterday can seem like a sideshow to an ever-expanding global food market on delivery platforms. 
Old school, new problems
So, what does this mean for providers of traditional British fare? Their reduced profile in an increasingly challenging market is not the only challenge they face. The rising cost of goods and looming prospect of recession spell a difficult period for nearly all players in the hospitality space. 
Delivery and takeaways, however, remain an avenue of opportunity for food and drinks operators, in spite of the cost-of-living crisis. Our research showed that a third (32%) of Britons still treat themselves to a takeaway at least once a month. 
Businesses must take notice and re-evaluate their approach into order to preserve their piece of British heritage. So, what do consumers want from their takeaways, why do global foods appeal, and how can British staples stand out and compete?
How can British takeaway staples take a greater slice of the pie?
When looking to compete against thriving global takeaway options, it is important to examine what exactly they are doing well, and how that success can be replicated.
Certainly, one of the most appealing elements of international takeaways is novelty and variety. With so much choice on offer, Britons love to sample new dishes and cuisines. While British takeaway fare offers customers familiarity and comfort, their menus remain static. Failing to innovate makes it easier for the rest of the crowd to lure customers away.  
Injecting fresh intrigue into the familiar is the best way for traditional takeaways to stand out from the crowd, whether that be reimagining British classics with a fresh twist or incorporating complementary new items. 
To maximise their order volumes, British takeaways cannot afford to alienate potential customers, and this makes catering to different dietary requirements essential. Our research revealed that customers are crying out for alternatives – 29% of frequent takeaway customers seek out vegan options, and more than half (53%) want healthier foods – showing that it is vital for takeaways to capitalise on these gaps in the market.
In such a competitive environment, repeat business is the true bread and butter of any hospitality business, which means enhancing customer loyalty should be a top priority. Overwhelmingly, Britons refuse to give a sub-par vendor a second chance, with four in five (80%) unwilling to order from a business again following a bad experience. Consistent, outstanding quality – starting from appealing menu images on delivery aggregators to the end product of reliably delicious food – is therefore key to building trust and maintaining a loyal customer base.
A strong, recognisable brand identity is equally vital to ensuring repeat custom; almost half of Britons (48%) are unlikely to order from a restaurant they have not heard of before. This can be achieved through clever marketing, incentivising customers through loyalty programmes and offering special deals, and by establishing an attractive, memorable brand image through eye-catching logos and food packaging.
What’s next for Britain’s takeaways?
The UK’s takeaway market may have gotten more competitive as globalisation has brought over a host of international cuisines. But with the right tools, British takeaways offering traditional classics can compete and even thrive: a future-forward, business-savvy perspective will be key.
Sam Martin is the co-founder and chief executive of Peckwater Brands, the delivery franchising experts

Sweating the midweek asset by Katy Moses

One of the (many) issues that the pub/bar industry faces right now is how to “sweat their assets”, and traditionally, midweek has not been the best place to do this. In these challenging times, operators are having to explore options to reduce opening hours and therefore associated costs, and understandably, this part of the trading week is often first to go.
But if operators are looking at ways to pull people off their sofas and into venues in the week, then for the right venue, our latest research highlights that the opportunity to attract sport fans and associated (higher than the average pub-goer) spend during traditionally quiet midweek times is huge. 
The research, carried out in partnership with BT Sport, suggests that sport can actually be a more powerful driver to venues during the week than at weekends. A total of 43% of sports fans say watching live sport is the main reason they go to a pub midweek, whereas at the weekend, there are many other factors at play. And the fact that 92% of sports fans said showing live sport during the week positively influences their visit frequency to a pub means this midweek sport thing might catch on.
Last week, KAM hosted a trade tour in Liverpool with executives from Stonegate, Punch, Admiral Taverns, Star Pubs & Bars and more. And, because I have one of the best jobs in the world, I got to go along and visit best-in-class sports-led venues and test my football knowledge (which pretty much finished when David Beckham was still playing for England) with a great group of people. 

What did I learn from being in Liverpool when they were away to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals? Well, I learnt some new words, that’s for sure. But also the following:

1. Understanding your customers is vital
The venues we saw, despite all showing sport, varied hugely. But their successes were pinned on understanding their customer, the specific location and their competitive set, and then adapting accordingly. An interesting example of this was two venues we visited in Concert Square, McCooley’s and Einstein’s. These two venues are owned by the same business, with sport as the primary offering, and 58 screens between them. However, there were many fundamental differences that meant one was more suited to a younger, student audience, and the other a much older audience. 
Einstein’s had more craft beer, a DJ booth for when the sport finishes, seated booths where you could pour your own beer and a few games (including a kicking punch machine which I’d never seen in a bar before – I must be going to the wrong bars). It also mentioned partnering with university teams, making it easy to book an area over social media – a great example of understanding its customer and building that relationship. McCooley’s, on the other hand, had gaming machines, had the racing on and much more simple, classic furnishings – perfect for an older customer.
2. Your F&B offering in a sports-led venue needs to be good, but not fancy
There was nothing ground breaking about the food and drinks offering in partnership with sports: burgers, pizzas and sharing platters. The Champions League-specific food offer in Long Shot bar was an interesting technique to drive excitement about a particular game. It also had a cocktail menu, with the purpose of positioning the venue as a place to watch the sport and be on a date, as demonstrated by the seating it offered.
The food and beverage learning we took from the day is to keep it simple but be known for something – be that German bierkeller cuisine, American diner food or wood fired pizzas – as this will differentiate the operator from other venues and help drive traffic when the sport is on. Unsurprisingly, the research we did showed that beer and crisps have the biggest relative uplift when sport is on to when it’s not, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, it’s just about making it easy.
3. Zoning is where it’s at
Encouraging customers to come in throughout the day and “sweating” the asset is something that gets referenced at hospitality events every time I’m at one, and this was evident on Wednesday in many of the venues. PINS Social Club used comfortable seating and a third party coffee provider to create an area that would encourage you to work or relax there earlier in the day. It also has a private mezzanine area with a bowling alley for group/work events, a games area, a karaoke bar (a KAM favourite) and an area geared toward music and a big Saturday night.

All these areas have sport sprinkled within them, but it’s not overbearing. Ultimately, the zones a venue can offer are driven by the space, but through understanding the customer base and looking at each area of the venue, zoning can be an effective way to drive additional visits and increase dwell time. Sport can be an effective way of helping create these zones and help the venue become that “go-to” destination for sport.

Also, just a final point. The research tells us that these midweek visits aren’t cannibalising weekend visits either (see also, snacks versus food in pubs), and that they are actually additional visits as opposed to the repurposing of social spend, with 74% saying visiting the pub for sport midweek doesn’t affect visits at other times during the week. 

The final thing I learnt was it’s so important that we all get out into trade so we can understand what’s going on out there in all areas of hospitality, and not just our own bubble or location. We all need to understand customer occasions and operator innovations – get out there and explore!
Katy Moses is the founder and managing director of research consultancy KAM

So many great things to shout about by Ann Elliott

I have had a range of brilliant experiences when I’ve been out and about over the last few weeks – so nice to see the sector operating at its best.

* Lunch at the Bel and Dragon in Wendover. Absolutely fabulous customer service, a roaring (coal, not log) open fire, a perfectly curated lunch menu and a bone for the dog. I like the way its menu descriptions include geographical provenances like south coast ham hock terrine; creamy burrata and Isle of Wight tomatoes; St Austell Bay mussels and crusty bread; or Wykham Park Farm asparagus risotto. This way of writing suggests it has taken care in sourcing products which fit its brand, while not slavishly trying to buy everything locally. Judging by this pub, Fuller’s has developed the business well since it bought the five sites in mid-2018.

* Coffee at Chiltern Firehouse in London. This place can feel very intimidating, and the loos are a nightmare to find, but the service here is impeccably beautiful, with exceptional attention to detail. It has developed the knack of making every customer feel special, no matter how measly their spend-per-head might be. It’s a service performance to watch and savour.

* Dinner at Suga in Manchester. A stunning, but not a long or overwhelming menu. Still, it took an age to decide between maccheroni alla Siciliana with mackerel, wild fennel, saffron, raisins and pine nuts; and cavatelli in brood with shredded ham hock, hispi cabbage, peas and basil. The team cheerfully helped when questioned about food descriptions, and the place was rammed. Decent price points too, with starters around £9 and mains around £15/£16.

* Lunch at Arcade Food Hall in Centre Point. Packed with customers wanting a quick lunch without having to compromise on taste or flavour. Not the easiest of order pay log-ins, and I nearly lost patience with it all. But luckily my dining companion, Hawksmoor co-founder Will Beckett, didn’t, and in the end we had a swiftly served meal that tasted better than it promised on our phone screens.

* Lunch at Cosy Club, the (relatively) new go-to bar/lounge/restaurant in Milton Keynes. Much as I love Loungers, I have to admit to not really “getting” Cosy Club before, but I do now. Either I have started to look at it properly, or the brand has grown into its skin, and Milton Keynes is the embodiment of all its learnings to date. It’s beautifully and elegantly designed, the service is friendly and the menu is female-friendly, with the likes of vintage cheddar, leek and cider tart; harissa torn lamb shoulder; Calabrian roast chicken; and burrata and warm harissa baked squash salad to choose from. One of those menus when I think: “I could eat anything off here.”

* Lunch at The Fishes in Oxford. I just love this pub, and I did wonder if it would change substantially when Peach Pubs sold it, but somehow it seems to have got better. A great country walk nearby, a treat for the dog, an interesting core menu plus blackboarded specials and a team that can’t do enough for you, especially the manager. Revolution Bars Group has got this right.

* Dinner at Nessa in Soho. Described as a modern British bistro and bar, Nessa has a warm and friendly feel to it, with a huge open kitchen where the team worked its wonders with wood-fired leeks with almond ricotta and caramelised pecans (£11); and a lamb meatball (yes, just the one) with pork belly, creamed spinach and minted peas (£18). I also managed to polish off a gooseberry roly poly, for heaven’s sake (£6.50, I think). I did have bill shock, but that’s what happens when you have too much to drink and order more than you can eat.

* Lunch at Fallow in St James Market, “where conscious culinary creativity meets hospitality experience and passion”. This could sound a bit pretentious, but it isn’t, it’s true. Simply the best meal I have had all year, and probably the best dining out experience for the past 12 months. Anthony Knight, sales and marketing director at Incipio Group, and I shared four dishes – smoked beef ribs, beetroot salad (with smoked goat’s curd, puffed buckwheat, chicory and walnuts), mushroom parfait and burrata with smoked artichoke and a hay dressing. Simply fantastic!

I have loved the innovation, the creativity and the attention to detail I have seen lately. So many great things are happening to shout about. It’s just a dream to work in such a dynamic sector.
Ann Elliott (she/her) is a portfolio non-executive director and board advisor

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