Global Restaurant Investment Forum

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Ten Takeaways from the GRIF Society London Briefing

Published 05 July 2019

James Hacon shares his ten takeaways from the Global Restaurant Investment Forum London Briefing, held at Bala Baya on 3 July.

1. Don’t get hung up on what you know - Thom Elliott from Pizza Pilgrims talked of how there is an upside of inexperience in that you don’t repeat the same mistakes as other operators, as you are forced to focus on how you could do it, rather than how you should do it. He talked of how they avoid making simple mistakes (like asking waiters to pay for no shows) by using his 6 year old as a sounding board - believing even she would know that it wasn’t the right thing to do!

2. Let’s not fool ourselves the majority of people are hospitality lifers - the entrepreneur panel talked at length about the talent issue and how they are all competing against each other for a shrinking pool of great people. There was a feeling that we should be happier as an industry accepting that it is a stopgap for many on the way to their career and focus on getting them to stay longer, concentrating on training, incentives and selling ourselves as founders and leaders, not just our brands. I particularly liked the view that it’s important to thank people for choosing you, as any great team member could walk out and get another job in hours.

3. On trends - we heard that the majority of innovation come any way of an evolution not a revolution, with encouragement to look to other industries, not just within our own. One hospitality business to watch is McDonalds with their recent dynamic yield acquisition.

4. The biggest challenges - Peter Backman presented the major issues British operators foresee for the future are the potential negative effect of reputational damage, funding, costs of occupation, overcapacity in the marketplace and delivery.

5. Thinking of overseas growth - for the first time at a GRIF event we heard British investors talking about encouraging their operators to think internationally in their expansion plans. Clearly fueled by the challenging domestic market and growth in the continent, we heard how many players were no longer skipping Europe for the Middle East, instead looking closer to home in Western Europe. Amsterdam got a particular amount of airtime, but eh cynic in me believes this is probably due to GRIF’s presence there and a very passionate, if not a little persistent Dutch emcee!

6. Food that doesn’t destroy our future - the plant based movement has most definitely moved our industry, it is without doubt. Almost every operator is embracing it in some way, but our panel believed that while this will continue to grow, meat production will still very much be part of a balanced diet for most and vital to effective farming eco-systems. We heard of the challenges around soil management and the need for the whole supply chain to be better reviewed by operators, with everyone taking responsibility for how the food ends up on the plate. My view is that food needs to move up the agenda, while times are tough and it’s easy to ignore the bigger issues for the pressing financial pressures of today, it’s time to know your supply chain, take ownership and set a plan, Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say.

7. Food market model - this trend is sweeping Europe, with one recent study citing 350 current such businesses under construction. There were a number of positives highlighted including providing great choice to consumers and a way of filling large spaces for developers. Meanwhile others spoke of the potential saturation and sustainability of this business model also.

8. Partners not pirates - our growth option panel was refreshingly honest about the challenges they’ve faced, talking of the infrastructure and investment needed for growth. Picking the right international partners, whether it be in franchising or licensing, is vital to success, or as one of our panelist’s said, do your due diligence, drag out the dating and make sure you pick a partner not a pirate.

9. Duff site selection biggest risk - when asked about the reason investments are least likely to work out, our investors told us that the first reason was wrong site selection, bleeding cash too early. The second was around overconfidence or the ego of the entrepreneur (never the investor they insisted!)

10. Book Amsterdam hotels early for best deal - the Global Restaurant Investment Forum will be held in Amsterdam again in 2020. It’s one of the world's only truly global event bringing hospitality leaders and investors from all over the world. I’ve been involved as an advisor for the past five years and can absolutely endorse the value, the production standards are second to none and content always riveting. My advice is book your ticket early - and hotels too, it has one of the highest occupancy levels in Europe and it shows in the price! See you there.

James Hacon is managing director of Think Hospitality, which advises multi-site brands on growth, brand and development strategy, as well as investing in early-stage concepts with a bright future.