The success of street food operators, pros and cons of a franchise model and reputation management in the internet age were just some of the topics touched on at CDG’s Join the Journey 2.0 event last week.
Delegates from across the leisure sector flocked to The Cuckoo Club in Mayfair on Thursday to hear presentations from industry experts.
Among the speakers were Simon Mitchell, managing director of KERB, Veeno founders Nino Caruso and Andrea Zecchino and Heidi Mallace, director of The Leadership Agency.
Networking and an audience Q&A opportunities ensured guests received an in-depth snapshot of the key market themes right now.
Check our blog post for CDG managing director, Morris Greenberg’s opening address.
“Street food isn’t a trend anymore,” said Simon. “People want something exciting, innovative and they want variety – they are getting that with street food.”
“We get 500 applications a week. Last year, Kerb were responsible for £12m in street food sales. The model gives an incredible platform without the overheads of a restaurant and is revolutionising the way food is going. The traders know where the tried and tested locations are.
“There is this trend now of street food traders being snapped up and invested in to open restaurants. Kerb has set up a fund to move traders into fixed sites.”
He added: “Another trend is food halls coming into London – they are everywhere in New York. Operators will be up against these guys who can pitch up with little risk and trade really well in a central London location.
According to Heidi, the age of social media can have an instant impact on the reputation of leisure operators.
“The hospitality industry knows better than most that online reviews, blogs and vlogs have the potential to make or break your reputation.
“If you can increase you star rating by one star, it can increase your revenue by up to 9% which is significant for any business.”
Being aware of the pitfalls of fake news and reviews was key, she added.
“Prevention is better than cure, make sure you register your online real estate; all your names, social media and TripAdvisor profiles to protect from online impersonation.
Another big area is cyber-attacks and investing in training staff to make sure they understand the power of reputation.
“Monitor what is being said about you on review sites and social media and keep up to date on wider discussions taking place, issues like the environment, diversity and immigration.
“Respond to positive reviews as well as negative ones build customer loyalty. When it comes to hospitality if you make your customers feel like a million bucks you don’t have to pay someone to manage your reputation for you.”
For Nino and Andrea, franchising was the right move for them, with plans to open 12 branches of their wine bar, Veeno, this year – focusing on London.
They said it was a balance between risks and opportunities – food for thought for any operator.
Andrea explained: “It is much easier to make mistakes; if you have an issue with a store manager it is not the same as an entrepreneur that is making an important investment and has high expectations. “The finance part of the model is also important. As a franchiser, our priority is to keep developing and growing the brand which requires a financial investment. This is more difficult to obtain in this current market.”
Despite this the pros were still there. Andrea said: “The most important point in the long term is a sustainable and balanced cash flow. When thinking about an exit strategy. investors will see our cash flows are safer than a corporate-only business as they are not subject to the same risks as other operators and brands.
Nino added: Once you start opening in cities further away, you need to have people who have same kind of passion and drive.
“Choosing a right partner makes a big difference and we try to handpick people who have the same values. But not being able to choose all the staff in the stores and not being close to them is a challenge. Saying that, working with certain franchisees who have been in previous business with brands we can learn from them.”
Check out the highlights from the night: