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Food for Thought: Richard Vines leads discussion on key restaurant industry trends

By Luke Nicholls , 05-Jan-2012
Last updated on 05-Jan-2012 at 14:32 GMT

A panel of restaurant industry experts headed up by renowned food critic Richard Vines have given their insights into key issues affecting the sector, shedding some light on current trends and fluctuations and what to expect in 2012.

Last month’s table7 Food for Thought roundtable event was held at Mark's Bar in Hix Soho. Discussions centred on new research findings from a UK-wide survey that studied the impact of the recessionary environment, Christmas sales and the influence of social media on the restaurant industry.

The panel included Ratnesh Bagdai, partner with Mark Hix in Restaurants Etc; chef Massimo Riccioli; Eliot Sandiford of Bacchus PR and James Lewis of Gauthier Soho. Guests also included proprietors, managers and marketing teams from key dining establishments and restaurant groups including Caprice Holdings, Malmaison, Gaucho Group, Bistrot Bruno Loubet, Hawksmoor and Hakkasan.

The below video shows some of the key points discussed at the event:

table7's Food for Thought from Ashwin Jain on Vimeo.

The decline in consumer spending

  • Based on the table7 survey, 28 per cent cited eating at restaurants as first for the cull in times of financial crisis.

“We will see a reduction on people’s behaviour in terms of spending,” said Bagdai. “What we’re seeing particularly in our sites and the restaurants that I look after away from Hix is the lunchtime spend. I think that lunchtime spend is more city-based, corporate spend.”

Social media and marketing

  • The table7 survey found that ‘most people will try a new restaurant based on a personal or Facebook recommendation’ (55 per cent).

“I think that for a certain type of restaurant, social media is absolutely invaluable,” said Sandiford. “I think, however, for a lot of restaurants, it’s either not relevant particularly, or can actually be negative. Certainly something like a Facebook page. I think if you’re going to Hakkasan Mayfair, I don’t want to see it on Facebook.

Jo Barnes from Sauce Communications added: “I will agree with Eliot in that it shouldn’t be the exclusive effort that you make in terms of marketing your business. I think that it’s really good for creating a certain community as well. You can communicate the personality of your brand and your restaurant far more effectively through Twitter and it’s also very good to show that you’re listening to what people are saying, good and bad.”

New trends

The event ensued with a look at trends, discussions on changes in menu style and the noted increase in younger diners as something attributed to the influence of celebrity culture. In addition, the group discussed the upturn in ‘bar dining’. Again the panel were split – Sandiford stated: “I wouldn’t be seen dead eating at a bar!”

Using partner sites to support drops in trade

Matthew Turnbull, digital marketing manager for Caprice Holdings, said: “Those companies that are offering 50, 60 or 70 per cent discounts, what are they saying about the price of their menus for the other six and a half days of the week? That you’re paying 70 per cent too much? We get approached by an awful lot of discount-led marketing, but I’m going to put my bets with no advertising, no Groupon.

Moses Hassan, co-founder of table7, added: “The discount conversation is obviously very relevant to table7. What I would say is that the short term benefits, and weighing up the longer term benefits of the detriment to the brand, it’s not so much the question of whether to discount or not, but just being consistent with the rest of the brand."

The event was organised on 5 December by Moses and fellow table7 co-founder Ashwin Jain.For more information visit www.table7.com .

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