The Casual Dining market has been the success story of the past few years with the sector thriving and branded concepts attracting the all-important millennial market. Little wonder therefore that the Islington Design Centre was buzzing with visitors at the Casual Dining Show this week. Buyers, owners, managers and chefs all descended on North London to see what was new and network with colleagues and contacts. With four of our clients exhibiting it was a busy time for us as well, with journalists to host, press releases to draft and of course, the stand design and management to top it all off. But as we took to the aisles to take-in the show it was clear that all the hard work was well worth it. From sampling delicious smoothies and fat free frozen yogurt at the Coolicious* stand, to treating ourselves to a sweet potato fry (or two) at Aviko’s diner themed stand, not to mention trying the delicious new Chicken Ballotine from Moy Park’s new casual dining range on their street food inspired stand and of course catching up with the guys at Essential Cuisine – frankly there was hardly time to draw breath, let alone take in the rest of the stands and catch-up with the familiar faces that seemed to be around every corner. But as the leading foodservice agency we did of course scout the show for some interesting new products and brands. So what did we find? Top of my list was Twinings Super Fruity infusion which was very refreshing indeed, the new LOVO low cal Vodka RTD concept with coconut water (yum) and last, but far from least, the Sechuan Button which has to be tasted to be believed, as this seemingly innocuous looking little yellow flower can do things to your mouth you cannot imagine – I dare you to try one from Koppert Cress – it’s quite a taste sensation!
As well as sampling the myriad products on offer at the show there was also the inaugural Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards and the National Burger Awards. Driven by our love of the dirty burger we headed to the Islington Metal Works for possibly the most edgy awards night of the year as this industrial venue hosted a burger grill corner and a street food van open bar, both of which were very well received. The show and the awards were both winners for us, but of course congratulations must go to the real winners of the evening – the results for both of which you can find here:
Well done to Diversify on the show and the first year of their Casual Dining Awards and to H2O’s Casual Dining Magazine on the second successful National Burger Awards – I for one will be beating a path back to both next year. But that’s enough about Casual Dining, as this week draws to a close the biennial goliath of a show that is Hotelympia is soon to be upon us and I must rest my weary feet in preparation, as our PR team gird their loins to run the press office and social media at the show for what is sure to be a fun if hectic four days!
*Finalists in the Casual Dining Show Innovation Awards