Shortly after joining Jellybean I was invited on the MCA Food Concept Study Tour. As the leading foodservice agency it is imperative for us to keep abreast of emerging trends and new concepts so I jumped at the chance of getting to grips with recent changes in the OOH market – as well as sampling a few dishes along the way of course!
As Richie Bissett and Giles Smith, our leaders from MCA explained, the rationale behind the tour was to identify trends in the casual dining and food-to-go sectors, from those that are just a ‘flash in the pan’ to those that are here to stay. The tour was held in London, the metropolis of emerging cuisines.
We began the tour on Tottenham Court Road…
Leon: Founded by TV chef Allegra McEvedy, Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, Leon focuses on healthy and wholesome food-to-go and is proving popular, with 35 sites across London. The menu offers a wide choice of nutritious dishes and beverages, ranging from protein snack pots of beans and eggs to a wholesome breakfast muffin. I not only loved the menu but also the strong vintage branding and was very pleased to start the day with their breakfast muffin.
Planet Organic: An inspiring concept set-up to offer the best and widest range of organic foods, while bringing a sense of discovery and adventure into food shopping. This has now grown to include a wide and varied food-to-go offering.
Kimchee: It is always fascinating to learn of new cuisines coming to the UK and Korean is no exception. Kimchee is a more premium option for food on-the-go, offering a wide selection of hot and cold options that can also be consumed in the restaurant which offered a serene and modern environment in which to enjoy food.
Shake Shack: America’s premium burger concept, Shake Shack features a quirky menu with frozen custard and flat-top dogs. This brand started as a street food vendor in New York and proved so successful it’s now international. A very different menu to the healthy outlets we had seen so far on the tour.
Onwards to Soho…
Hoppers: Another food concept that started its life as a street food vendor and has now turned to bricks and mortar. Hoppers offers Sri Lankan cuisine which has become so popular that customers queue along the street waiting for a seat.
Herman ze German: As the name suggests, this restaurant offers authentic German cuisine focusing on the bratwurst (hotdogs) which are made in Germany and are gluten and lactose free. We had the pleasure of sampling the bratwurst with chilli and chips which was very satisfying and a stark contrast to the healthy breakfast I had earlier at Leon’s.
Crosstown: A premium doughnut joint which started its life as a market stall in Leather Lane. The doughnuts are made using a hybrid sourdough and are topped and filled with a variety of on-trend flavours. Lucky for us, we were able to sample a selection which was out-of-this-world. I noticed a few members of the public looking on enviously – one even came over to have a taste of ours!
Halfway through the tour, a trend was starting to materialise; sites starting out as street food concepts and moving on to full outlets – a smart business move to test the market for a new concept before taking the leap to rented premises. Whilst on the tour, we saw one establishment moving out having only been open the day before and another operator about to open for business next-door, illustrating the competitiveness and ever-changing food landscape in London’s eating out sector.
Veggie Pret: With the rise of consumers looking to reduce their meat consumption, Pret launched this concept store for the month of June but it’s proving so popular they have decided to extend it through the summer months.
Bao: A small yet hugely popular Taiwanese restaurant that once more started life as a street vendor and successfully made the transition to a permanent site. These simple steamed buns filled with stew have become so popular that customers are prepared to queue down the road to sample one.
On to Kings Cross…
Dishoom: I had heard a great deal about this restaurant and was therefore delighted it was included on the tour. On entry, its interior did not disappoint. To my mind Dishoom has successfully recreated the image of colonial India with old photos on the walls and a selection of newspapers by the door. The premises are over two floors and features old iron and exposed pipework creating a sense of space. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to sample the menu but I am definitely going back to do so.
Hop: Our final destination, a Vietnamese food-to-go outlet created by a city banker after his trip to Vietnam – already proving a success with the plans to expand.
I’d like to thank Giles, my tour leader from MCA for a very informative and comprehensive tour, arming me with a wealth of knowledge I can take back to my clients and of course for myself when I next find myself hungry in London!