At Jellybean, we’re always on top of the latest goings on in the world of food and drink marketing, indeed we thrive on knowing what’s happening in the foodservice industry. To see all the latest food trends in action, a few of us Beans decided to get out there and experience for ourselves exactly what’s going on. Well… any excuse for some good food!
So off we ventured to nearby Guildford, a lovely town to visit, even if we were greeted with the inevitable torrential rain that follows a week of 30-degree heat. As a hub of students, workers, shoppers and residents, it’s become a popular hotspot for restaurant chains and independents alike. Our lovely account manager Fran researched the top places for us to visit and lined up chefs and managers for us to talk to in order to gain an insight into their brand values and what they think makes their customers keep coming back.
Here are a few highlights from the day:
Italian Pizzeria Franco Manca has near 40 sites serving up delicious sourdough pizzas. Aside from the mouth-watering offering, one of the first things we noticed when perusing the menu was the list of ingredients and their origins. Chorizo sourced from La Rioja, organic tomatoes from the south of Italy, Kalamata olives straight from Greece – Franco Manca prides itself on sourcing the best ingredients and it is evident in the delicious food.
The menu is small, but adaptable, with the freedom to customise your pizza by adding or taking away an ingredient. They are especially proud of their sourdough base that is the foundation for all their pizzas – we even got to see and smell the sourdough which they make fresh on site (it smelt a bit like cider!). Their chefs go on a 4-week course to be fully trained on the Franco Manca way to make sure that the quality never wanes from restaurant to restaurant. We loved the authenticity of Franco Manca and the passion that Raffa – the manager we spoke to on the day – had about their ingredients, ideology and giving their customers the best experience. With the market flooded with pizza chains, Franco Manca stands out from the crowd, with its focus on authenticity (a top MCA eating out trend) and will make you fall in love with pizza all over again.
Wagamama is of course well-established in the UK. The first restaurant opened 25 years ago and continues to provide their Asian fusion dishes across the world (an emerging cuisine trend as noted by MCA). What struck me most about Wagamama when talking to their Marketing Manager Petya is that in its 25 years it’s always kept on top of eating trends. Their menus are seasonal and are re-vamped 2-4 times a year. They’re all about listening to their customer and seeing how they react to new dishes, new recipes and for some, their favourites disappearing. This ensures they can always adapt to what the customer wants. Their freshly prepared dishes can easily be customised to dietary requirements, such as gluten and dairy intolerance.
When I asked what it is that makes people come back to Wagamama we were told that, aside from the delicious fresh food, they were proud of their top service and atmosphere in the restaurants. Wagamama is able to meet the ever-changing needs of their customers, whether it’s a quick sit-down meal for one (some people come in, order their usual and ask for the bill straight away), a more relaxed three course meal for a family or of course a takeaway, which you can order online and collected from the store or get delivered via Deliveroo.
As for the food, we nibbled on some Duck Gyoza, Bang Bang Cauliflower, Salted Edamame Beans, Duck Wraps and their newly added Hirata Steamed buns – Pork Belly with Panko Apple, and Mixed Mushroom and Panko Aubergine. All of them were delicious, especially the steamed buns – I’d visit again just for those!
Tucked away up one of the side roads off Guildford High Street, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Meat the Greek was just a kebab house. However you would be the poorer for dismissing this little independent gem. Meat the Greek prides itself on authentic real Greek food made by Greek chefs and most of the ingredients are imported straight from Greece. Contemporary Greek is cited as a ‘warm trend’ in the latest MCA eating out report, but when the shop opened 5 years ago, its customers were predominantly Greek students studying at the university, but through word of mouth its customer base grew and it is now well-known and much-loved throughout the town.
They serve Yeeros (shredded meat) and Souvlaki (skewers) in both pita wraps and as a platter. We had a Chicken Yeeros platter with shredded chicken, onion, tomato, mayo-mustard, a delicious freshly made pitta, and fries. Nothing is done by halves at Meat the Greek with even the chips freshly cut and made on the premises! A lot of care was taken on the plating and presentation, which was especially surprising considering the small amount of covers in the restaurant which largely serves takeaway. We also tried some fries with feta sprinkled on top, and a feta dipping sauce which divided opinions in the group! This was real quality fresh food, and such a fantastic find.
Lastly we went to Thaikhun, a Thai street food chain with 10 restaurants across the country. Thaikhun bucked the trend of what works in London works everywhere, by starting in Manchester and spreading across the country, a model which is becoming increasingly popular as the London casual dining market reaches saturation. They open in towns with large student populations as their authentic food is very popular with Asian students seeking a taste of home, which speaks for its authenticity. What we loved so much about Thaikhun was the feel of the restaurant. Each restaurant is decorated with hand-picked items from the owner, sourced directly from Thailand. Each one is also themed, with the Guildford branch being dressed like a train station complete with train cart, and railway track running down the middle of the restaurant – but don’t worry, no actual trains running through. As well as the authentic food, the manager at Thaikhun told us that they were proud of their atmosphere, making sure each customer has the best experience and great service. We did feel very welcome in Thaikhun and loved the way the restaurant was decorated. In fact, we had only planned to pop in to talk to the manager, but we had to return at the end of our tour, sampling Chocolate Fondant with Coconut Ice Cream and Mango Sticky Rice, as well as some of their delicious cocktails.
It would be easy to get swept away in all the delicious food we tried on the day (and there wasn’t a bad mouthful served to us) but we also learned and experienced so much from actually taking time out to see the latest food trends first hand. Talking directly to the managers about the ethos of each brand and how they deliver it gave us great insight. Plus, the added bonus was we each came away with a long list of places will be returning to for dinner very soon!