Previously known as the MCA Foodservice Marketing Conference, the Winning In Foodservice Conference certainly covered marketing, but this year went further, hearing from a range of speakers covering everything from eco pubs to e-commerce. Packed with content there was a lot to take in and some great speakers, but if pressed for our key take-outs we would have to go with the following…

Value vs. Values – Unsurprisingly in this current climate, value for money is the third most important consumer driver when it comes to eating out of home (after quality/taste and the fact that people have visited before) but what is interesting is that consumers are becoming increasingly more driven by values. With environment, health and provenance seeing a marked increase in importance when consumers are choosing where to eat out. I in 4 are choosing an option based on environmental impact, with conscious consumption on the up. Obviously vegan and veggie is one of the big players in the healthy eating boom, along with reducing sugar and fat, as well as meat and eating more fruit and veg ranking highly. Whilst regarding provenance, animal welfare, sustainability, local sourcing, Fairtrade, air miles, organic and British are all on the agenda with animal welfare, sustainability, Fairtrade, and airmiles marked out as areas which need improvement from operators. So whether it’s making changes to lessen your environmental impact, offering more healthy options or sourcing responsibly, operators need to be shouting about it as it will without doubt influence consumers and help to drive business.

Beyond the Corner Shop – We heard from Simply Fresh the innovative convenience operator successfully blending convenience with foodservice to create a hybrid aligned to today’s consumers’ varying needs throughout the day. Their Manchester store in Stretford Mall has been called ‘the best thing to happen to Stretford since Mohammed Ali visited’ and with its light, airy, contemporary feel with street food operators offering up fresh world cuisines, a bar-come-checkout and modern seating area to catch-up with friends, it certainly looks the part. Taking advantage of all possible occasions from eat in, to takeaway and even delivery, Davina (the speaker and brains behind the operation) identified that to offer consumers a stand out foodservice offer it was better to bring in street food operators, giving them a bricks and mortar base, and him the flexibility to refresh the offer without committing to training up transient staff. This inspired model certainly seems to be working and with more sites in the pipeline we could be looking at a fusion of foodservice and convenience for the future.

The World’s Most Ethical Pub – Having hit the headlines this year, The Green Vic pop-up set the benchmark when it comes to ethical with 40-80% of its turnover going to good causes (mainly through suppliers and wages). Indeed, with around 10-15% of profits going to small local charities, half its staff homeless or ex-military looking to integrate into civvie-street, a rule that all suppliers have to be a charity or social enterprise and an entirely vegan menu with everything recyclable/composable etc., it’s little wonder Randy (the founder) claims the title of the World’s Most Ethical Pub (it’s also a b Corp!). The pop-up ran for 3 months in Shoreditch and with plans to bring it back again as a pop-up in 2020 and long term ambitions to franchise the concept globally and even cross-over into hotels and possibly airlines, this is an ethical entrepreneur to watch!

Big Data on the High Street – We heard from Vita Mojo the software solution and high street operator about the opportunity rich data can open up when it comes to understanding the customer, for example a best-selling line may actually not be a good idea if it is bought once and then those customers never come back! Taking insight to the next level, Vita Mojo is in the enviable position of having a huge data set on its consumers due to its nutritional focus, which means customers often enter preferences on macro nutrients to personalise their meals and order online or via kiosks (again supplying data). But although they see a real future in click and collect and kiosk ordering to help queue times and drive convenience, they also appreciate the human connection and how it can add value to what can be a very transactional encounter in food to go. However, with millennials and gen Z often preferring not to engage with staff and keep their air pods in the whole time (the youth of today eh!) you can see the logic of technology for a high street retailer in food to go.

Delivering the Future – Turning our attention to the stratospheric rise of delivery in the UK we heard from Uber Eats. MCA estimates 851m meals will be delivered in 2019, up 9.2%, with an average spend per head per order up by 3.9% to £9.47. In a relatively short space of time delivery has disrupted the foodservice market, offering both a great opportunity and a real threat. Uber Eats works with existing foodservice brands, virtual brands and delivery only. Operating in 6 continents, 63 countries over 700 cities, they touch 2% of the world’s population (although they haven’t made it to Ashtead yet!). They are just behind Just Eat but ahead of Deliveroo in the food delivery league table and are the fastest growing food delivery app in the UK, now in 130+ towns and cities in UK and Ireland, covering 40% of the UK population, serving 1,500 restaurants, with the app downloaded more than 8 million times. Currently they account for on average 1.5 meals per week with their consumer base, but they are keen to go after the other 19.5 functional meal occasions they currently don’t cover and are even now looking to partner with convenience stores to offer day to day meal occasion delivery. By teaming up with brands and creating ghost kitchens and virtual brands they work with their partners to identify additional revenue streams by ‘spinning up concepts’ for delivery through Uber Eats. For example a traditional Japanese restaurant might start offering Poke under a virtual brand because it is on trend and there is nobody doing it locally – all clever stuff. Powered by data (much like Vita Mojo) they aim to work smart to cross-fertilise their Uber and Uber East businesses, drive additional revenue for existing restaurants, assist with defining the right product range for the audience and of course delivering as fast as possible! Certainly a very clever business model.

Coffee Shops and Food to Go – The coffee shop market is in strong growth up 6% to 4.2bn with over 10,000 outlets, driven by UK coffee culture, flexible formats and multipurpose spaces. It has 7% of the food to go market, up 1.7%, competing with c-stores which have 29% share and sandwich and bakery retailers like Subway and Greggs which have 15% share. Currently they are experiencing the highest food to go meal frequency since MCA started recording – up 10% (compared to an overall OOH market total of 1% growth). 45% of breakfast occasions are food to go (up 3%) and the average food to go lunch spend is up 10% to £5.72 (whilst the market is only up 2%), so it is safe to say things are looking good for food to go in coffee shops! This may be something to do with the fact that they are moving with consumer trends and demand, offering up everything from artisan style pastries in Café Nero to healthy ranges in Soho Coffee, vegan wraps in Starbucks and global cuisines in the form of hot food pots in Costa. So where next for coffee shops? Snacking, dinner occasions and meal deals have all been identified as key opportunities and of course breakfast, which continues to be the fastest growing meal part across the market.

Shopping for Business Online – Along with Red Bull, MCA shared the work they have been doing on the wholesale retail e-commerce opportunity. Specifically they have been looking into how brands need to make the most of this often overlooked channel, as the balance in B2B tips towards e-commerce. With retailers moving to online ordering (23% in 2010 is now 96% in 2019!) foodservice is also seeing a similar shift with 13% of orders going through e-commerce in 2010 compared to 53% now. Driven by younger purchasers used to online ordering and the convenience it offers for out of hours working, brands can no longer afford to ignore digital. By working with wholesalers and analysing their Google analytics and customer journeys they have managed to debunk commonly held myths and develop a guide to making the most of e-commerce (it’s not rocket science but simple things like ensuring you have high res images to simple sizing icons can make all the difference and are often overlooked). It’s a model which they plan to replicate in foodservice and the drinks market in 2020 and we fully intend to work with MCA and our clients to ensure this great resource can be harnessed to help drive our clients’ brands online.

Sparking Ideas – Spark, the food trends service arm of William Reed, took us through their menu innovation tool which aggregates new and exciting trends from all over to help inspire those in the world of food and drink. Driven by the latest consumer trends, Spark offers up insights and examples of innovation from ingredients to concepts and editor Tom Lee shared some recent highlights. To find out more visit

The day was punctuated by an interesting and informative panel discussion which included concepts to watch La Bab, Coqfighter and K10 and their take on the issues raised during the day. From the need to introduce vegan options that sit well with your menu and concept, to the ever-present demand for indulgence in a market that continually shouts health. As ever it was a great day and one that delivered a lot of ‘food for thought’. Well done to Jill and the events team at MCA & him! on another excellent event we look forward to the next.