Tasty insights at MAPIC: Food Unplugged

Last week we attended the cozy rooftop of Aqua Nueva in central London, where MAPIC commenced a delicious series of ‘unplugged’ networking events in 2017. Hosted by JLL Foodservice Consulting, the evening constituted the first stop on a sector-specific international road trip for the retail property tradeshow, focusing on both the fundamental and finer ingredients involved in the successful execution of contemporary F&B.

Foodservice is experiencing rapid growth around the world, particularly in London, in terms of both occupancy and importance. As ‘experiences’ continue to dominate consumer preferences, F&B offerings have become pivotal in determining where people choose to shop. With fundamental shifts in shoppers’ behaviour, it is integral that every component of the sector understands the prevalent challenges facing brick and mortar and deliver innovative concepts that fit within the new framework of an increasingly digital market. This was the broad umbrella under which MAPIC’s eclectic mix of speakers, including landlords, developers, owners and entrepreneurs, occupied a single stool and, without a microphone or visual aids, offered intimate accounts of their professional journeys and outlooks on the future of the industry.

“When you taste, real, genuine, honest food, it stays with you forever”, proclaimed Former boss of Harrods Food Hall and current Time Out Market CEO, Didier Souillat, kicking off a string of engaging speeches that covered this year’s hottest topics. From the quick turn-over appeal and inherent freedom of food halls and markets, to the wider drawbacks of inflexible long-term leases and huge wall of costs facing restaurateurs discussed by Hammerson’s Sarah Fox, every insight brought us closer to the vigorous pulse of F&B.

Other speakers included James and Thom Elliot, founders of London-based restaurant ‘Pizza Pilgram’, who detailed the highs and lows of starting out as an independent as well as the current value of creating a strong, unique brand around a single-dish concept restaurant. Similarly, Stephen Tozer of Soho’s acclaimed ‘Le Bab’ restaurant talked recreating the Kebab in the wave of ‘gourmatization’ sweeping the city. According to Tozer, “consolidating the things we value” is the way to the heart of the modern consumer. Highlighting that concept restaurants are now looking to open outside London due to lower rents, Tozer also drew our attention to the resurgent significance of location. Founder of Benugo, Ben Warner echoed these remarks earlier in the evening as he discussed his company’s privileged position in the coffee shop sector, having established deals to open in some of London’s most iconic locations, including the V&A and British Film Institute on Southbank.

We also heard about the importance of place making for the modern consumer lifestyle from Alice Keown, Asset Manager at British Land, which in early April announced a deal with Pergola to create a vibrant new 850-capacity al-fresco F&B venue in Paddington. Additionally, UberEATS GM, Toussant Watinne provided a strategic perspective on the impact of technology on the home-delivery sector. The emergence of app-based delivery companies has, in the last few years, revolutionised our ability to consume restaurant-standard cuisine from the comfort of our homes. In light of the company’s rapid success, Watinne expressed great ambitions for the future, which involve the repositioning of such dining habits as the everyday norm.

Overall, it was an excellent evening that confirmed the vitality of F&B in the capital and set the scene for MAPIC Italy and MAPIC 2017. The Innesco team in attendance were active on social media from start to finish, reaching a few thousand more users, while harnessing the networking opportunities to engage with some truly fascinating people. In the undercurrent of every discussion resonated a palpable passion for the industry, and, as a result, we came away invigorated with an insatiable appetite for good food.

Natalie Depietro welcomes guests to MAPIC: Food Unplugged

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