2018 Highlights

2019 highlights now available >

The next Food to go Conference will be taking place in London in February 2020. To be the first to hear about our 2020 programme, please register your interest by sending an email to events@mca-insight.com.

The MCA Food to go Conference 2018 shed a light on how to maximise share of the UK food to go market, making it an unmissable day for fast food outlets, cafés, bakeries, sandwich shops, supermarkets, convenience stores, and their suppliers.

The 2018 conference brought together 120+ representatives of over 80 operators, investors and suppliers to this market, and delivered insight into the future of the grab & go market, plus lessons from major food to go brands such as Waitrose, Itsu, Caffe Nero and Greggs.

The 2018 Food to go Conference delivered insight on:

  • The UK Food to go market in 2018 and beyond Read more >>
  • Why 2018 will be a big year for Itsu Read more >>
  • The success of Greggs’ Rewards loyalty app Read more >>
  • AI and data-driven staff development
  • Driving the digital revolution in food to go Read more >>
  • Key opportunities and trends in soft drinks Read more >>
  • Innovative food to go concepts to watch Read more >>
  • Waitrose on the future of food retailers and technology Read more >>
  • How to influence the convenience shopper in less than 60 seconds Read more >>
  • Pricing, marketing & culture in food to go Read more >>
  • Airports represent a massive opportunity for food to go operators Read more >>
  • The continuing growth of Caffe Nero’s c860-strong business Read more >>


The UK Food to go market in 2018 and beyond

UK Food to go growth - MCA Food to go Conference 2018Simon Stenning, Executive Director, MCA, opened the food to go conference with a data-rich presentation of the UK food to go market, its evolution up to 2018 and beyond, including comparisons with the total eating out and food retail markets. Supported by data from the MCA Eating Out Panel, which surveys 6,000 UK consumers monthly, Stenning explained how both the frequency of eating out visits and average spend have declined compared to 2016. However, the food to go market is forecast to grow by 2.8% in 2018, outpacing the total eating out market, with lunch proving the most resilient day part.

Stenning then revealed the biggest trends set to drive the grab and go market in the next 3 years, most notably healthier eating, greater value for money, tech-led convenience and affordable sustainability.

Get more market data and insights on the food to go market on mca‑insight.com >>
Read more about the top 10 food to go brands on mca‑insight.com >>
Get a copy of the MCA food to go market report 2018 >>

[Go back to the top of the page]

Why 2018 will be a big year for Itsu

Itsu founder Julian Metcalfe took the stage at the MCA Food to go conference 2018 to discuss the the launch of the first Itsu site in America, with potential for more overseas expansion in Europe, such as Germany and France. In the UK, Itsu’s regional growth is still in its relatively formative stages, with the brand’s offer having moved from a sushi takeaway place to 50% hot food and eat in. While Itsu is not slowing its expansion, it is being more cautious with site selection, while older sites are being brought up to date.

Metcalfe said he saw delivery, which currently accounts for 3% of sales, as having huge potential for Itsu. “We are using Deliveroo and UberEats very effectively. Itsu is designed to be eaten cold, and noodles, soups and rice travel quite well.”

Read the full article on mca‑insight.com >>

[Go back to the top of the page]

The success of Greggs’ Rewards loyalty app

Greggs customer director Hannah Squirrell told delegates of the MCA Food to go conference how one loyalty initiative, driven through their loyalty app “Greggs Rewards”, was a victim of its own success. She explained that their last year’s free lunch offer for students was so popular that it sent the app to number one in the Apple store – as well as causing a few localised problems as hungry students flooded into stores, eager to make the most of the offer.

Greggs Rewards App - MCA Food to go Conference 2018Sharing details of the apps functionality, including personalised home screens and targeted offers, Squirrell explained that the Greggs Rewards app enables the company to gather key customer insight, in turn allowing the brand to boost the loyalty and satisfaction of their customers. Greggs have thus created six typology groups, from “Young, Free, Social consumers” to “Mature Quality Seekers”, enabling them to truly understand the journey of each customer type and how to best enhance their satisfaction.

[Go back to the top of the page]

AI and data-driven staff development

Attensi - MCA Food to go Conference 2018Krister Kristiansen, Managing Director, Attensi UK, talked about how AI and data can help create a customer-centric organisation. With front-of-house staff key to influencing the customer experience, Attensi promises to unleash employee potential through Attensi’s simulation-based training solution, whereby AI adapts virtual customers’ behaviour to provide a dynamic difficulty level, ensuring variety, high relevance and tailor-made feedback.

Their research shows that 95% of staff claim this training method made them better at handling customers. Attensi even reported that one of their clients saw a 15% increase in LfL revenue growth.

[Go back to the top of the page]

Driving the digital revolution in food to go

Eagle Eye - MCA Food to go Conference 2018Tim Mason, CEO, Eagle Eye, shared the benefits of leveraging mobile apps to create a real-time connection with food to go customers and drive more custom in a hyper-connected world. Using a SaaS platform like Eagle Eye’s, operators can leverage the data collected by their brand mobile app to get a holistic and data-driven customer view. This enables them to learn a great deal about who their customers are, when they are visiting and what they purchased. Based on this data, eating out brands can then develop targeted offers and boost loyalty, citing Greggs as a prime example of a great customer loyalty app.

Mason’s view is that a physical refurbishment is much less profitable than investing in technology and mobile apps, SEO, on-premise Wi-Fi, digital coupons and connected tills.

[Go back to the top of the page]

Key opportunities and trends in soft drinks

Steve Kearns, Managing Director, Cawston Press, talked about the new trends driving the soft drinks market. Unsurprisingly, healthy living and “real” ingredients are major growth drivers, with 36% of consumers reducing their sugar consumption (ShopperVista Oct 2016).

Soft drinks opportunity - MCA Food to go Conference 2018Going hand in hand with the healthy trend, it is no surprise that teetotallers are on the rise, especially amongst younger people. Brands can look at innovative soft drinks, as people do seek to try out new flavours, however they mostly prefer a short list of recognisable ingredients.

Finally, Kearns cited four emerging trends to watch in soft drinks, namely “hot to cold” coffee and tea, savoury drinks (think Kombucha and ginger-based drinks), new water formats and meal replacement drinks such as cold-pressed juices and protein drinks.

[Go back to the top of the page]

Innovative food to go concepts to watch

Just before lunch, delegates got the opportunity to hear all about three food to go concepts, which MCA believes will be shaping the grab & go sector over the next few years thanks to their innovative approach in addressing today’s food to go trends.

  • K10 Restaurants, a London-based sushi concept: Maurice Abboudi, co-founder of K10 Restaurants, explained that their success is due to offering affordable, restaurant-quality take-away food, whilst providing choice and personalisation. He also pointed out their genuine sense of hospitality through engaged people rather than mechanical customer service.
  • Chopstix, a fast-growing noodle bar chain: Max Hilton-Jenvey, Global Head of Franchise at Chopstix, firstly shared his views on today’s new generations of eating out goers, current food trends and the future of F&B. He then talked about how Chopstix fits into today’s eating out market, describing how quality food at value prices, served under 1 minute, appeals to a wide demographic. The brand is also keeping an eye on technology as Hilton-Jenvey outlined that 8% of total worldwide foodservice orders will take place online by 2021.
  • Vita Mojo, the ultra-personalised food-tech restaurant: Nick Popovici, co-founder of Vita Mojo, explained how the brand’s mission is to build the technology for the restaurant of the future, so that it can provide a personalised food experience through automated and data-driven operations. He then dived into why food personalisation is becoming increasingly important to consumers and how the Vita Mojo food ordering system enables advanced meal personalisation when eating out.

[Go back to the top of the page]

Waitrose on the future of food retailers and technology

Simon Burdess, director of foodservice at Waitrose, said times were pretty challenging for food retailers as people are changing the way they conventionally eat. He pointed out how technology is changing the way people engage with food and how the lines between food retail, foodservice, food to go and hospitality are blurring. For him, the impact of voice activation is going to be huge.

[Go back to the top of the page]

How to influence the convenience shopper in less than 60 seconds

Convenience stores - MCA Food to go Conference 2018Jill Livesey, managing director at HIM, told delegates that food to go was “helping to futureproof the convenience sector”, as it is set to increasingly drive traffic, especially from younger consumers. However, stores need to work hard to capture the attention of shoppers, especially that of Millennials and Gen-Z, which attention spans are 12 and 8 seconds respectively. On marketing a food to go offer, she pointed out that “consumers respond to colours and shapes more than words.”

Livesey said research by HIM found that 1.7% of consumers choose a convenience store based on its fascia brand, suggesting there is little brand loyalty. However, 65% of shoppers said that it was important to shop at independents.

[Go back to the top of the page]

Pricing, marketing & culture in food to go

Pricing strategy for eating out operators - MCA Food to go Conference 2018Florence Graham-Dixon, head of innovation, JLL Food Consulting, explained how operators could raise their profits by tweaking menus and offering more higher-margin dishes. She shared an anonymised example, which you can see on the right hand side of this webpage.

She went on to say that “sometimes price hikes can have a surprising and positive effect” and explained how Chipotle raised their prices to offer higher quality, antibiotic-free pork, which resulted in them doubling their sales shortly after. They adopted a transparent approach, which built trust with their customers, who saw the price increase as justifiable.

Graham-Dixon then touched on marketing, in particular influencer marketing and Instagram. She believes that when brands invest in social media marketing, they can gain a lot of data from which to learn as a business. She dived deeper into how Instagram can be a powerful and cost-effective tool to speak about a brand and create emotional connections with followers. However, she urged brands to be authentic, highlight sponsored content and start by selecting influencers who are already part of the brand’s community. She mentioned DF Mexico as a good example of micro-influencer marketing done right.

[Go back to the top of the page]

Airports represent a massive opportunity for food to go operators

Food consumption at airports - MCA Food to go Conference 2018Jonathan Robinson, group business development director at SSP, explained that the huge growth predicted in air travel over the next 20 years provides great opportunities for food and drink operators. Beyond the rise in the number of passengers, which is set to reach 22bn in 2040, extra security measures have increased the time that people spend at the airport, which means they are more likely to purchase and consume food and drinks at the airport (35,000 cups of coffee are sold at Heathrow airport every day). In addition, more passengers are flying on low-cost carriers, which typically means they do not get food on flights and buy grab-and-go food in the airport to eat later in the air.

However, he acknowledged that operating in an airport is challenging. Due to the security measures, undertaking shop refits, the delivery of supplies, and even the recruitment of staff, create additional complexities and costs that do not exist on the high street.

[Go back to the top of the page]

The continuing growth of Caffe Nero’s c860-strong business

Caffè Nero founder Gerry Ford told delegates that the coffee chain planned to open three Harris + Hoole (H+H) coffee shops in the UK over the next four months, adopting a “very slow and steady roll out”. As the proposition of H+H is different to that of Caffè Nero, he said the company would base its expansion decisions on which brand fitted which neighbourhood the best.

Ford also reiterated plans to open c100 Caffè Nero stores in the UK over the next three years, but said one of its biggest challenges, within Greater London and post-Brexit vote, was recruitment. “We used to have 25 / 30 applicants for each job – now we have nine,” he said.
He also discussed plans to open hubs of 100 stores in individual US states. “We are currently only in greater Boston, Massachusetts, but we are moving into Connecticut,” he said. “We are looking to do hubs. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are on every corner and I don’t want to be on every corner, I want it to be special so we won’t open thousands.”

What about the impact of delivery? Ford recognised that it is disrupting coffee shops but to a lesser extent… After all, it is difficult to deliver a coffee before it’s gone cold.

Read more about Caffe Nero’s expansion in the US on mca‑insight.com >>
Read more about H+H on mca‑insight.com >>

[Go back to the top of the page]