MCA Food To Go Conference 2017

I attended the Food to Go Conference 2017 at Ham Year Hotel this week. It’s run by MCA, who supply our industry with great insight into all the latest trends and what’s happening live right now across the diverse food sectors.

This conference, which is becoming an annual event, focused totally on the Food to Go sector – which as we all know is absolutely the fastest growing area of eating out in the UK, and all the latest data suggests it will continue to lead the way for 2017 and beyond.

The day had many highlights for me. It was great to hear from Shane Kavanagh on how he and his senior management team are transforming CRUSSH into a leading brand in the healthy lifestyle grab & go niche – which has gained huge momentum over the last year. It is becoming much more mainstream as consumers and millennials drive demand for this kind of food and drink on the move offer. Shane’s approach to repositioning the CRUSSH brand is very refreshing – dynamic, fast moving, not afraid to experiment and make some mistakes – but recognising the need to move fast in a sector which is constantly changing. The new store environments are stunning, and the whole brand engagement with consumers across all platforms is distinctive, interesting and in tune with it’s audience.

There was a great talk from Andrew Stephen of the Sustainable Restaurant Association on how we all can make a difference and get involved in this ever important issue which again resonates more and more with younger consumers (you will feel this influence in CRUSSH interiors and their ‘moss wall’ for example).

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Talk about caring about consumers and the planet and brand integrity – one presentation really set the bar high on the day – Steven Novick from Farmstand.

Have a look at this business on:

Read their food philosophy. Their mission … ‘Our purpose is to offer environmentally friendly food that enables people to eat better, feel better, and live longer. ‘

But they don’t just say it, they really live it in everything they do. They take their inspiration from the roadside stalls of the American midwest (known as farmstands). Home grown, local, seasonal and grown with care. Sparkling and still water is free to customers – Farmstand hate bottled water and what it does to our environment.

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Farmstand operates a mix of restaurants, pop-ups, and partnerships with Foodservice companies to reach people in work environments – where the quality and goodness of a meal can have a real impact on how we perform through our working day. Menus are totally seasonal, and 80% of dishes are vegetarian. Very customisable, and all ready to go. They see their market position as between casual dining and fine dining. An interesting brand to watch this year.

Another really interesting presentation was from Charlie Gilkes and Squirrel (part of the Inception Group). Again a new brand looking to take contemporary healthy casual eating to a new level.

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An all day offer with all food freshly prepared to order. Staff are trained to advise customers on nutrition and how to increase energy levels, what to eat after the gym, etc. There’s foraged ingredients, seasonal and weekly changing dishes – and an incredible restaurant environment – complete with a long customisable food counter clad with a fallen oak tree, plus a timber-clad treehouse! A third of their business is take-away. ‘Salads travel well as they love to be shaken’. Although everything is freshly prepared and made, they work very hard to serve people quick as convenience is key in the ever shrinking lunchtime slot for working people.

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Charlie says the brand may be ‘nuts about health’, but they look to appeal to men as much as women (a point of difference in this healthy lifestyle sector), and also like to have fun and not take themselves too seriously.
11 Harrington Road, London, SW7 3ES