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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 12th Dec 2014 - Friday Opinion
Subject: Alternative beer on restaurant menus, local marketing, five food trends for 2015 and predictive analytics
Authors: Martyn Cornell, Ann Elliott, Darren Tristano and Samantha Grocott

Mainstream beers are no longer enough on the restaurant menu by Martyn Cornell

Back when Cafe Rouge was – with respect to all the efforts being made by the current team – rather more cutting-edge than it is today (we’re talking 20 and more years back), one of the particular pleasures of going there, for me, was being able to buy bottles of Jenlain, an especially fine French artisanal beer in the style known as bière de garde, hard to find in Britain, then and now. It’s a lovely, malty, full brew, perfect with almost any dish, and a 75cl bottle was ideal between two. The disappearance of Jenlain from the menu was one of the main reasons why I stopped going to Cafe Rouge. Today the chain’s beer offer is Stella Artois, Leffe Blonde and Hoegaarden – mainstream AB InBev, three brews you will find on the shelves of every UK supermarket.

Call into one of the eating-out rivals that have sprung up in the past ten or so years and, with luck, it’s a different story. Take Bill’s, for example: Camden Hell’s lager, Schiehallion pilsner from Scotland, Sam Adams lager, Camden Pale Ale, in some outlets Brewers & Union lager on draught – it’s not hipster heaven, but it is certainly showing an awareness that something has happened in the world of beer since the 1980s.

Of course, this is nothing like the scene on the United States, where craft beer in many restaurants is effectively an essential: it is, from a British perspective, a staggering fact that 55% of craft beer in the US is drunk in restaurants and bars, against just 24% of all beer – in other words, craft beer in the US is massively tilted towards the on-trade compared to mainstream beer.

Unsurprisingly, US brands opening in the UK in the past few years reflect this situation. Take the beer menu at Shake Shack in Covent Garden, for example: London Lager from Meantime Brewing Company and Jaipur IPA from Thornbridge Brewery you might almost expect, but the tiny boutique Kernel Brewery’s Table Beer (just 2.7% abv), the same brewer’s Export Stout (7.5% abv and £5 for a 330ml bottle), Meantime’s Chocolate Porter, (6.5% abv and again £5 for a 330ml bottle) and the chain’s own ShackMeister Ale, brewed by Thornbridge and £4.75 a pint, suggest a retailer who believes selling Stella Artois is not going to be brand-enhancing.

It is, presumably, the US influence that means British “better burger” chains seem to have good craft beer offerings. Byron, for example, sells beers from the American craft brewers Oskar Blues, Founders and Odells, as well as the home-grown Beavertown and Camden. Gourmet Burger Kitchen lists Meantime pale ale and lager and Harviestoun Blonder. It doesn’t have to be beer and burgers, though: Whyte & Brown in Soho, London actually uses the strapline “Free-range chicken and craft beers”, and its beer range must be among the most eclectic of any restaurant in the UK: Hardknott from Cumbria, Wild Beer from Somerset, Tiny Rebel from Wales, Four Pure from London, among others. Among other restaurants with a craft beer offering, Gaucho only sells beer from Meantime Brewing, including a couple of “own-brand” beers under the Rocio name, while its sister chain Cau also has craft beers from Meantime alongside a couple of more “mainstream” imports from Argentina and Mexico. Red’s True Barbecue reflects its roots with beers from the US craft brewers Flying Dog and Founders.

In the more “family-oriented” market, alas, you’ll still be struggling to find anything other than mainstream beers, though Frankie & Benny’s offers Sam Adams lager for those who run screaming from Becks, Corona and Budweiser, while the Giraffe restaurant chain has Brooklyn lager, Saint, a craft lager from Manchester, and to my personal delight, White Shield IPA – not really a “craft” beer in the strict sense, but a lovely, historic and now a too-hard-to-find brew.

Of course, craft beer is not going to be for everybody. Nando’s, for example, has no real reason to change from its present Lusophone offering of Sagres and Superbock from Portugal and Brahma from Brazil, because its audience isn’t there for the beer: and there is no real craft beer in Portugal anyway (although South Africa …). But it would be good to see a chain such as Cote, for example, reflect in its drinks menu not just the beery traditions of the country from which it takes the inspiration for its menu, such as Ch’ti or, again, Jenlain, but the growing interest in craft beer in France, with brewers such as Daniel Thiriez finding acclaim in the US with his Etoile du Nord.

Similarly it’s disappointing to find that so many of our leading mainstream suppliers of Italian dining are completely failing to reflect the explosion that has taken place in the Italian microbrewing scene. There are now more than 800 microbreweries in Italy, giving a density of breweries per head actually much higher than in the United States. You would not imagine so looking at the beers on sale in Ask, PizzaExpress, Prezzo and Carluccio’s, where Italian brewing begins and ends with Peroni. It can be done: Jamie’s Italian went to Agostino Arioli from Birrificio Italiano, maker of the highly regarded Tipopils, to design its own “craft” draught lager, Libertà, which is brewed for the chain by Freedom Brewery in the UK.

Again, the UK’s Japanese and Asian-themed chains – YO! Sushi, Wagamama, Itsu and the like – are missing a trick not offering, say, Japan’s Hitachino Nest craft beers alongside the mainstream Sapporo, Asahi and Kirin. If I can buy Tiger in my local corner store, why would I want to drink it on a night out?

When a company such as Young’s is selling the equivalent of two million pints of craft beer a year, there seems little doubt that many restaurateurs are missing out by sticking to the same brews that have been on menus for 30 years. There is a world beyond standard eurolagers, and your customers, increasingly, want to drink it when they go out to dine.
Martyn Cornell is managing editor of Propel Info

How to get the best out of local marketing by Ann Elliott

It’s something every multi-site operator has experienced – that one black sheep among a repertoire of sites, the one venue that doesn’t perform as well as the others, with no obvious cause or reason. These sites suck energy and time out of organisations. I know area managers who just dread negative figures, sites not hitting budget or poor like-for-like sales - they are so aware that these sites will be the focus of attention until they turn around their performance. It’s such a pain when they know that they could deliver so much more if they spent their precious time driving their more successful units rather than working on problem ones.

We do work with many clients on turning around underperforming sites. If they believe in the operator and they think their offer meets market needs, then the solution is often an increased focus on local marketing. We can handle the marketing of any site on a one off basis without troubling the manager too much. It’s often a godsend for the busy area manager who wants his unit teams to focus on delivering excellent and consistent consumer experiences inside their own four walls rather than trying to develop and implement their own marketing plans outside of those walls.

Local marketing can be incredibly broad and there are lots of ways of making it work – here are just three of the things to do: get the database right, be active in the community and get the influencers on-side.

Get the database right
Every operator understands the need for data but it’s not as easy as it sounds to build and maintain a database.

There needs to be a concerted effort to gather data. Simply having cards that customers can choose to fill out doesn’t get cut through nowadays and won’t get enough uptake. There needs to be an incentive, a reason for people to hand over their data.

Then it’s a case of regular and engaging communication with the database - not bombarding them with irrelevant nonsense. It’s about being in touch regularly enough to always be in mind when they’re deciding where to go and eat. It’s about simple stuff like giving them an email with a voucher just before their birthday. It’s easy once the right information is in place.

Be seen in the community
Being ‘community-friendly’ means more than just making an annual donation to charity although that’s important. Restaurants and pubs must be involved in their community – give prizes, donate meal vouchers, attend fetes, support the local blog. They should look at sponsorship opportunities – be it a local cricket club or an under 12s football team. They get their picture in the paper quite often, and of course it’s a great PR story.

People won’t decide to come to a venue if they don’t remember it exists in the first place.

Get the influencers talking
Word-of-mouth is just as important now as it ever has been. 92% of consumers trust a word of mouth recommendation - higher than any other form of recommendation be it on social media or in the Press.

I once ran an exercise with an operator where we brainstormed how many local influencers we could name. We got to well over 300 names including hairdressers, all those who worked on the local paper, taxi drivers, concierges, vicars, headmasters, the WI, rotary clubs, youth clubs – there were loads of them to make contact with. Our research also showed that giving a great experience to one of these people meant they told four other people about their visit. It was a cheap, easy and cost-effective way to drive traffic.

Under-performing sites don’t need to be a nightmare for long but they do need a well thought out and implemented marketing plan which is cost-effective, time-efficient, delivers results and doesn’t demand anything of the management apart from operational brilliance. Easy when you know how.
Ann Elliott is chief executive of leading sector marketing and public relations agency Elliotts –

Five UK foodservice trends for 2015 by Darren Tristano

What’s ahead for the UK foodservice industry? Here are five transformative food and restaurant trends for the coming year:

Trend 1.  Alternative Diet Focus:
The allergen labelling requirements will fuel significant changes at restaurants, namely by compelling operators to be more transparent about the ingredients they use. We’ll see an increase in gluten-free, peanut-free and dairy-free options on menus over the next year, as well as more attention to vegan/vegetarian and faith-based diets. These changes may present a challenge to some, but those who fully embrace it have the opportunity to broaden their customer base.

Trend 2.  Regional British Cuisine:
Pride in regional cuisines is influencing restaurants across Great Britain thanks in part to the recent Scotland independence referendum. Operators are rediscovering rustic preparations and classic dishes of their area and menuing local flavours and ingredients. Restaurants are even showcasing regional British cuisines in other regions to further differentiate yet celebrate the varied cuisines and cultures of each nation in the UK.

Trend 3.  The Bold Life:
Today’s consumers are maximising their foodservice occasions by seeking flavourful options on menus. Look for smoky and spicy flavours to lead culinary innovation, with inspiration found in US regional Creole and Cajun fares, as well as the increased use of ethnic condiments, sauces and peppers that pack a punch. Bolder takes on barbecue – a trend that developed from the street-food movement and continues to gain steam – will incorporate global influences, particularly from Asia and the American South.

Trend 4.  The Customer Knows Best:
The National Customer Satisfaction Index’s reported decline in satisfaction at restaurants has operators working to make consumers feel more involved and appreciated than ever before. Count on chains to use a range of mediums, particularly social media, to obtain feedback on everything from where to open their next unit to what items they should – or shouldn’t – offer on menus. Additionally, expect operators to find new ways to cater to customers, such as making their online services more user-friendly and personalised to the individual.

Trend 5.  Expect the Unexpected:
Consumers’ constant demand for innovation is resulting in some unexpected changes to restaurant operations and menus. Restaurants – even established chains like KFC and Pizza Hut – are experimenting with major brand shakeups as a way to extend beyond their comfort zone and appeal to a larger audience, particularly Millennials and Generation Z. On the operation front, we should anticipate new prototypes and service styles and more technological advancements. On menus, expect more mash-ups (e.g., hybrid foods, mealpart crossover) that surprise diners and add twists to classic recipes, as well as new beer cocktails and kid-friendly mocktails that bring originality to beverage menus.
Darren Tristano is executive vice president of insights firm Technomic

The importance of predictive analytics by Sam Grocott

There was a story doing the rounds recently about an American father who complained to his local Target superstore when they sent his teenage daughter vouchers for money off maternity products. Their IT systems had predicted that, based on the household’s buying behaviour, she was pregnant. The father assured the store that she was not.

The store was very apologetic and rang the father the following day to apologise again, only for him to announce that his daughter was, in fact, pregnant.

The technique – called predictive analytics - had correctly spotted what the father hadn’t. There are some simple techniques which retailers use to spot customer trends but the simple analysis of a shopping list can point to certain triggers. Buying a birthday cake one year can result in a discount for a birthday cake purchase the following year.

The rise and rise of global brands like Google and Facebook is testament to the value of accurate customer data. Facebook’s $100 billion market value is based on the fact that it knows how to turn customer information into sales opportunities. Like Target, it knows when to sell you maternity products or life insurance or a new kettle, but in Facebook’s case, it is only reading what you have freely posted. And it will pass that information on to relevant sellers.

Google serves you adverts based on the things you have searched for on the internet using its search engine, or written about in your Gmails. Netflix’s algorithms know what you will enjoy watching, and are so confident of their technology that they are commissioning multi-million dollar budget programmes based on the fact that the already know you will like it.

What you may be aware of is that many of the largest global IT organisations are working to develop off-the-shelf systems that trawl the internet searching for vital, personal information. And in the hospitality sector, future-thinking companies are stepping into the fray and investing in technology that helps them to stay ahead of the game by using systems like online reservations to take their first step into predictive analytics.

You can think of this system of the future as ‘the ultra-maitre d’. A system that monitors all your customers and identifies ahead of time when they will be wanting to go out for a meal. By accessing social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like, systems can predict the intention to dine out. For example, the customer may have posted the plan to go out to the cinema – there’s clearly a need to eat out either before or after so if the system knows the location of the cinema, it can suggest a potential venue. And more importantly it can tell the venue to make an offer to dine to the potential customer.

It is therefore essential that you build a digital relationship with your customers. And this is not just about putting a special occasion or a the name of a favourite bottle of wine in a black book by the front desk, but mining the available data to get every piece of information and building a picture of each customer’s behaviour.

Using Twitter and Facebook are not just fads. Each platform allows you to better understand and relate to your customers. And the data that they share is a huge repository of useful information to help you model their behaviour. Birthdays, anniversaries, work parties, dates. All are posted and shared, often with the entire online community. And a ‘like’ on Facebook isn’t just a recommendation. It is an invitation to start a digital relationship. It allows you as a business to prioritise these customers and ensure they get the best possible experience. And the good news is that more and more people are preferring to have a digital relationship with business. Companies of all sizes report to us that online reservations systems have become an imperative, not just a nice-to-have add-on. This is largely because the phones are no longer buzzing with 16-24 year olds making table bookings. Instead they are group-sourcing the best place to eat on Facebook and securing their night out with friends without ever speaking a syllable to each other or to you.
Samantha Grocott is managing director of data management and online reservation firm LiveRES

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