London was the capital of the casual dining world last week – as Casual Dining returned to the Business Design Centre in Islington, on 22-23 February, to showcase the best new products, solutions, insights, and innovations of the year.
The multi-award winning event enjoyed its fourth year of significant growth, raising the bar yet again to serve up 4,785 unique attendees, with over £736m annual spending power, to its 200 exhibitors. Notably, nearly one in three visitors are responsible for a corporate spend of over £500k.
Demonstrating their growing appetite for casual dining, senior executives from all the UK’s biggest restaurant, pub and bar groups, plus thousands of independent operators, hotels, wholesalers, distributors, attractions, and contract caterers, packed the aisles to discover what’s new and next at this vibrant industry showcase.
Significantly, the strong footfall has been backed by glowing testimonials from across the show floor. Fantastic, excellent, informative, busy, successful, unmissable, and essential – are just some of the words attendees have used to describe the show so far.
“We don’t have to fly across the Atlantic to find the latest industry innovations under one roof any more – Casual Dining has brought all that and more to the UK,” says Karen Forrester, CEO of TGI Friday’s UK.
“Casual Dining is always a fantastic opportunity to discover something new,” says Garry Duncan, operations director at Nando’s. “It’s become the meeting place for our industry.”
“Brilliant show again, with the most innovation I have seen at any of the shows this year,” says Tim Foster, co-founder of the Yummy Collection.
“I thoroughly enjoy visiting Casual Dining. It’s a must attend event!” says John Metcalf, commercial director at Strada.
Among the attendees were also senior decision makers from Jamie’s Italian, JD Wetherspoon, Enterprise Inns, Whitbread, Marston’s, Revolution Bars Group, Mitchells & Butlers, PizzaExpress, Pizza Hut Restaurants, Carluccio’s, Prezzo, GBK, Punch, ASK Italian, Zizzi, Greene King, Bella Italia, Café Rouge, Las Iguanas, Giraffe, K10 Restaurants, ETM Group, Côte Restaurants, Yo! Sushi, Papa John’s, Glendola Leisure Group, Bourne Leisure, Hollywood Bowl, The Rank Group, Gordon Ramsay Restaurants, Stonegate Pub Company, Charles Wells, Compass Group, Sodexo, WSH, Bidvest Foodservice, Hilton, Thwaites hotels & spas, and wagamama (winner of ‘Multiple Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year’ at the Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards 2017).
The industry’s favourite show
Chris Brazier, group event director of Casual Dining, calls the support of the show ‘phenomenal’, highlighting the dedication of the thousands of attendees who turned out over both days. Casual Dining 2017 was a record-breaker in every respect, he says.
“The fact that we’ve just enjoyed our best ever show – with record numbers of buyers and, more importantly, a record quality of buyers – who battled travel strikes and Storm Doris to attend – is testament to this wonderful industry of conscientious decision makers, who simply wouldn’t miss the two days a year that the casual dining sector gets together. Their support of the show, as always, has been phenomenal. Thank you to all our visitors, exhibitors, speakers, associations, and media partners,” he says.
It was this quality of attendees, the high level of engagement, and quantity of new business leads that impressed countless exhibitors. Prompting over 75% of them (another record) to rebook for next year before the show had even closed.
Summing up their exhibitor experience Sam Chote, head of sales at Karma Cola, says: “For a business still getting started, choosing the right show can be quite stressful. Casual Dining 2017 was clearly the best trade show we have done – we had so many great conversations.”
“We had a huge amount of interest for 2017. We have already signed up to exhibit in 2018 – well done to the Casual Dining team for another fantastic show,” says Terry Larkin, group general manager at JJ Food Service.
“Casual Dining is my favourite show of the year. It always delivers a good atmosphere and a high level of serious visitors looking for innovative ideas and quality products – the main reason why we’ve exhibited since the show’s inception,” says Robert Marciano, director of DiSotto Foods.
“Casual Dining was another fantastic show. It’s by far the best for us and the quality of footfall is exceptional,” says Kim Addison, marketing director at Vito UK.
“This is the second time that we have chosen to exhibit at Casual Dining and I have to say that each year gets better! The contacts and leads that we collected were absolutely outstanding and we have meetings booked as a result beyond all of our expectations. The Casual Dining show is now firmly in our diary as a ‘must do’ for next year,” says Kim Antoniou, founder of Kafoodle.
One of the show’s key draws was its exceptional show content. There were 18 Keynotes and panel sessions covering all the key developments and challenges affecting the industry – from market trends and Brexit to menu innovation, profitability and brand expansion.
Highlights included standing-room only sessions by leading industry operators – Karen Forrester, CEO of TGI Friday’s UK, Martin Robinson, non-executive chairman of CDG, Mark Fox, CEO of Bill’s Restaurants, Jo Fleet, MD of Wahaca, Andrew Gallagher, group marketing director at Côte Restaurants, Jeremy Roberts, CEO of Living Ventures, and David Pellow, VP of operations – Europe at Hard Rock International.
“Casual Dining is a great event – two packed days for the industry to get together and share new ideas, discuss trends and an opportunity to meet new suppliers,” says Pellow.
As in previous years, market updates were delivered by Simon Stenning (MCA), Graeme Loudon (CGA Strategy), Peter Backman (Horizons), and Kate Nicholls, CEO of the ALMR.
Innovation Challenge Awards & King of Craft – results
Designed to promote and celebrate new ideas in the market place, the prestigious Innovation Challenge Awards, attracted over 40 entries this year. Fourteen finalists (chosen by popular visitor vote on opening day) took turns to impress the judges in the live pitching session on Thursday 23 February.
Those judges included Chris Knights, group executive chef at Young’s & Geronimo Pubs; James Nye, MD of Anglian Country Inns, Martin Caws, group exec chef at Casual Dining Group; Alyson Scott, procurement & supply chain director at TGI Friday’s; and Alice Elwes, senior purchasing manager at Côte Restaurants.
Ascentia FSE’s F1 High Speed Oven, Double Dutch Drinks’s Pomegranate & Basil variant, and Karma Cola by Karma Cola Co were the winners of Gold awards this year.
Europastry’s Crystal Beer Sourdough Burger Bun, Morgenrot’s Ceriux Rubia, and Surgital’s Amichetti Laboratorio Kids took home Silver.
While Bronze awards went to 3S POS – Hospitality EPOS (3S POS Online Food Ordering System), Bar Foods (Moroccan Lamb One-Pot), Beacon Foods (Juice-it), Island Oasis (Island Oasis Frozen Beverage Solution), Joe Delucci’s Gelato (Joe Delucci’s Mulberry Gelato), Kafoodle (Kafoodle’s Labelling), McCain Foodservice (McCain Signatures Staycrisp Fries), and New York Bakery (Croll).
Other winners at Casual Dining 2017 included Thistly Cross Cider’s Whisky Cask Cider and Freedom Brewery’s Organic Helles Lager, which were both crowned King of Craft 2017. In a first for the show, both received equal marks from the judges, who included selected VIP visitors.
Save the date for Casual Dining 2018
“Casual Dining is an excellent opportunity for both NPD and networking – I would recommend it to anyone in the industry,” says Ryder Butler, head of procurement at Bill’s Restaurants.
Casual Dining will return to the Business Design Centre, in Islington, London, on 21-22 February 2018. For further information, please visit www.casualdiningshow.co.uk.
Casual Dining was the first launch show (UK and international) in over five years to win ‘Best Tradeshow Exhibition under 2,000sq.m’ at the Association of Event Organisers’ Excellence Awards 2014. In 2015, it won the same award for the second consecutive year (it was also named a finalist in 2016).
High res images are available upon request.
Diversified Communications UK (Diversified UK) is a fast growing trade event organiser and publisher based in Brighton, Peterborough and Nailsworth. Diversified UK’s food portfolio includes Casual Dining; Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards; lunch!; Commercial Kitchen; Natural Food Show at Natural & Organic Products Europe; Nordic Organic Food Fair in Malmö, Sweden (co–located with Natural Products Scandinavia); and Natural and Organic Awards. For more information, visit: www.divcom.co.uk.
Diversified UK is part of Diversified Communications, a leading international media company providing market access, education and information through global, national and regional face–to–face events, digital and print publications and television stations. Diversified serves a number of industries including: seafood, food service, natural and organic, healthcare, commercial marine, and business management. Based in Portland, Maine, USA, Diversified employs over 850 staff, across eight divisions in seven countries. For more information, visit: www.divcom.com.