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Our new Q&A series profiles some of the speakers at this year’s Casual Dining.  First up is Jo Fleet, MD of Flat Iron, who’ll be appearing in an exclusive opening day panel session on ‘Large multi-site brands of the future’.

She’ll be sharing insights on the pros and cons of multi-site brand expansion, including her experiences with investment, staffing, innovation, and site finding.  Prior to joining Flat Iron in 2017, she was MD at Wahaca for seven years — responsible for the growth of the brand to 27 sites across the UK.  She also spent over ten years at ASK and Zizzi, part of the Gondola Group, as CEO — overseeing the opening of over 200 restaurants.

What do you feel is the key for operators, like you, to successfully compete against your competitors?

Hiring and retaining great people.  Communicating with them so everyone knows what is expected of them.  Train and develop people and promote from within.  Create an environment where everyone feels part of a team and create a culture where people actually want to come to work and have fun.  Keep questioning how we can improve.  Focus on quality openings rather than quantity and, above all else, make sure as you grow you are still as good as your first restaurant.

What do you see as key trends for the casual dining sector in the coming year? 

Customers wanting value for money.  Loyalty from customers not through discounting but offering consistency, quality and, above all else, a great experience.

Who or what inspires you to be even better?

The amazing new concepts and brands popping up all the time.  You simply cannot be complacent.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Look at what you are good at and always look to improve and keep your focus on simplicity.  Do not get distracted and always focus on your core values and never be afraid to try new ideas.

Describe the casual dining trade show in 3 words:

Informative, unique, innovative.

How important is the Casual Dining trade show to you and the sector?

Very important. It is a great opportunity to meet, share and celebrate the sector we are in.

See Jo at Casual Dining 2018

Large multi-site brands of the future: 3.30pm in the Keynote Theatre on Wednesday 21 February.  The session will also feature Richard Boon, founder & MD of Hubbox, and Peter Martin (chair), VP of CGA Peach.

To register for a free trade ticket, please click here.
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