With the Northern Restaurant & Bar heading to town next month, Andrea George, Head of Retail and Leisure at Bruntwood, explores food and drink trends for 2019…
We see ourselves as partners to our food and drink customers. Our ambition is always to help them grow as a business through the relationships we create, offering a personal level of support based on experience and strong knowledge of the hospitality sector.
With food and drink so vital to creating vibrant places to live and work, it’s important that we stay ahead of consumer trends in this area, so we can provide the strongest opportunities and the most relevant advice to our customers.
Experience matters – There’s so much choice now when it comes to food and drink, it leaves consumers ever hungrier (pardon the pun!) for something different. People’s expectations are sky high and so having a food and drink experiential element that engages the customer has become increasingly popular. This doesn’t have to mean something ‘off the wall’, it’s just about anything that allows the customer to engage with a product – whether that be the opportunity to talk to the chef and/or founder at a street food outlet, or an incredible dining environment… it’s all about creating something out of the ordinary but that is genuine and heart felt.
Hatch, our pop-up food, drink and retail village on Oxford Road in Manchester, has been a huge hit because it’s a great experience – from start to finish. Customers discover a hidden courtyard right in the heart of the Oxford Road bustle and under the Mancunian Way. The whole place has been designed to feel fun, lively, communal, and it’s very Instagrammable - created from reclaimed shipping containers, with festoon lighting and greenery set against the concrete brutalism of the Mancunian Way. The food and drink on offer is second to none – with a very high quality and eclectic mix of independent street food which is carefully curated and constantly changing, giving customers a new experience each time they visit. There’s craft coffee and nano brewed beer from brands like ÖL and Takk who have a really clear brand identity. There are also live music and community events happening all the time – it’s more like a festival than a restaurant experience and that has proved very popular.
More important than ever is that brands must know who they are and mean it. Yes, consumers want an experience – but they don’t want a gimmick.
Indian street food restaurant Mowgli is a shining example of such an attitude and commands a great deal of respect from its customers – it is so honest and transparent about its ambitions. Every last inch of the brand feels authentic, natural and built on a great idea delivered with genuine passion. Founder Nisha Katona, who’s been awarded an MBE for her services to the food industry, is vocal, visible and hands on in the creation of each restaurant, sharing pictures with her fans throughout the build process just as readily as stories of the temples behind her grandmother’s house in India which have inspired the features in her spaces. Her new restaurant at University Green on Oxford Road is already a buzzing addition to the Oxford Road Corridor.
Firebird Hope is another great example of an authentic brand with a strong personality and a clear message. They make the best fried chicken and seitan - simple as that. Starting out with a street food pitch at Hatch they now have a permanent home at our neighbours YES, and it’s their confidence in the product and passion for what they do that has led them to stand out from the crowd.
Customers respond to these authentic brands in a very strong way - they come to events, buy merchandise, engage with them on Instagram. It’s powerful and is why brands like these are thriving right now. The dwindling of the middle of the road, casual dining chains, and the rise of the street food movement and smaller independent restaurant and bar operators only reinforces the importance of this.
People want to follow an honest brand they understand, that they like and that they trust.
It hardly sounds like a trend, but I mention it because, now more than ever before, quality really is king. None of the above can happen without it. A business can’t create experiences or authenticity without quality at its heart. In 2019 brands will really struggle to survive in the North’s major cities without serving up really great food and drink that’s created with expertise and care. Today's consumers are turned off by mediocrity.
With no signs of slowing down, surely this is one of the most fascinating trends of the last couple of years – not just in terms of what it means for the industry but as an incredible lesson in how quickly the image of a food culture can change. It’s worth reflecting on the difference in our own perception of veganism in 2019 as opposed to five years ago – it’s remarkable. The public perception has gone from ultra-niche to ‘Deliciously Ella’ being a household name in a just a few short years.
For the hospitality industry – it’s another example of where a quick fix will no longer do. Customers expect not just a ‘vegan option’ as an after-thought, but something which might tempt anyone to eat it, vegan or not.
The rise of veganism also tells us never to underestimate how much consumers care about sustainability and ethical choice, and how much they influence the overall food and drink picture.
Consumers have never been so environmentally and ethically discerning when it comes to food and drink, and meat reduction has become the most talked about side of making food more sustainable. The vegan revolution is very much linked to consumers’ overall attitudes towards making sustainable choices.
Many consumers are choosing to reduce the amount of meat they eat and swapping dairy for plant based alternatives, rather than going completely vegan. All this means that the plant-based and vegetarian slice of the market just keeps getting bigger and bigger – as flexitarians, pescetarians and generally ethically conscious consumers expect more meat free options on the menu.
Another consumer revolution around sustainability, hugely relevant for the restaurant and bar sector is plastic. We live in a ‘post Blue Planet’ world now - again, it's incredible how quickly that happened. Plastic straws weren’t even on the radar five years ago and almost overnight huge restaurant groups have banished them. Customers are passionate about the issue and have been the ones to empower that change - to ignore them is at a cost to your credibility these days, and therefore to your business.
At Bruntwood, sustainability is a huge part of our vision too and we’ve recently partnered with YFood to bring YFood Tech Wednesdays to the city. It’s a pioneering new Food Tech community set up with the ambition of nurturing northern food industry brands, enthusiasts, influencers, innovators, startups and investors who are committed to transforming the food ecosystem and developing sustainability through innovation.
Hosted on the second Wednesday of every month, the events are designed to create opportunities for collaboration, learning, inspiration and support for startups and those interested in setting up a Food Tech business.
Through its influential network, YFood has championed a plethora of Food Tech advances from Farm to Fork to Bin such as hydroponic underground farms, converting coffee waste to bio-fuel, personalisation tech for hospitality which can deliver nine million combinations served in under five minutes, 3D printed food, edible sachet & water packaging and bio-reactive expiry labels.
I’d urge anyone in the hospitality industry who’s interested in sustainability (and as outlined there’s many reasons why you should be!) to hear from YFood’s CEO and founder, Nadia El Hadery at NRB: https://yfood.com/event-details/?yfood_eventid=209. And to come along to one of our next YFood Tech Wednesday events, details here: https://yfood.com/food-tech-wednesday/
You can also enjoy an exclusive 20% off Bruntwood discount when booking tickets to the Bruntwood Northern Restaurant and Bar Debate here when using the code BRUNTWOOD.