Tuesday, 10 January 2012

table7.com's Food For Thought - Restaurant Industry Event

Following the recent table7 Food for Thought event at Hix Soho, table7 announce the release of the event transcript to media, which casts light on current trends and fluctuations across the industry. These changes include the surge in January marketing activity, the luxury dining sector’s use of social media and the rise of at-bar dining across the capital.
The transcript includes conversation, opinion and key quotes from the event’s four panellists and notable industry guests.
table7’s Food For Thought - an intimate restaurant industry event - took place on 5th December 2011 and centred on new research findings from a UK-wide, table7-commissioned survey that studied insights into matters affecting the restaurant sector.
A panel of industry experts, facilitated by renowned food critic, Richard Vines, discussed the findings with input and questions from guests. The panel included Ratnesh Bagdai, partner with Mark Hix in Restaurants Etc; chef Massimo Riccioli; Eliot Sandiford of Bacchus PR and James Lewis of Gauthier Soho. The event was created and hosted by table7’s co-founders, Moses Hassan and Ashwin Jain.
Guests included proprietors, managers and marketing teams from key dining establishments and restaurant groups including Caprice Holdings, Malmaison, Gaucho Group, Bistrot Bruno Loubet, Hawksmoor and Hakkasan.
The decline in consumer spending...
The first subject up for discussion looked at cuts in consumer spending. Based on the table7 survey, 28% cited eating-at-restaurants as first-for-the-cull in times of financial crisis and 40% of businesses stated that ‘they were planning to cancel Christmas parties this year’. The panellists fed back that, although Christmas bookings were late, year-on-year business was consistent. However, a point of note was a discussion that January, once generally accepted as a ‘quiet time’, was now subject to pressure on delivering good footfall. As a result restaurants revealed that they were broadening service hours to include breakfast and afternoon tea, plus, new promotions for January were imperative. As for the rest of 2012: there were hints that restaurants were needing to be ever-more creative with marketing and their offer in order to boost custom.
Social media and marketing...
The conversation moved on to social media and marketing, perked by the table7 survey finding that ‘most people will try a new restaurant based on a personal or Facebook recommendation (55%)’. The panel’s views were split on the use of social media for top restaurants and the difference of opinion was further amplified across the floor with advocates and critics of Twitter being involved in the discussion. Comments came from Zeren Wilson of Bitten & Written, and Jo Barnes from Sauce. Zeren revealed that he is a fast advocate of Twitter having advised an independent seller to use the platform to announce and bolster sales at a temporary outlet. The seller tweeted to bloggers and word spread: promotional
items sold-out immediately and large gatherings ensued. The temporary store was a huge success, finally picked-up and lauded by key print journalists. In contrast, one panellist commented that social media was not an appropriate tool for high-end establishments, the implication was that their image could be undermined and that ‘traditional routes’ such as print were more beneficial. In addition, ‘consensus’ was noted as a key property for social media: opinion across all platforms should be consistent to truly influence positively.
New trends...
The event ensued with a look at trends, discussions on changes in menu-style and the noted increase in younger diners something attributed to the influence of celebrity culture. In addition, the group discussed the upturn in ‘bar dining’, a burgeoning preference noted by restaurateurs across the city. Again the panel were split – one panellist mentioned that they ‘wouldn’t be seen dead eating at a bar’!
Using partner sites to support drops in trade...
The final discussion was the use of partner booking sites – such as table7 – to support quieter times in the restaurant trade. The importance of discretion – for which table7 is known – was a hot topic: Most were in agreement that this was key characteristic for any partner offering reductions on the bill; a concern being negative PR and people thinking “’they’re having troubled times, they’re having to ‘Groupon’! What’s up? What’s happening to their bottom line?’ Then stories start and then you can’t stop that engine.”
It was also formulated that the quality of a partner site should be on-par with the quality of the establishment and table7 was cited by panellists as a key choice for high end restaurants and a partner site that would deliver exceptional quality. This fact was underpinned by table7’s Moses Hassan, who reinforced that table7’s aim was to be consistent with a restaurant’s luxury brand image, “What we hope for with table7 is a really safe channel-to-market to provide access to people. For this reason we have got certain policies online. For instance, we’re not using SEO: We don’t want to show up next to Hix and compete for their business. We’re not looking to cannibalise. We’re looking to develop really long- term relationships so that when people think of table7 they don’t think of the ‘discount’, they think of it as a great way to access a great experience.”

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