Top takeaways from the MCA Restaurant Conference 2017


Top takeaways from the MCA Restaurant Conference 2017

MCA restaurant conference

Matthew Smith and Rachael Head of HGEM’s New Business team attended The Restaurant Conference at The Marriott Grosvenor Square, which saw a range of great speakers share insights and experiences from across the industry. Matthew and Rachael offered their top takeaways from the event:


Why does Pizza Express CEO Jinlong Wang work in hospitality? ‘I love it!’ he explained. Wang’s insightful talk covered the concept of ‘dinertainment’ – the brand have recently introduced ‘Pizza Express Live’ comedy and jazz nights - and why he believes the increasingly popular experience economy is a valuable concept for the chain. Why? Innovation, technology and service are crucial for survival, said Wang.

International expansion

Alison Vickers, who spent 17 years as Yo Sushi! Development Director, offered generously from her own experience on the challenges involved in taking a brand overseas. She stressed the importance of being adaptable without losing sight of your core values, as well as offering practical advice on choosing your team and location wisely.

Deliveroo Editions

Deliveroo’s Commercial Director Justin Landsberger discussed how this CAPEX light model can nurture small independents – such as Peckham-based pizza concept Crust Bros, who operated exclusively from a South London Deliveroo kitchen prior to opening their first site - as well as add value to well-established brands like wagamama.

The Blacklock story

Former lawyer Gordon Ker shared the entertaining story behind chophouse Blacklock, which has already earned The Observer’s ‘Best Sunday Lunch’ accolade and a spot on The National Restaurant Awards Top 100. Blacklock were invited as a ‘Concept to Watch’, alongside HGEM client Rola Wala and London-based fried chicken brands CHIK’N/Chick ‘n’ Sours.

Data is the fuel of your business

Dave Coplin of The Envisioners/Mitchell and Butlers created the biggest buzz of the day with a brilliant talk on embracing tech. His ‘elephant powder’ anecdote encouraged operators to question how every step in their operation benefits the guest experience – if you’re doing it for the sake of it, you need to review it.

Engage your employees and guests will follow

Lord Mark Price, former Waitrose MD, shared useful tips for creating a happy, engaged workforce. He reflected on the importance of empowering staff to make decisions, sharing information from the top-down and ensuring team members are rewarded for their efforts. He echoed Blackrock founder Gordon Ker’s view that a happy, opportunity-focused team is the key to a positive guest experience.

The future of recruitment

Employing over-50s may be the answer to post-Brexit hospitality recruitment, according to Corbin & King CEO Jeremy King. His inspiring talk also covered the brand’s plans to create a 50/50 employee gender split and why creating an offering that is best in class is the key to surviving tough times.

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