Ten things we learned at CGA Peach’s Consumer Insight and Marketing Conference

Our recent sell-out Conference delivered a host of insights from some of the sector’s brightest minds. Here are ten of our top takeaways. 

1. Marketers should think like consumers
A consumer’s impression of a restaurant or pub brand might be very different from your own, suggested Wagamama’s head of digital and loyalty Andre Johnstone. That means operators should make sure they properly understand their guests’ views before starting any marketing strategies, he added. “We’re constantly trying to reimagine the brand from our customers’ perspective.”

2. Marketing begins at the table
You can run all the offers, promotions and loyalty schemes you want, but the best marketing campaign is in the frontline operations, said Leon and London Union co-founder Henry Dimbleby. Provide consumers with a great experience and they will do all your marketing legwork for you, by spreading the word about your brand, he pointed out. “Marketing isn’t about what you say—it’s about what you do.”

3. Millennials are vital—but so are older customers
One of the Conference’s most eye-catching stats came from CGA Peach’s senior account manager Chris Jeffrey when he revealed that millennials now account for 55% of eating out occasions and 61% of drinking out occasions. Understanding their habits and likes is essential, and CGA Peach’s new consumer segmentation tools can help. With the help of We Are Spectacular’s Mark McCulloch, they divide consumers into ten distinct groups, each with their own behaviours, brand repertoires and average spends. Among the notable segments are the ‘Carefree Dolce Vitas’—empty-nesters and risk-averse people in their 50s and 60s who stick to brands they trust. It was a reminder of the importance of marketing to affluent older people as well as the millennials.

4. Campaigns have to work on the ground
Marketing campaigns can sometimes be too ambitious and flop in practice because they haven’t been properly thought through, Pho’s head of marketing Libby Andrews told the Conference. “You need to explain to your ops teams why you’re doing a marketing initiative… close that loop and get people on board,” she said.

5. Feedback is crucial
Understanding what consumers do and don’t like is vital, said chef and Temper founder Neil Rankin—and the best place to do that is the restaurant. As well as analysing post-visit feedback and reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor, operators can gather people’s opinions simply by observing them at their tables, he said. “You can get a really good idea of what people think by being on the frontline—watching how people are eating, how much they’re leaving on the plate and so on.”

6. Consumer communication has gone digital
Jamie Oliver Media Group’s chief content officer Zoe Collins said marketing teams had seen a step change in the way they communicate to their customers—from long-established media like print and broadcast to digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Our traditional platforms are still very important—they’re our ‘tentpoles’. But digital helps to create the dialogue with consumers in between that activity.” However, she added that as millennials and other consumers get older, many migrate away from social media and back to media like TV.

 7. Drinks are going super-premium
As CGA Peach director Jamie Campbell pointed out, the popularity of premium, artisan and niche choices has been one of the biggest trends in drinking out in recent years. It is in evidence in sectors from coffee to soft drinks to beer to spirits—and CGA Peach data suggests the trend is now taking the logical next step to super-premium. It’s something that is in evidence in the rise of small-batch, ultra-fashionable and high-value spirits in particular, and is being adopted by the likes of the Revolution Bars Group and others, Campbell noted.

8. There’s nothing new about good pubs
Research suggests craft beer has been the saviour of many drink-led pubs and bars in the last few years, but as the Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh pointed out, it’s not as if it’s a whole new concept. “Our mission was just an emperor’s new clothes idea—a pub with good beer,” he said. “That’s something that won’t ever go away.”

9. It’s a market share game
CGA Peach’s vice president Peter Martin shared figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker that revealed only 0.6% growth in like for like sales for leading managed pub and restaurant groups in 2016—below the rate of inflation. It means most growth will have to come from stealing market share, he pointed out. “It’s a market where there’s no intrinsic growth.”

10. Simple is often best
Brand propositions need to be quick and easy to understand in a hectic world, said Sue Grist, founder of the Egremont International consultancy. To achieve that, restaurants should focus on mastering the fundamentals—doing the basics brilliantly, she advised. “Restaurants are at their best when they’re simple and straightforward. Before we replicate anymore, we should all ask if have we made things as simple as they can be.”

 CGA Peach’s 2017 Consumer Insight & Marketing Conference was supported by our partners CPL Online, Fishbowl, Maru/edr, Red Bull, Yumpingo and Zonal.