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Business leaders networking at the Peach 20/20 Conference  

27 Jun 2023

Top takeaways from Peach @ The Beach

On a sunny Midsummer’s Day in Brighton, Peach @ The Beach brought together top leaders to talk through hospitality’s big opportunities and challenges. Here are some of the top insights.

1 AI brings exciting opportunities…

Tech was a big theme at Peach @ The Beach, and a session on Artificial Intelligence and automation heard how it is already being used to cut costs and increase efficiency - and has the potential to deliver even more. Yfood founder Nadia El Hadery said AI is already powering supply chain savings via solutions like forecasting tool Kisan and farming robotics provider Tortuga AgtechVirta and Foodhak were examples of how AI can support healthier eating, while Satis and SymphonyAI were streamlining chores like packing and warehousing. Despite some apocalyptic headlines about AI, there’s a lot to be upbeat about. “AI can free mental and physical stresses… overall, staff performance is better and people are happier,” El Hadery said. For examples of good AI practice, look to big QSR brands in the US, she added.

2 … But there are risks too

Operators agreed on the potential benefits of AI - but it’s going to need serious investment. “I’m excited about it… it’s going to give us the opportunity to do more for the same [resources],” said Joel Robinson, digital & technology director at Azzurri, which is using AI for jobs like forecasting and labour scheduling. “But we need to be honest as a sector about what we need to do to unlock the advantages… we need to invest more time in getting the foundations right.” Venues must also make sure solutions don’t alienate people who want face-to-face contact. There are legal issues too, especially around plagiarism and new regulations, said Jonathan Emmanuel a partner at law firm Bird & Bird. Companies will need an AI policy, the panel agreed.

3 How to turn data into dollars

Hospitality isn’t yet smart enough about its data, according to a session on analytics and marketing. “We’re terrible at it… we pride ourselves on being ‘people’ people but we do less than any sector to understand our customers… there’s so much money being left on the table,” reckoned Victoria Searl, founder of the DataHawks agency. Businesses need to invest in data that drives loyalty and personalisation and understand not just how people behave but why. “We regressed on data after GDPR—people looked at that and panicked,” said Dan Brookman, CEO of Toggle & Airship. “It’s so important that marketing gets more investment.” The key is identifying and really understanding your most profitable customers.

4 Hospitality needs to adapt to change

While hospitality is resilient, rapid changes in technology and communications mean it will need new digital skills. Sustainability was another issue to track closely, with new research from CGA and Nutritics showing around a third (34%) of British consumers are ready to spend more on environmentally friendly options. “Some say consumers don’t care about sustainability anymore, but they do… and it’s only going to grow as younger generations - and that includes your front-line teams - are far more engaged,” said event chair Peter Martin.

5 Concepts have to stay fresh

In an illuminating head-to-head with Peter Martin, Sessions founder Dan Warne told the story of what’s been called a record label for food. Via incubators like Brighton’s Shelter Hall, Sessions helps start-ups cut their teeth, and it’s taught him the importance of keeping concepts fresh. “Social media is forcing change very quickly… as a bricks and mortar industry it’s hard to keep up with that and you end up with operations that get tired quickly,” Warne said. “The best way forward is to refresh the content of a site to ensure it matches what consumers want.”

6 Hospitality is about more than tech

Sessions uses app data to great effect, Dan Warne said. “It gives us a view of every customer who comes in… it helps us assess which operators can scale up.” But like several Peach @ The Beach speakers, he argued that it shouldn’t take away from traditional and interactive aspects of hospitality. “There’s a balance [that’s needed] of automation and the human.”

7 The regions are roaring

Peach @ The Beach wrapped up with a panel session on growth opportunities beyond the hotbed of London. Brighton’s Black Rock Restaurants Group is a good example of how hospitality groups can flourish outside the capital. “Brighton’s got its own micro-economy,” said founder Razak Helalat. “London’s still pretty tough at the moment and there’s lots of exciting opportunities outside. When everyone is going right, look left.”

8 Local knowledge is power

Brands that want to reach the regions need to properly understand their new neighbourhoods, the panel agreed. “It’s very hard to just turn up in a new city,” said Pizza Pilgrims’ co-founder Thom Elliot. “You’ve got to really know what a place is about and not go for the stereotypes.” “We go to cities dozens of times before settling on them… It’s about embedding in a community before committing to a launch,” agreed Juliette Keyte,marketing director at Red Engine Team, which runs Flight Club and Electric Shuffle “When you open [in a new city] you really have to prove yourself… people will tell you very quickly if you get it wrong,” said Olivia Reid, F&B director at  Sessions. “You need to go in and get the local intel.”

9 We need to stay positive

Thom Elliot summed up the mood of determination and cautious confidence in the room. “You’ve got to be optimistic,” he said. “Maybe it’s naïve, and you can’t just bury your head in the sand. But if we’ve survived Covid then we can survive a few more ups and downs.”

Peach @ The Beach was supported by event partners AirshipBird & BirdCasual DiningCGA by NIQCOREcruitmentLucky SaintSquareToastToggleWireless Social and Zonal.

Our next conference and networking event takes place on 14th November at the Roundhouse, London. If you would like to join us, you can request an invite here.


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