Quality Food Awards Interview: Keith Bradshaw - customer experience is the new battle-ground for Irish food and drink

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Keith Bradshaw specialises in providing consultancy advice and solutions for FMCG brands, grocery retailers, restaurants, hotels and    businesses across the foodservice and hospitality sectors through his business Urban Brand Creative. Here he sets out his own personal    insights about the food and drink scene in Ireland and, in particular, how all businesses now have to respond and be relevant to an ever-  changing consumer that is looking for quality, value, provenance and brands they can believe in.

Increasingly brands and retailers will stand out by the customer experience they give not just in their outlets and with their products, but  through technology and how consumers can interact with them. Bradshaw and his team at Food Culture 360 are hoping to play their part in this by developing a range of B2C and B2B apps whereby individuals or businesses can use pre-payment technology to build loyalty and customer retention (see below for details).

 

How do you see the overall Irish food market retailing scene?

The overall scene is encouraging after the chaos of the recession when nearly one third of the market value was wiped off the food service industry. The market has generally stopped contracting and has begun to expand again.

 

What are the big challenges?

The initial post-boom challenge in Ireland was that the consumer had travelled extensively, dined out regularly and cultivated an aspirational culinary palette. Add this to the wonderful effects of food fusion through immigration and the returning diaspora and you have the emergence of the “hybrid-consumer” – a discerning customer demanding more for less!

Having addressed painful lessons from the recession such as value for money, provenance, seasonality and customer experience, it’s now crucial that retailers don’t become complacent.

Some big industry leaders in the high street have had to severely discount to survive. The challenge is once you’ve discounted and survived, how do you then increase your prices in line with inflation without alienating your loyal customers. There is still much to be done in order to enhance the customer experience and project a brand message through the emerging white noise of digital and social media commerciality.

 

What are the big opportunities?

Food trends typically evolve every 24-36 months in Ireland. Big opportunities now lie with keeping up with these emerging trends and food technology.  Scores of talented diaspora are returning from London, New York, Toronto, Melbourne full of ideas and a can do attitude! Ireland’s emerging speciality and artisan coffee market is a beacon to the world in quality and innovation. Remember the cupcake bubble about three years ago?

Ireland’s emerging specialty and artisan coffee market is a beacon to the world in quality and innovation. Remember the cupcake bubble about three years ago? Well it’s all about the donut now! Likewise, when pulled-pork starts appearing on high street fast food menus – you know it’s time to move on!

Other big opportunities lie within with the customer experience, not just through good service, but also in emerging technology. The next big thing will be apps that allow the customer to pre-order and pay in advance and we will see these coming to market in the next 12-18 months.

 

How do you think the big box retailers are performing?

Overall pretty well. The entrance of the discount German multiples into the market has been an effective game changer. They initially led the drive towards provenance “This is Larry from Meath – he’s a second generation potato farmer” etc.

This provenance and their price points only gained real traction in the market in the wake of the recession. The other multiples have taken this on board and Supervalu, who were bought out by Musgraves in recent years, have allocated up to 20% shelf space for local suppliers, which can shine the spotlight on regional artisan producers.

This is why I love the Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards  so much. As a judge you get to sample the wares of some of the finest Irish artisan producers, to spot talent and emerging brands. Part of my professional day is recommending excellent suppliers to clients and it’s thrilling see new and innovative produce out there.

 

Is the market open for new innovation?

Absolutely. All brands must strive to evolve and grow or stagnate and decline. It’s that simple. At Urban Design Creative we undertake brand SWOT reports, competitor benchmark analysis and brand digital health checks to ensure our clients are abreast of current trends. Now that foodservice suppliers have worked hard on product quality, seasonality, price-points and are making continuous headways into the customer experience – the next big battle will be in pre-ordering revenue generating B2B & B2C apps. It is our generation’s “New Frontier”.

 

You are working on developing your own app to help with payments? Can you explain what this and why you see this as an important growing area?

Our apps reduce labour costs and customer waiting time, increase revenue, capacity turnover, customer experience and brand awareness. Payments are made through Stripe and all come with a bespoke marketing dashboard with real-time drag and click capability. The apps are linked to social media so that the consumer drives the client’s brand through guerrilla marketing.

Over the last 24 months Urban Design Creative has been developing pre-order revenue generating apps for the B2C and B2B market in the HORECA, FMCG and food services market. Our apps have an 87% repeat rate and show average consumer spend increase by 27%.

A big selling point is that our apps do not take a cut of the revenue. Clients are attracted to the fact that unlike Justeat (which takes 11%-14% commission) or Deliveroo (30%), we don’t seek a slice of the action.

We’ve already won tech awards from World of Coffee in Rimini 2014. We are incredibly excited about the next 18 months and have some incredible projects in the pipeline.

 


You recently established your own business Urban Brand Creative. Why and what do you want to offer?

We believe Urban Brand Creative is Ireland’s premier creative outsourcing consulting agency operating in the food services, hotels, restaurants and catering (Horeca) and FMCG space.  We craft innovative in-house solutions for our clients’ needs. We are a boutique agency and specialise in food and beverages.  No two days are the same – it’s an exciting time for Urban Brand Creative.


 Any examples of the work you have done to date?

We work with start-ups, SMEs and large FMCG companies. Some recent project highlights have included a €600 million FMCG market leader and home to over 20 iconic Irish brands. We’ve worked them on a couple of exciting projects now, with more in the pipeline.

We have also been delighted to work with the Eddie Rockets group, a €50 million fast casual empire which owns the brands Eddie Rockets, Rockets, The Counter Burger Bar and Flash Harry’s Bar & Kitchen. We worked hard on delivering menu engineering, chef and floor training, social media, marketing strategy, food photography, brand protection, food blogger events and promotional material. Within six weeks we had increased turnover by 59% and that was opposite a Wetherspoons.

Other projects range from designing restaurants, bars and coffee shops; menu engineering, FMCG branding, creating B2B and B2C apps, carrying out industry reports, FMCG brand analysis, digital health checks, marketing start-up packs and retail improvement packs.

 

Any examples of food retailers, producers/brands that you think are doing a good job In world of apps and mobile connection

It’s still very much uncharted territory – the wild west! Frankly a lot of apps are loyalty based only, or else they are clunky, ugly and riddled with bugs. One notable exception is a client of ours Bear Market Coffee in Dublin who are completely clued in. Recently shortlisted as best coffee in Dublin these guys are going places and are entering an exciting phase of expansion. We will have their app live and trading by the end of the month. They are certainly ones to watch.

 

Who is doing well and why / where do you see the future for grocery retailing vs online/mobile

The grocers have had to up their game in an increasingly competitive market. On an anecdotal level I have recently moved office which means most mornings I take a short commute to work on the train. It is the first time in over a decade I have used public transport on a near daily basis. It’s mind blowing the level of people using smartphones during their commute, what with the proliferation of more affordable technology and free wi-fi.

The consumer is on-line continuously and apps are an emerging technology here to say.

* You can take a look for yourself what Food Culture 360 is developing with payment apps. Simply go to the App Store and search “Food Culture 360″. The username/email is “fc360″ and the password is “password”.