Attendees will visit HOP Vietnamese, Biff’s Jack Shack, Farmer J, Old Spitalfields Market and more on the bespoke tour hosted by foodservice expert Andy Weir from Reynolds.
The London Produce Show and Conference 2019, taking place this week on June 5-7, 2019, will culminate with a series of insightful and unmissable industry tours that will showcase the spectrum of the UK’s fresh produce business, from production through to retail and foodservice.
PBUK speaks with Andy Weir, Head of Marketing for UK foodservice operator Reynolds, to uncover what he has in store for the hugely popular Foodservice Tour that will take in HOP Vietnamese, Biff’s Jack Shack, Farmer J, Old Spitalfields Market, and more.
Head of Marketing
Q. Andy, you’ve been hard at work organising The Foodservice Tour for this year’s LPS. Can you reveal what the overarching message will be for attendees in terms of the consumer and market trends that will be demonstrated?
A. Obviously, there will be a massive slant towards the use of fresh produce in the UK eating-out market. In particular, there will be a big focus on operators offering vegan food because, for me, veganism has been the mega trend of the past two years.
Q. Of course, we’ve heard so much in the press about UK diners reducing their meat intake in favour of a more plant-based diet. Just how prominent is veganism on the UK foodservice scene, in your opinion?
A. Between 2006 and 2018, the number of vegans in the UK increased by more than 360%, according to the Vegan Society. That is quite incredible! Certainly, there is a view that the UK foodservice market is leading the way; not just in terms of the amount of dishes on restaurant menus, but in terms of menu development too.
Demographically speaking, a lot of younger adults are driving this trend. Among the 16-24 age group, 8% are aiming to go vegan, which is quite high.
But whilst veganism is a major trend — along with flexitarianism and plant-based eating in general — it isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of the UK foodservice market. There are a lot of people out there who are still eating meat, and there are many operators with meat-based menus.
Q. In what ways will the tour differ to last year? How will attendees benefit this time around?
A. London is so fast-paced and changing that it’s impossible to experience everything. Last year, we went to Covent Garden, which tends to be more slick and polished from an eating-out perspective. Where we’re going this year is more eclectic and street-food focused, while each of the operators we’ll visit are different in their own way.
Every year, the tour highlights some of the operators who are making good developments in the fresh produce arena for the interest of produce experts attending the LPS. Of all the brands we’re seeing in 2019, the majority is relatively new to the eating-out scene. They’ve been around for three to four years, yet all are evolving to a certain extent.
None are standing still, for sure. They’re all opening new sites, and almost certainly we’ll see these companies evolve into bigger operators because they have a unique food offer, and really experienced, passionate people working for them. Also, some of these operators already have the financial backing to move things forward.
Q. So, tell us what you have planned for this year. Where are you taking attendees geographically speaking?
A. We’re focusing on the Spitalfields and Shoreditch area of London. It’s quite trendy from an eating-out perspective, because there are bags of street-food vendors, various new concepts popping up and a lot of newer and innovative operators opening their first site or one of their first sites in that part of London.
It’s a good place to test new ideas and concepts.
Q. Attendees are bound to witness some fantastic innovations. Where will the tour start?
A. We’ll start at HOP Vietnamese, which is a really unique grab-and-go brand, founded by Paul Hopper in 2015 that has a bit of a street-food vibe. It’s been operating for a few years, but the brand has evolved since Paul launched it. We’re going to visit his newest opening, which is in the Leadenhall Building, otherwise known locally as ‘The Cheese Grater’.
As the name suggests, HOP’s menu is very much Vietnamese. It has been tweaked throughout the four years in which HOP has been operating, which is what operators tend to do when they launch a new concept. Certainly, the new site has some new ideas. In particular, there is a new breakfast menu, which we’re going to dive into and try when we arrive!
Also, this site is HOP’s first to have an evening meal offer as well. Paul is embracing the all-day dining concept, which is something we’ve talked about before on The Foodservice Tour. The likes of Bill’s and Côte are two of the most well-known and popular high-street brands that are doing all-day dining really well… and capturing a bigger share of the consumer’s wallet as a result. Obviously, this gives operators many more options food-wise.
Crucially, Paul will talk to the group about his journey, some of the challenges he faces and where he sees the business going in the future. Personally, as a marketeer, I really admire this operator because the attention they have given to the interior of their sites and the branding in general are really ‘on the money’. It’s very different and vibrant.
Q. A Vietnamese breakfast menu certainly will be intriguing. What types of dishes can attendees expect to trial and taste at HOP?
A. Whilst it’s Vietnamese, some parts of the menu are more Anglicised than others, and breakfast is one of those. For example, within HOP’s ‘Breakfast Banh Mi’ selection, there’s a bacon option, an egg option and a bacon-and-egg option (with Vietnamese herbs, pickles, spring onions, coriander and Sriracha mayo, of course).
This is because us Brits — particularly when it comes to breakfast — can be quite stuck in our ways. So that fusion between a British and Vietnamese breakfast, with a modern slant, is a good way for an Asian brand to incorporate breakfast onto their menu.
Also, on the HOP breakfast menu is a range of porridges. One is called Congee, which is a savoury rice porridge with egg, spring onion and coriander; while others are sweeter, such as the Sunshine Bowl (served with fresh mango and coconut) and the Super Berry Bowl (with fresh blueberries, berry compote and coconut).
Q. Which other London eating-out concepts that are celebrating fresh fruits and veggies will be highlighted on the tour?
A. We are going to Farmer J, where we’ll meet a guy called Nick Sandler. Nick’s been working in the foodservice industry for quite some time. Previously, he was the Development Chef at Prêt, and now he’s the Creative Chef at Farmer J, where he’s responsible for formulating the food offer.
Farmer J is a health-focused, fast-casual concept that is purely London-based, as is HOP. At the moment, Farmer J operates three sites, having just opened a restaurant in Canada Place, Canary Wharf. But we can expect to see this brand grow in the coming months and years, as the firm has just secured some new investment.
Q. What will pique attendees’ interest at Farmer J in terms of the operator’s use of fresh produce?
A. What makes their concept particularly interesting is the amount of vegetables on the menu. Around 70% of the menu is veg-based, and although it isn’t exclusively vegan or vegetarian, there is definitely a plant-based slant.
Farmer J serves breakfast through to dinner. On the menu is a range of rice or grains, veg sides and mains, grilled meat and fish. Many of those dishes are inspired by Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Asian flavours. There are various strong spices and herbs used throughout the menu. For example, the whole roasted cauliflower with Harissa; or the broccoli and kale Mac’n’Cheese, which is really popular.
But what makes Farmer J unique is their ‘fieldtray’ offering. Basically, diners receive the different portions of their meal — so the rice or grains, meat or veg, salad or side and sauce — in different compartments on a tray. As I said, it’s a healthy, fast-casual dining concept that offers really good value.
Nick will tell us about his background, the story of Farmer J, the food they offer and where the brand is headed. We’ll arrive just as the menu switches to the lunch offer. By midday this place has queues outside the door, so we’re getting there early before the masses arrive!
Q. Will attendees have the chance to appreciate any other aspects of the London eating-out scene as they walk between these venues?
A. We’ll have a look around Old Spitalfields Market, which is London’s historic produce market. Nowadays, the market is home to a range of stalls; from antiques and bric-a-brac to records and handmade decorations. Also, there is an awful lot of great food stalls, which are run by dozens of different street food operators, some of whom have only the one site. Some of these operators may have been in the market for just a few weeks, while others are more established.
We’ll have half an hour to walk around the market, which gets very busy, to see what the street food operators are doing there. Any foodie can’t help but get mesmerised by all the different smells and flavours on offer.
Q. Indeed, street food is another major trend on the UK eating-out scene, isn’t it?
A. Yes, street food is influencing an awful lot of the eating-out market across the UK. Old Spitalfields is one of the better places to try street food in London at the moment, but there are so many to choose from that it is hard to know where to start. You’ll notice that most traders have a vegan food offer too, whatever their concept.
Q. Where will you head after Old Spitalfields Market?
A. From Old Spits, we’ll walk up to Shoreditch, which is another melting pot of cuisines. In fact, I don’t think there’s a cuisine that you won’t find in Shoreditch; it’s one of the most vibrant eating-out areas in London.
We are going to visit Boxpark in Shoreditch, which is built from old shipping containers. It started out as a pop-up shopping mall, and since then it has evolved. Now, it houses predominantly street food vendors and bars. It’s a busy, bustling place that goes absolutely crazy busy at the weekend. Again, it’s a bit like Old Spitalfields market in that it offers a real mix of different eateries and operators. The food vendors there revolve; typically a trader may only be on site for six, nine or 12 months before they move somewhere else. So, it’s a good place to test new ideas. Even some of the more established restaurateurs have set up a pop-up in Boxpark for a few months to test new menu ideas. It’s a really eclectic place to go and eat.
Q. What type of exciting operator will the tour visit in Boxpark, Shoreditch?
A. We’re going to Biff’s Jack Shack. Originally, Biff’s Jack Shack was a street food vendor working with KERB, probably London’s first proper street food movement. Now Biff has three sites. Boxpark was his first, plus he operates in Homerton and Walthamstow.
We’ll meet founder Biff Burrows, who will give us a flavour of what’s he’s doing with his brand. It all started while Biff was backpacking in Germany during 2016. He decided to go vegan, so he set about creating alternatives to burgers and chicken wings. He uses jackfruit, which, without a doubt, is the food trend of this year. Jackfruit is going mainstream for sure via the big retailers and high-street chains, so it’s tipped to be THE top ingredient for 2019.
For me, it was Biff who really brought jackfruit to the masses. In Shoreditch, we’ll try some of his jackfruit dishes, such as ‘The Big Jack’. This is Biff’s nod to the Big Mac at McDonalds, and, honestly speaking, it’s an amazing meatless replica. We’ll try some of his ‘jackfruit wings’ as well. I challenge any meat eater to close his or her eyes and guess if they ate meat or not. Jackfruit will feature on The Foodservice Forum programme, so this will give attendees an opportunity to try the product in the best format I’ve experienced so far.
Q. Where have you chosen for the final stop?
A. We’ll visit something completely different in Shoreditch, but it’s a secret! HOP, Farmer J and Biff’s Jack Shack will be the highlights of the first part of the tour, but there will be other surprises along the way!
Additionally, if there’s time, we’ll stop to look at a few other quirky places, such as Cereal Killer Cafe, where you can try any manner of different breakfast cereals from around the world. And although, arguably, the ‘better burger’ trend has peaked in the UK (despite the odd US operator still coming over) there is an emergence of plant-based burgers on the London eating-out market currently. There are a few operators around Shoreditch, so we’ll have a peek at one called The Vurger Co – Vegan Burger Restaurant. Having seen these burgers on the plate, they are quite a sight to behold.
Q. Lastly, are there any other important details for attendees?
A. We set off at 8:15am, the first stop will be at 9am, and we’ll finish by 2:30pm, arriving back at the hotel by 3:15pm. That’s five-and-a-half hours of unadulterated food! You should not eat beforehand! Maybe have a coffee, but rest assured there will be a lot of food.
We owe a debt to Reynolds as from day one, they have supported our efforts here in London, and organizing this special tour is a part of that. It is an intimate experience and, having personally done the tour several times, we can attest to this special experience.
It is limited in number, so you probably won’t get on! But if you have interest, do let us know by sending an email here, and we will let you know if we have any cancellations.
In addition to this tour, we have 5 other tours:
BESPOKE LONDON RETAIL TOUR
8am-3pm: only 40 places available)
PRODUCTION TOUR, HOSTED BY THE FRUITERY/CHAMBERS
(7.30am-3pm: only 15 places available)
LOGISTICS TOUR, HOSTED BY HALO
(6.30am-1pm: only 40 places available)
TWO WHOLESALE MARKET TOURS
06.00 – 10.00 NEW COVENT GARDEN WHOLESALE MARKET Tour (12 places available)
06.30 – 11.00 NEW SPITALFIELDS WHOLESALE MARKET Tour (only 10 places available)
So do go on one and be a part of the experience.
You can check out the website here.
And if you have question please ask them here.