Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Competition is Good…

Jonathan Doughty, the “RLI Food Guy” is a “C level” executive in the foodservice and leisure industry with 45 years of experience and leadership in restaurants, hotels and global consulting. In his first article of 2024, he discusses the role of competition and its beneficial impact on the industry.

Competition is Good… 1

The New Year has rolled around again and we are all focusing on new challenges, resolutions and firmly focusing our attention on the future. With 2023 becoming a more distant memory, it is really interesting to see what 2024 might bring.

I am certain that this year, the major trend is going to be COMPETITION.

Last year saw a lot of activity related to recovery from the COVID times, many projects were re-started and a bewildering number of new project announcements were made. Developers grappled with the changing face of retail spaces, repurposing buildings and developments to more mixed-use and attracting tenants when things were far from certain. Despite the financial and social upheavals during the year, hospitality businesses reported strengthening numbers, confidence and performance. More businesses have returned cautiously to the expansion trail, creating more competition for sites, but the competition I am really talking about is on a much bigger scale. It is hard to take in some of the competitive plays that are happening right now across the world.

In Germany, URW have announced the opening date of Westfield Hamburg, their first purpose built Westfield location in Germany. Other locations have been re-branded but this is, from the ground up, a new project, opening 25th April 2024. This will bring a new and different competitor to the city and I have no doubt it will be visited by hundreds of industry professionals within the first few days and weeks as well as guests.

On another side of the world, John Pagano and the team at Red Sea Global are delivering a range of regenerative tourism projects with guests now arriving at the newly opened St. Regis Red Sea Resort. Despite the current issues in the region, this world-class property is now competing on the global tourism stage and there is much, much more to come from KSA.

In London, the Abba Voyage concert puts Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid on stage now as digital versions, backed by live musicians in a performance event that is competition for traditional “live” concerts, West End Theatres and many types of music venues. We are going to see a whole lot more of this type of experience, blurring the lines between the physical and digital. Rumours are that Elvis is next…
The amazing business that is Pret A Manger, under the guidance of Pano Christou, has announced that they are launching their children’s menu, designed to target youngsters aged four to ten. It is now available in 70 per cent of Pret’s 460 UK shops.

As a parent of young children, I was delighted to see this as it clearly signs a shift in Pret’s consumer focus away from just the transit and city locations to a broader base whilst still maintaining the core Pret values – giving parents another choice in this highly competitive landscape.

Jamie Oliver returned to the London restaurant scene just before Christmas, with a stunning location on Catherine Street. I have had the pleasure of eating there and the interiors are stunning, the food generous, fun and enjoyable in what has got to be one of the most competitive square miles in the restaurant industry. After what happened to the business, it is very heartening to see his return and the continued success of the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group around the world through its franchising efforts.

Competition is good. Competition helps us get better, focuses our minds and creates forward movement. It is an essential ingredient to achieve performance improvement and in the world of hospitality and leisure, the competition for the “money in the pocket” is not about similar products, locations or experiences in my view, but about “different,” “unique” and “once in a lifetime” because that is the way the world has moved since COVID.

There are many cynics and industry observers that are watching the growth of worldwide tourism destinations, the construction of amazing new shopping places, the next “big” restaurant openings and brands moving into new territories and customer bases. Some will fail, it is inevitable but the majority wont and there will be more choice for the rest of us, more places to go and more experiences to enjoy. Competition keeps our industry moving forward, often regenerating, re-building and repurposing and for those reasons, competition is good and should be celebrated, recognised and shared.