Responding to evolving expectations in the F&B industry

In 2020, there is an ever-growing range of what customers want and need, and many different variations on these needs from consumer to consumer. In this article, Neil Barber, Leasing Director at Cain International, a privately held real estate investment firm operating in Europe and the US, talks about the new food and beverage trends that are taking the industry by storm and what the F&B industry might look like in the future.

The global outlook is changing daily and potentially evolving the way we will live, work and play. It is still not clear what the overall impact will be, however one thing is for certain and that is that the cycle of uncertainty we have found ourselves in is sure to continue. Against this backdrop it is definite that the age-old models of trading will face further challenges. Despite this – there is space for innovation now more than ever. In the last few years, we have been more in tune with the way consumers behave. We have been able to act quickly – and the industry is responding by harnessing new technologies to improve the customer experience and capitalise on new trends in terms of health, personal wellbeing and the environment. Below are some critical areas that the industry will need to focus on to meet evolving expectations.


Consumers continue to become more health-conscious and as a result expect products and providers that make them feel empowered to meet evolving lifestyle requirements. Over one in eight Britons are now vegetarian or vegan and the number of vegans in the U.K. has quadrupled between 2014 and 2019. This is only expected to increase, giving suppliers and retailers the opportunity to explore new products and food to offer.
This year London was named a world-leading vegan-friendly city with 152 vegan restaurants. OMNOM, a plant-based restaurant and wellness hub endorsed by celebrities such as Russell Brand, opened its first-ever store at our development, Islington Square, in February. It has a unique concept in that it combines it’s vegan dining with alcohol-free wine and yoga sessions. It also aims to give something back too, for each meal bought it provides another to a child in need. It demonstrates how a café can be so much more as a space for interaction.


Table tennis bars, crazy golf facilities and darts ’experiences’ are popping up in town centres across the country. Steering away from the traditional cocktail bar or restaurant, this form of competitive socialising is attracting customers who make more inventive decisions about their nights out. Swingers, Flight Club and Junkyard Golf are all great examples of how much promise there is in this market. Popular eateries and leisure venues are exploring new ways they can attract custom and stand out from the rest. The Odeon has just launched its first Luxe & Dine at Islington Square, serving a mix of food, champagne, wine and cocktails brought to a comfortable cinema seat.

The customer experience has never been more important in this social-media era – there’s a reason Sketch in Mayfair is one of London’s most ‘Instagramable’ locations. It has a mix of arty rooms and pink velvet chairs – perfect for snap-happy customers. With this in mind, we were keen to replicate a similar concept in Islington. Megan’s neighbours the Odeon and features floral decorations, fairy lights and jazzy dog baskets – so beloved pets don’t need to miss out on the occasion. It’s the ideal brunch spot for the cosmopolitan Londoner. Insta-famous food is proving to be quite the business tool as people find it hard to resist capturing the perfect image.


Consumers are seeking brands which publicly champion values which match their own – they want to purchase goods from companies which focus on sustainability throughout their supply chain and benefit local businesses. In spring Islington Square will welcome SimplyFresh, an upmarket grocery store offering organic, healthy food which has been sourced locally.


Reflecting on the changes we’ve witnessed in the last few years alone, it’s exciting to imagine what our F&B, retail and leisure landscape will look like in 50 years, following such drastic change in a short period of time. As developers of community, retail and leisure spaces, it’s essential we listen to our consumers and mould our offering to their wants and needs. There will continue to be challenges to overcome and we must adapt our strategy and business model as we see fit. As an industry, we need to stay ahead of the curve, future-proof our businesses, and think of innovative ways to drive footfall to our destinations.