Casual Dining 2022. Coined the definitive event for publicans and restauranteurs. After exploring this labyrinth of 200+ incredible suppliers for two days, I’m compelled to say it lives up to the name.

Renowned for its keynotes from big names with invaluable industry insight, Casual Dining shares tales, tips and most notably, a projection of hope. Mark McCulloch, founder of Hospitality Rising UK, the biggest hospitality recruitment campaign going, delivered his drive to “Rise fast, work young.” The consensus amongst operators is that hospitality work is being treated as a stopgap and more needs to be done to attract and retain staff. Only 1/5 young adults consider hospitality as an option after leaving education, and only 2/5 employees in the sector would recommend it as a job. It’s clear there are a finite amount of people in the recruitment pool. Likening his idea for increasing recruitment to the shape of a hockey stick, Mark alluded to getting people into the industry at entry level, ensuring there are opportunities for them to rise quickly in the company. The more room there is for workers to rise, the higher the retention rate. Mark’s second point to ‘work young’ was not a reference to age, but rather a mindset. The idea is simple: be fresh in your approach to your business and your staff. Consider unconventional marketing ideas, increase your online presence, and save time and money by utilising the technological innovations in the industry. Lead according to the demands of your business and its staff, and not the blueprint from way back when. This modernising of the mindset is already happening. The CGA Business Leader Survey 2022 revealed that 47% of business leaders are planning to increase their investment in technology this year.

Alongside the discussion of growing the recruitment pool were talks of growing businesses. 38% of business leaders are actively looking into the option of business acquisition in the next 12 months, up by 20pp compared to Q1 last year. These figures are a testament to the industry’s perseverance, creativity, and passion.

To swim in a sea of incredible people, products and innovations for two days was certainly the highlight of my week. S4labour’s partners were out and about in full force; the team and I caught up with the folks at Zonal, Airship & Toggle, Tenzo, Apicbase, Tevalis and Vita Mojo. Having so many of the industry’s incredible minds in one room is a special occurrence, and one I hope to make more regular.

For S4labour, Casual Dining is and will continue to be one of the most important events of the year. As a company that is run by hospitality people for hospitality people, the opportunity to be face to face with operators is of paramount importance. Not only do these events remind business owners of the support we will give to them, but it reiterates to us how important our role is in supporting the industry.

It may have been my first time attending Casual Dining, but I certainly hope it won’t be my last.

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