Restaurant Conference

2015 Agenda







Richard Hodgson, Chief Executive, Pizza Express

Richard discusses the group's evolution, its international plans and its move into the delivery market. 

Richard has over 20 years' experience in the food industry, where he has held senior positions at a number of the UK's leading supermarkets. Most recently, Richard was Group Commercial Director of Morrisons where, amongst other things, he developed the own brand strategy for the chain. Prior to this, Richard was Commercial Director at Waitrose, where his responsibilities included developing the Waitrose brand internationally. Richard instigated the hugely successful launch of Waitrose's value range, Essential Waitrose, and the popular advertising campaign featuring Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal. Richard worked at Asda between 1996 and 2006, progressing rapidly through the company to hold a number of senior positions.

Steve Richards, CEO, Casual Dining Group

Casual consolidation: Steve talks about the creation and evolution of CDG - the Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia owner

In 2013 Steve led the £220m acquisition of Tragus Group Ltd. After an extensive financial and property restructure, followed by the disposal of the Strada restaurant chain, the reorganised company took a new identity as the Casual Dining Group Ltd (CDG). The new business has a substantial ‘buy and build' strategy, by way of single site acquisition, international franchise and the acquisition of other branded restaurant companies which have proved themselves to be scalable, high performing and popular with the growing mid-market. In line with this strategy, CDG recently acquired Las Iguanas, the 41 strong Latin American restaurant chain. Las Iguanas complements CDG's other brands (Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Belgo) and the group will open 30 new sites this year, creating 2500 new jobs and as the UK's fastest growing privately owned restaurant business will be operating from 300 sites within 12 months.

Simon Blagden, Managing Director, Jamie Oliver Restaurants

Simon talks about the group's development and future plans 


John Eckbert, Managing Director, Five Guys UK

Standing out in a bun fight: John outlines how the popular US brand has successfully launched here


Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President, Technomic

Where does fast casual go from here? Darren from leading consultancy firm Technomic looks at how the fast-growing category is evolving in the US

Darren Tristano is an Executive Vice President at Technomic, Inc. and is focused on expanding the foodservice industry knowledge base and sharing this intelligence with operators, suppliers and other key players. Over the past 20 years, he has overseen the growth of Technomic's Information Services division. On Technomic's consulting side, Darren leads the company's Restaurant Practice, providing operator clients with actionable findings and insights. Drawing on this experience, Darren also puts Technomic's research findings into context, speaking frequently to the media and at industry conferences.


Jonathan Downey, Founder, Streat Feast

Word on the street: Street food champion and entrepreneur Jonathan talks about the evolution of the scene and highlights the next concepts to watch. 

Jonathan Downey is best known as a bar operator (Match Bar Group, Milk & Honey etc) but at various times in the past 15 years he has owned a number of restaurants, clubs, members clubs and a hotel in London, Ibiza, New York, Melbourne and Chamonix. Most of these he has now sold to concentrate, among other things, on developing the UK's burgeoning street food scene (where is a partner in Street Feast and the street food event business Big Eater). His main interest is in developing some of the younger and rising future restaurant stars moving from street gazebos to bricks and mortar (Yum Bun, Breddos, Smokestak, etc). He was an early adopter of crowdfunding with The Rushmore Group and The Clove Club and recently opened Rotorino, a restaurant and wine bar in Dalston, with chef and business partner Stevie Parle.


Alex Scrimgeour and Harald Samuelsson, Joint Managing Directors, CÔte

Alex and Harald discuss how the award-winning brand continues to stand out from the crowd


Talking about the next generation

Four leading operators will discuss the challenges and opportunities of becoming an established brand and whether to embrace being a "chain".  


Graham Hall, Managing Director, Cau Restaurants

Graham joined the Buenos Aires inspired group CAU in mid-2013 when the company had just 3 sites (Guildford, Cambridge & Amsterdam) since then they have added a further 10 sites across the UK and have secured 4 more for the latter end of 2015 to take the estate to 17 by close of the year. Plans are laid to add a further 8-10 sites next year with more internationally also a focus for the group. Working closely with sister brand Gaucho, embracing their culture, standards & beef direct from the pampas - the restaurants bring the flavour & vibrancy of Argentina's capital to a more casual audience. With open kitchens using exclusively fresh ingredients the restaurants embrace technology but also tread the line between chic design and service whilst keeping an element tongue in cheek fun to the branding.  


Jamie Barber, Co-Founder, Cabana 

Jamie Barber is the man behind many of London's leading restaurants including Hush in Mayfair and the Cabana Brasilian Barbecue group. Jamie also founded and co-owned restaurants including Villandry, Japanese restaurant Sake No Hana, and Italian casual dining brand, Kitchen Italia. 


Mark Selby, Co-Founder, Wahaca

Prior to co-founding Wahaca, the sustainable restaurant group, Mark worked as a right hand man to the partners at Capricorn assisting in financial, operational and strategic roles for Nando's, Gondola Holdings and Baker & Spice. Before Capricorn, Mark worked directly with Stelios Haji-Ioannou (founder of easyJet) as the Business Development Director for various "easy" Businesses and, prior to that worked in corporate finance for Merrill Lynch.



Scott Munro, Co-Founder, Red's True Barbecue

Scott co-founded the award winning Red's True BBQ with business partner James Douglas in 2012. The fledgling operator has recently secured investment for nationwide expansion over the next few years


Simon Stenning, Executive Director, M&C Allegra Foodservice

Simon takes a look at why there can be no casual approach to casual dining

Simon leads the M&C Allegra Foodservice business, delivering cutting edge insight, data and market intelligence to clients across the breadth of the UK food and Beverage sector. Allegra Foodservice includes the Food Strategy Forum, Eating Out Panel, Restaurant Brand Portal and our expert bespoke research and consultancy services.



Jason Danciger, F&B Director, The Garden Centre Group

The former head of hospitality at M&S and current F&B director at the UK's leading garden centre chain, on growing award winning concepts







Property Director panel

Trevor Watson, executive director, Davis Coffer Lyons

Trevor will talk to property directors, including Kieran Pitcher at the Azzurri Group and Steve Seager at Cote, about the current property market both in the capital and across the regions, and what we can expect over the coming 12 months.


The M&A Landscape

Paul Hemming, Managing Director, AlixPartners

Paul discusses the current M&A landscape, including a look at some of the deals that have already completed and what the next year holds.


Ones to watch

This year's concepts to keep an eye on


David Abramovich, Founder, Grind



 Jason Almeida, Commercial Director, Thaikhun


 Charlie Carroll, Founder,Flat Iron

This annually held senior gathering is a sell-out, must attend event for business leaders at the heart of the UK eating-out market.  

For more information on attending Restaurant Conference 2015 or for details regarding sponsorship please contact Emily Croft: or call 01293 846578.

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