Casual Dining wows restaurant & pub sector at new ExCeL venue

Over 5,000 attendees – representing the UK’s best restaurant, pub and bar operators – were out in force at Casual Dining show last week (27-28 February).

The UK’s flagship casual dining trade event of the year made an unforgettable first impression at its new home of ExCeL London, enjoying another successive record turnout.  220 exhibitors, 50 Keynote speakers in two standing-room only theatres, and 5,038 unique attendees (up 5% on 2018) – are the top line figures from this year’s action-packed edition.

“Casual Dining is where the industry does business,” says event manager Eva Ellis.  “Once again, it welcomed leading innovators, influencers, trailblazers, key buyers and senior decision makers – the who’s who of this dynamic sector – in their thousands.  This year’s stand-out, sell-out edition at its new home of London ExCeL was easily our biggest, busiest and best yet.”

She continues: “There was such a fantastic buzz from the moment doors opened, and the show just looked incredible.  The feedback about the move has been incredibly positive, with the biggest buyers and operators in the country having enjoyed increased opportunities to meet with even more innovative suppliers, listen to even more great speakers and do even more business than ever before.

“Our exhibitors have also been thrilled with the seniority and sheer number of relevant industry buyers that they got to meet – from multi-site restaurant, pub and bar groups, to hotels, contract caterers and the nation’s best independents.  We’re delighted to report that 65% of exhibitors have already rebooked for next year, with many asking to take substantially bigger stands.

“Huge thanks, as always, to all of our exhibitors, visitors and partners for their continued support, it’s been phenomenal.  See you at Casual Dining 2020!”

Summing up his show experience (as a speaker and visitor), Chris Hill, CEO of The New World Trading Company (NWTC), says: “Casual Dining at ExCeL is the premium sector show, bringing together fantastic debate, content and innovation.”

“I loved this year’s show,” agrees Paul Lewis, head of food and drink at Prezzo, “It really delivered on showcasing new trends and growth markets.  Great panels, and the new venue was fantastic, it gave more space to be able to network.”

“Casual Dining really is the show that does exactly what it says on the tin – an event that has operators of casual dining concepts big and small as its singular focus.  I challenge you to attend and not have at least three interesting conversations with new suppliers, potential customers or even just old friends,” says Thom Elliot, co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims.

“Casual Dining 2019 provided a great opportunity to engage with innovative new suppliers, network with existing contacts and listen to some informative keynote speakers.  A great event and one I look forward to returning to in 2020,” says Mark Carter, head of drinks category management at Marston’s Pubs & Bars.

Known for being a magnet for top buyers and brands from across the casual dining sector, this year’s attendees included: Accor Hotels, Aramark, Azzurri Group (ASK Italian, Zizzi and Coco di Mama), BaxterStorey, Benugo, Bill’s Restaurants, BrewDog, Cafe Rouge, Carluccio’s, Casual Dining Group, CH&Co Group, Charles Wells, Center Parcs, Côte Restaurants, Daniel Thwaites, Dishoom, Domino’s Pizza Group, DoubleTree By Hilton, Ei Group, Elior UK, Flat Iron, Fuller’s, Greene King, Hall & Woodhouse, Hard Rock Café, ISS UK, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, Las Iguanas, Loungers, Marston’s, Mitchells & Butlers, Nando’s, National Trust, NWTC, Oakman Inns, Papa John’s, PizzaExpress, Pizza Hut Restaurants UK, Pizza Pilgrims, Prezzo, Punch Taverns, Revolution Bars Group, Shepherd Neame, Sodexo, SSP, Stonegate Pub Company, TGI Fridays, The Restaurant Group, wagamama, YO! Sushi, Young’s, and many more.

Notably, nearly one in three visitors cited a corporate spend in excess of £1m (15% reported £10m-plus budgets).

Keynote highlights

Casual Dining’s two Keynote Theatres (sponsored by Yumpingo) were a hive of activity throughout.  This year’s line-up included a host of rising stars and some of the biggest names in the business, including: Kate Nicholls (UKHospitality), Jens Hofma (Pizza Hut Restaurants UK), Alex Reilley (Loungers), David McDowall (BrewDog), Anna-Marie Mason (Mitchells & Butlers), Simon Potts (The Alchemist Bars & Restaurants), Shamil Thakrar (Dishoom), Nisha Katona (Mowgli), Sarah Weir (Albion & East), Will Beckett (Hawksmoor), Peter Borg-Neal (Oakman Inns), and Mark Jones (Carluccio’s).

Simon Stenning, founder of, CGA (Fiona Speakman), and Peter Backman delivered essential market updates and overviews of the latest trends to watch.  Peter Martin, director of CM&Co and founder of The Atlantic Club, chaired a record seven panels and interviews (including Steve Richards, last interview as CEO of The Casual Dining Group).  While lively panel sessions featuring Fuller’s, The Florist/NWTC, wagamama, PizzaExpress, Flat Iron, Yummy Pubs, Whiting & Hammond, Las Iguanas, Young’s, Hawksmoor, Pizza Pilgrims, Bill’s Restaurants, YO! Sushi, Browns Brasserie & Bar, and many others, sparked plenty of insightful debate.

Innovation Challenge Awards & King of Craft

The best new casual dining innovations of the year were announced today at Casual Dining 2019.  Carlsberg UK’s Snap Pack, Hellmann’s Vegan Mayonnaise, Lamb Weston Meijer’s Hot2Home, and Rubies in the Rubble’s Ketchup were all awarded Gold in the show’s prestigious Innovation Challenge Awards.

Black Fire Coffee Tequila, Imaginative Cuisine, Jubel Beer, and Yee Kwan Ice Cream received silver awards.

Bronze awards went to Eurilait, Fentimans, The Hygiene Company, LUXLO Spirits, The Meatless Farm Co, Rude Health, Sea Arch – Not Gin, Sea Products International, and The Hygiene Company.  For full product details and winners’ quotes, please visit:

This year’s judges included: James Elliot, co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims; Chris Knights, group executive chef at Young’s; Brian Trollip, chief operations wallah of Dishoom; Angela Malik, strategy director at Think Hospitality; Gavin Smith, operations director at Pizza Pilgrims; chef and consultant Jay Morjaria; Kate Eastwood, sales & marketing director at Revolution Bars Group; and Megan Lewis-Thomas, head of food development & marketing concessions, franchising & new concepts at Casual Dining Group; and Simon Woplin, head of innovation at Ambassador Theatre Group.

Big Drop Brewing Co was also celebrating – having won the King of Craft crown at this year’s show.  It took the top spot ahead of 11 other Craft Beer & Cider Zone exhibitors and rising stars of the brewing world with its Citra Four Hop (0.5%) Pale Ale.

“Following a busy two days at Casual Dining meeting new customers and taking them through our range of award-winning beers, we were thrilled to win the King of Craft Award against strong – full-strength – competition!  We’re really looking forward to being back next year!” says James Kindred, co-founder of Big Drop Brewing Co.

Other exhibitors planning to return to Casual Dining in 2020, include Reynolds, Nestle, Lamb Weston Meijer, McCain Foodservice, Ascentia FSE, Panasonic UK Ltd, Yumpingo, Yapster, Moving Mountains Foods, Vivera, Cawston Press, Heineken UK, Molson Coors Brewing Company, Diageo, Monin and Sea Products International.

“Casual Dining is unquestionably our most important trade show in the UK, as it is the most directly-focused show in our sector.  We look forward to continue exhibiting for many years to come,” says Ian R. Ronan, senior business development manager from Sea Products International.

“Casual Dining is a fantastic two days that really helps us engage with our customers in a lively and creative space.  The new venue really worked for us and we will be back next year,” says Matthew Kelly, national account manager at Carlsberg UK.