Keeping an eye on trends, and the potential demand for wholesalers’ future products, can sometimes be as simple as watching what’s happening on the high street.
The following list explores a range of brands – some already quite well-known and some smaller, up-and-coming groups. They are making waves with consumers and growing quickly. They are looking to dominate trends within foodservice, and therefore by extension, within wholesaling.
1Red’s True Barbecue – barbecue and American-style
Having established itself as a key player in the burgeoning barbecue trend, Red’s True Barbecue encompasses the continuing popularity of American-style grub. An investment deal of £9m in late 2015 looks sure to drive expansion. Having only just opened in London (in Shoreditch), this group made its name in purely regional cities such as Leeds, Nottingham, and Manchester. Launched by Scott Munro and James Douglas in 2012, it has now created a range of sauces and a Sunday Times Bestseller cookbook, promoting what it calls its “worship” of US-style barbecue further.
Telephone: 0113 359 3480
2Leon – healthy “fast food”
This “healthy fast food” company should need little introduction. Founded by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, along with chef Allegra McEvedy in 2004, this company is now extending with the zeitgeist across over 30 sites nationwide, having stated its expansion will continue well into the new year. Having received an £11.5m cash injection from a deal with HSBC in October last year, it continues to be a trailblazer for healthy new habits, including menu items such as the “super clean” quinoa salad, and the salmon and avocado “super pot”.
Telephone: 0207 089 7070
3Loungers – all-day dining, snacking, tapas, salads and burgers
Bristol-originated Loungers is a cafe-style, restaurant and bar operator whose sites open under unique names tailored to their areas. It reported over 42% rise in turnover last year, and opened its 75th site in December 2015. Wholly located outside central London, its restaurants are often found in residential districts in a bid to capture a “neighbourhood” feel. With quirky, mismatched decor, the “Lounges” serves a varied yet classic all-day menu including sharing brunch, tapas, burgers, and salads.
Telephone: 0117 930 9971
4Beany Green – artisanal, friendly coffee, smoothies, and brunch
This Australian-rooted, London-based coffee shop group was founded in a Ford Transit van in 2012, and manages to capture the ongoing thirst for artisanal, higher-end coffee. It also serves smoothies, brunch and, lunch, hosts DJ sets in the evenings, and has plans to roll out alcohol licenses across its sites soon. In November 2015, the group managed to crowdfund £800,000 in just one week, securing its plans to open at least two more sites in central London.
Turnover: not available
Telephone: 0207 289 3344
5Filmore & Union – healthy coffee, juices, and gluten-free options
Proving that high-end coffee isn’t just for London types, this eight-strong Yorkshire-based, healthy-eating-focused group is set to grow in 2016. With two locations in York, one in Leeds, and others in key Northern towns such as Skipton and Harrogate, this group serves healthy and varied options for breakfast, lunch and dinner – including juices, smoothies, vegan and gluten-free options. Named after two streets in San Francisco thanks to the US city’s healthy eating ethos, the group was launched in 2012 by Adele Carnell & Wil Pugh, a former wellness clinic owner and chef.
Telephone: 01937 580135
6Chilango – Mexican grab-and-go
A slowly-but-surely-growing brand tapping into the Mexican zeitgeist with freshly-made burritos and tacos. Created by former Skype bosses Eric Partaker and Dan Houghton, the first location opened in 2007 in London Islington’s Upper Street. By August 2014, the group had managed to raise an incredible £2m using online crowdfunding and in October 2015, raised an extra £1m. Having announced plans to open 50 more locations in the next five years. Chilango’s Mexican style represents a super-cool trend to watch.
Telephone: 0207 704 2123
7Shake Shack – higher-end American classics
Burgers are hardly the newest trend in foodservice today, but they are still inescapably popular. There are a range of high-profile brands expanding across the country, but Chicago-based Shake Shack manages to combine a cool, laidback American style with high-end food sourcing. Although very well-established in the US, the Middle East and Asia, it has just four UK sites so far, including a flagship in Covent Garden, and is growing at a gentle pace, which means it continues to focus on locally-sourced ingredients (such as Cumberland pork sausage rather than the traditional American beef, and high-end chocolate) and is winning loyal customers as a result.
Turnover: $51.3m USD (£34.8m)
Telephone: 01923 555129
8Smashburger – lovingly-prepared US-style burgers
Another US import focused on high-quality burgers, Smashburger has 36 sites across the USA (plus locations in Canada, Central America and the Middle East) but is still in its infancy in the UK. Tim Lowther, formerly of Five Guys, Shake Shack and Burger King, is set to be managing director of the UK rollout, which is envisaged to comprise 35 sites overall. Smashburger founder Tom Ryan has also previously said that he would like to open in London, as well as further across the country, and would aim to incorporate regional influences into the group’s recipes. As you may have guessed, the brand is named after its innovative way of creating tender burgers (smashing them before searing and seasoning).
Turnover: £100m for parent company in the UK; nothing for Smashburger yet
Sites: None yet (49 globally)
Telephone: 001 303 633 1500
9Tossed – healthy salads and quick lunchtime options
Another success story for crowdfunding, quick-service group Tossed is pitching itself at consumers who want the ease of fast food but the healthiness of salads and wraps – a serious trend within foodservice right now. According to the NPD Group, Tossed saw double-digit growth in 2014, and it is still growing despite its already considerable 11 London sites. Dubbing itself “the healthier eating place”, the group serves smoothies, hot pots, soups, yoghurt pots, and skinny muffins.
Telephone: 020 7375 9290
10London Union – international street food
The street food isn’t going anywhere. The brainchild of Henry Dimbleby, founder of Leon and Jonathan Downey from Street Feast, London Union is a who’s who of food writers, broadcasters, and caterers, with involvement, backing and/or advice from Jamie Oliver, Yotam Ottolenghi, Nigella Lawson, Marina O’Loughlin, Giles Coren, Russell Norman, Jose Pizarro, Thomasina Miers and more. Through crowdfunding, the group managed to raise £2.5m, and now plans to launch up to 20 permanent street food markets across London with aplomb, estimating that up to 1.5 million people are set to visit London Union markets in 2016. Ignore street-food inspired products at your peril.
Turnover: Nothing available
Sites: None yet, 20 planned for next five years
11Ziferblat – coffee, cake and biscuits by the minute
There aren’t too many firsts in today’s UK foodservice scene but Ziferblat claims to be one of them. The Russian chain – whose first UK site opened in Old Street in London in January 2014 – has the revolutionary policy of giving customers free snacks, drink and Wi-Fi. The catch? Everyone must pay 5p for every minute they spend on-site. Guests take an alarm clock from the cafe’s cupboard and note the time they enter and leave, with free rein over making their own coffee, taking biscuits, slicing cake, or using Wi-Fi. This place aims to be as homely as you can get outside your own four walls, and looks poised to make national impact, so products that will work well for similar outlets should thrive.
Turnover: Not available
Sites: 14 worldwide (3 across the UK)
Telephone: 07714 468 257
12Ed’s Easy Diner – American dining goes large
One of the bigger groups on this list, Ed’s Easy Diner merits a mention simply because of its slow-but-steady expansion across the UK, quietly marking it out as one of the country’s most popular brands. Named one of the UK’s fastest-growing private companies by the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100, the group has neatly captured a hefty chunk of consumers’ ongoing hunger for US grub. With a potentially-£100m sale under auction rumoured to be imminent, and aims of opening 25 new sites in 2016, Ed’s is no longer a minor player, but has managed to remain a high-street favourite thanks to its simple branding and on-trend concept.
13Flight Club – products that work with fashionable gaming and sharing
Ping-pong table brand Bounce may have only two sites in London, but in just three years founder and entrepreneur Adam Breeden has quickly established it as a well-known concept. Next up on the entertainment venue trend is Flight Club, the pun-tastically-named new restaurant and bar in Moorgate incorporating digital darts playing from the same group. Taking the sport out of the traditional men’s club arena and pitching it at fashionable consumers – in the same way as ten-pin bowling did decades ago – Flight Club is successfully tapping into diners’ ever-present love of gaming, sharing, and combining food and drink with something extra.
Group turnover: Aiming for £19m in 2016
Telephone: 0203 019 3093
14Bistro 1847 – high-end vegetarian sourcing
Having launched in Manchester in 2011, this group is a fast-growing brand specialising in vegetarian food with style. With four sites across the UK (and none in London), it is fast establishing itself as a go-to place for veggies – or simply those happy to not have meat at every meal – for an a la carte, lunch, or Sunday lunch experience. Founded by Damien Davenport, former manager at Malmaison Hotels, this group is steeped in professional hospitality, offering a seasonal menu and supporting local suppliers. With a view to open more sites in key city locations, this currently-small group is certain to make its mark on the sometimes-forgotten vegetarian scene, and boost veggie popularity accordingly.
Turnover: Not available
Telephone: 0161 236 1811
15Giggling Squid – all about Thai
If Mexican food means burrito joints, then the UK Thai food scene must mean Giggling Squid. The playful name hides a furiously successful company run by husband-and-wife team Andrew and Pranee Laurillard, which has been growing since it first opened in Brighton in 2002. Having announced plans for 50 sites between 2012-17, it has recently added Berkhamsted, Salisbury, Farnham, Bristol and Guildford to its portfolio. Inspired by the rustic, simple tastes of Thailand, in November 2015 it received a £6.4m investment from the Business Growth Fund, and has now even set its sights on opening up to 70 restaurants. Clearly, it’s time to take notice of Thai.