Going to the Gym is good for you…………

It has now been seven months since I joined ECE in the role of Global Head of Foodservice and we have been really busy in Hamburg, getting our business in good shape for 2018. We launched our “We Love Food” program at MAPIC, Cannes towards the end of 2017 and it has been very well received by the foodservice industry and by my colleagues across ECE.

Many people often ask me why did I take the job at ECE? I had been a foodservice consultant since 1989, originally based out of the UK. From that point on I was on a mission to change “food in shopping” and having finally established my own business on 13th January 1993, under the name “Coverpoint” the business grew and flourished to become one of the leading consulting businesses in the world of food and shopping.

We then successfully integrated the Coverpoint team into JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle) in 2014 and so you would think that the “job was done” and at 54 years old, I could put my feet up a bit. The team were doing well and had positioned JLL firmly as the leading provider of Foodservice Consulting services in the property sector, along with the other professional service lines that they provide to clients all around the world.

So why move on? Well I guess like many people who come from the operating world of restaurants, when you are used to doing things, planning them, delivering them, opening them and running them I missed doing projects from start to finish. The world of consulting is great providing the theory, but so few of the jobs became “hands on” delivery projects like they used to be. I remember working on Trafford Centre, Bluewater and other projects where we did everything – concept, planning of the space, tenant targets, leasing and opening. Truth is I missed that – a lot. Delivering projects, from start to finish, is the most exciting thing I can do and I love it, I mean I really love it!

German gymnasium front doorSo, when the opportunity came up to do something else, I was excited by the offer to join ECE. I remember very well a dinner with two of the great team in Leasing at ECE, Klaus Striebich and Klaus Rethmeier, who came to London and we met at the German Gymnasium in Kings Cross. This astonishing building has been brought back to life by Conran and Partners and is now operated by D&D restaurants. We drank German wine, ate German food and I got to experience the “Klaus sandwich” – not a menu item, but a very persuasive pair of people. They were so genuinely interested in what we could do together that it convinced me to join ECE. It was an amazing meal, with great service, confident preparation and delivery, attention to detail and all delivered with a strong level of German originality. In many ways, that describes the ECE business.

The world of consulting was becoming increasingly difficult to get clients to fully understand and take the advice, especially as foodservice, especially in the UK, was being seen as the “fix” for many of retails problems. Restaurants have seen huge growth in numbers and success in shopping but I was already beginning to call the “top of the market” following the Brexit vote, further margin erosion and labour cost pressures in foodservice.

The UK especially has seen a constant and almost unrelenting increase in the amount of foodservice that has gone into retail, high street, transit and office locations, almost as if it is the solution for all the problems in other markets. I have always suggested that a cautious but positive approach is adopted, creating great “places for people” over just increasing volumes in foodservice. Sadly, we can now see clear signs in the UK that the foodservice market has reached saturation. I hope not, but I fear it is happening.

This in combination with a challenging domestic financial environment, uncertainty around Brexit and the significant amounts of private-equity and venture-capital money still being invested into the foodservice marketplace has created a perfect storm around restaurant development and continued commercial success in shopping centres.

Having already worked extensively in Germany, (where I secretly developed a liking for all things German), it was still with a little nervousness that I joined ECE in July 2017 and started the “food journey” in the business. I had a really good idea about how the food marketplace was in the country, especially the lack of brands and the lack of “partner companies” that would want to take the franchises or JV with some of the world’s great brands that wanted to be in Germany and the wider DACH region.

The Klaus Sandwich tableWithin two months I had met some of the most talented people in our industry, and many of them work at ECE. It is a really hard organisation to understand from the outside and it hasn’t traditionally spoken loudly about the competence or expertise that exists in the campus and throughout the regions and countries where we operate. It soon became apparent that I had a ready-made team of colleagues who could deliver great projects, with huge experience and skill levels, but we needed something that brought us together, something we could be proud of and something that helped our development – and so “We Love Food” was born.

Launching at MAPIC, “We Love Food” is an internal training and development program for our teams in Leasing, Design, Operations, Management and any other areas where people want and need to know more about food. It is also an external program of engagement with the foodservice industry that shows that we really do know what we are doing and that we can, and will, support tenants and partners grow. There is a lot more to come in this area over 2018 and beyond, but that is not for now.

So we start 2018, confident in our approach to the foodservice market, with a great team and plenty of opportunities. I love my job at ECE, feel truly “at home” in Germany and with my wife, I am looking forward to the birth of our second child at the end of January.

So, I guess the message is clear – Going to the Gym (the German Gymnasium) has been very good for me!

Photos: Private

About Jonathan Doughty

Jonathan DoughtyJonathan Doughty became known in 1993 as founder and Global Managing Director of Coverpoint Foodservice Consultants based in the UK. One of Jonathan Doughty's outstanding abilities is to design new dining areas and food courts for new and existing shopping centers. He and his team will analyze the potential of ECE's around 150 portfolio centers for new and refurbishment food projects and implement them.

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