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How foodies research their market

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London is currently one of the most exciting and vibrant foodie destinations on the planet. Fact. Who would have thought it a few years ago, when France or Italy, or the US, were lauded for the sheer number of Michelin stars or fabulous food heritage – whilst we were stuck with fish and chips or Le Rosbif. 

Today London offers an unrivalled diversity of choice – from glitzy high end fine dining to fast casual, from underground booze lairs to supper clubs, trendy coffee roastery cum cafes to amazing street food stalls. Creativity is positively flowing in this vibrant sector, which is why we love it so much.

Here at Eat With Your Eyes we specialise in building brands for food – we see ourselves as the creative eyes of food retail. To do this we need to stay at the cutting edge of consumer taste, so we make it our mission to keep close to the very latest trends here in the UK. 

This involves getting out on the streets, visiting the most interesting and diverse new food concept outlets, watching consumers and what excites them most, understanding the impact of brand experiences on consumer habit and loyalty, and getting as close a possible to consumer insight research. 

Because the brands who best harness all this integrated consumer content are the ones who succeed. The UK branded restaurant market is set to grow by £5.6bn over the next five years (Allegra Strategies report, 2013). 

With an expected turnover of £16.4bn in 2013 the market, which includes fast food operators, casual dining and pub/restaurants, is also being reshaped by changing dining habits, which are seeing diners being less formal and structured about the way they eat, and constantly seeking newer taste sensations.

Engaging with today’s consumers involves using Twitter and Facebook, sharing pictures and experiences on Instagram, with a constant feed of consumer messaging which is fun, engaging and informative, spreading the good news and harnessing a brand loyal customer base which keeps on growing.

The latest brands know how to engage, talk, listen, and deliver to new consumer tastes and expectations.

One of the most exciting recent trends is the phenomenal growth in the street food movement, with its low-cost market entry model, and the passionate flair and creativity of its diverse entrepreneurs.

One of the best places to experience this is KERB at the top of King’s Cross Boulevard. It’s on the street, and the food offers are all totally mobile and switch daily so that you can eat there several times a day, four days a week, and still not double-up. Some traders are in vans, some have stalls – what ever suit their food offer. Every KERB trader is there because they pass the flavour, personality and kerbside spirit test. 

So what makes these mini food brand experiences so original and powerful and setting the food trends today?

It’s quite simple – they are simple! This is why in a lot of respects they are ‘streets’ ahead of high street eating chains. They don’t try and appeal to everyone. They do one thing really well and you either like it or you don’t – no compromise.

They often only have one price to make it even easier. Ingredients are totally fresh and of the season – so taste is guaranteed. It’s immediate, hand held and just ready to be devoured. No nonsense for busy people.

Beyond the food, we love the original and powerful undiluted character that oozes out of these offers. Great brands know exactly who they are, are built on real stories, real personality and originality. 

Street food has to be aggressive to be seen and understood so most offers have great names and great language – straight from the originators mouth. We love THE RIB MAN and his mind blowing ‘Holy F**k Sauce’ – yeah that’s right. KERB also boasts MOTHER FLIPPER and WHAT THE DICKENS.

These names are just too hardcore for the high street – but street food is coming and we can’t wait. DADDY DONKEY has moved from the street to a ‘bricks and mortar’ outlet in Clerkenwell now and it’s booming.

Because these mini food brands are often only a bunch of people at most, they live the brand, they are the brand – and that’s more meaningful than any logo and a strapline. You can connect with them immediately. 

The greatest strength of the street food movement and the greatest threat to established high street brands is that they just feel really honest and true. In a world of cross platform campaigns and big, clever, messages that catch all but excite none we have become brand bored without even realising. 

In our increasingly virtual ‘e-worlds’ It’s great to get back to the street, hold something and get stuck in to it!

Tony Chambers and Steve Oakey, do-directors at Eat With Your Eyes.

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