Ian Neill: social media boosts restaurant growth
Casual dining brands are seeing customer demand from parts of the country where companies would never previously considered opening sites, all thanks to social media.
That's according to casual dining industry doyen Ian Neill, who was speaking to CGA Peach's Peter Martin at the Casual Dining show yesterday.
Neill said that the ability of social media to disseminate information - and in particular details about new restaurant and food trends - helped to create demand for new restaurants more rapidly, and to spread that demand more widely.
That means that brands that could otherwise have taken years to be accepted within a community - if at all - were now more likely to succeed.
"I think what is going to have a really major effect on all our businesses is the fact that rapid communication has created massive demand in places where there wasn't demand before," Neill said.
"Twenty five years ago, we used to say we were 10 years behind something that was happening in North America. Ten years ago, you could say Telford or somewhere like that was five years behind what was happening in London or may not even get something that was happening in London.
"Now, people instantly see it and they instantly want it. Demand is created, so that means the ability to distribute concepts of multiple restaurant operations across the country suddenly becomes a very exciting prospect in places where we didn't think we could do it before.
"The market has been helped by property people who have identified probably earlier than we did that if they build stuff then people will come now because the demand is there."
Neill has more than 40 years' experience in the casual dining industry, and has played a key role in successful brands such as Pizza Express, Wagamama, Leon and Jamie's Italian.
He is currently chairman of K10 Restaurants and Café Pistou, and a non-executive director of Jamie's Italian and Las Iguanas.
Casual Dining took place at London's Business Design Centre on 25 and 26 February.