Over the last few years there have been several brands from the US which have made headway on the UK hospitality scene. From long established brands like Starbucks, Hilton and Pizza Hut to newer faces including Dunkin’ Donuts, Shake Shack and Popeyes.
We recently visited Dallas, Texas – where Harrison’s US office is based – and undertook a study tour, diving deep into what American hospitality businesses are doing in order to make waves, stand out from the crowd and keep customers coming back. Here are the top three trends we found, and which we expect to head across the pond this year.
Experiment to find what fits
In the land of big dreams comes big spending power. When money is no object, we saw that larger hospitality brands and groups are spending big bucks in order to put experimental concepts into the marketplace. This could be as impactful as launching six to eight brands in one big hit, running them for a trial period and only taking the most successful one, or ones, forward.
We know it’s not possible for every, or many, hospitality businesses this side of the pond to experiment on such a large scale. However, the theme of experimenting should be something operators explore further. Whether that is implementing a new menu, shaking up the restaurant design or bringing in guest chefs for a new and fresh perspective.
With restaurant space at a premium, we also expect to see more pop-ups and temporary experimental brands hit the scene in order to gauge what UK diners are looking for and what they engage with best. By embracing a more experimental approach, it could be the push needed to rise above the parapet and become the next ‘hot thing’ on the scene.
American Smokehouses are king
Nobody does smokehouses and barbecue joints quite like the Americans. Large-scale smokers as the centrepiece and meats cooking 24/7, all coupled will rustic décor, plastic trays over plates and a more casual attitude. This leads to some of the bigger players turning over millions of dollars every year.
Furthermore, in the US, there is a much bigger focus on regional styles, flavours and preferred cuts. In a similar style to how we have seen regionally-focused Chinese or Indian restaurants come to prominence over recent years in the UK, shining a light on what makes each variation unique, we expect to see the same focus on what makes a good Kansas City burnt end versus a Carolina-style barbecue here too.
For restaurants in the UK offering American barbecue options, try focusing on specific styles versus generic American barbecue to tap into enthusiasts and create intrigue. A good example of this is Hickory’s Smokehouse, one of our clients, which has a menu featuring everything from Memphis-style baby back ribs to smoked Kansas-style pork ribs and Texas-style brisket.
Goodbye sad sports bars, hello family-friendly sporting venues
Sports bars (or pubs) in the UK are often thought of as a sad affair. Seen as a time capsule still featuring furniture and carpet from the 1980s, they are not the most welcoming and diverse environments, and certainly have not kept up with the changing sporting audience. The UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 cemented this, with everyone who loves football coming out in support of the England women’s team. It’s time for the venues to catch up.
In stark contrast, in the US, when there is a game on it’s a full-day event. While the stadia hold huge numbers of people, it is still not possible for everyone who wants to watch whatever the game may be to see it live. This has paved the way to super sports bars, taking up as much as 20,000 square feet at a time.
What is more crucial is the overall environment, not the size. Television screens on every possible surface to ensure the best vantage point for all the fans, big group-sized tables, tasty food and sharing plates and easy access to the bar. Overall, they create an environment anyone would be happy walking into and supporting their local team.
In the heart of the City of London, venues such as Goldwood Sports Pub & Kitchen are leading the way – and we expect to see many follow suit as hospitality businesses look to attract a wider portfolio of customers and increase footfall.
This article was published in Propel’s Friday Opinion on 3rd February 2023, written by Dean Concannon, Design Director at global brand and design specialists Harrison.