2023 Agenda


Keynote Q&A with Jane O’ Riordan. Success through innovation

Having spent more than 20 years at Nando’s, Jane O’Riordan now splits her time between her chairman roles at Turtle Bay, Red Engine and Caravan, alongside several non-exec and advisory positions. In this fireside chat, MCA’s Retailers’ Retailer of the Year 2023 will discuss the experiences that have shaped her career to date, her passion for technology and innovation and the growth potential for the three businesses she chairs.


Keynote session: Pizza Express - transformation, culture and growth. Paula Mackenzie, CEO

After 18 months in charge of casual dining originator PizzaExpress, CEO Paula MacKenzie will share progress on re-energising the much-loved British institution. In this keynote session, she will update on the brand & business transformation, the extensive design-led restaurant investment programme, and its industry leading loyalty proposition. Paula will also talk through PizzaExpress’ multi-dimensional approach to growth, how bold steps have elevated the brand through multiple touchpoints, and how it is reconnecting with its musical heritage with the launch of its own label, PX Records.


Sector recovery and the return of the deal: Graeme Smith, Managing Director, AlixPartners

As dealmaking activity begins to pick up in the restaurant sector, Graeme will examine the financing and M&A landscape facing operators. With inflation and the cost of living showing tentative signs of easing, he will explore the current shape of the eating-out market and assess how it is primed for a recovery and investment.


Panel: menu management - innovation in F&B, with The Restaurant Group, Loungers and Lumina Intelligence

As inflation and cost of living put pressure on businesses, restaurants are turning to novel menu engineering techniques to drive revenue. In this panel we will hear how operators are innovating with food and beverage, which cuisines and items are proving popular with consumers, and how premiumisation, specials and longer menus are driving spend.

  • Jon Knight, MD of TRG Concessions
  • Caine Langford, head of food at Lounge
  • Blonnie Whist, insight director, Lumina Intelligence
  • Olivia Reid, Food and beverage director, Sessions


Panel: delivery dynamics and transformative tech, with Rosa’s Thai, LEON, Attensi, and Uber Eats

As the restaurant delivery market continues to normalise post-Covid, this panel explores how restaurants are adopting and optimising their offerings, using white-label solutions to stay in touch with customers, and which new technologies are easing operations front and back of house.

  • Gavin Adair, CEO, Rosa’s Thai
  • Matthew Price, General Manager, Uber Eats UK&I
  • Mariam French, Marketing Director, LEON
  • Max Turner, Business Development Director, Attensi


GDK: Reinventing the kebab as a popular street food concept – with Simon Wallis, CEO

German Doner Kebab has been one of the most impressive success stories of the buoyant QSR sector, growing to more than 130 UK sites and with a presence across seven countries. In this session, GDK’s CEO Simon Wallis will address the appeal of the brand in the UK and internationally, its popularity across broad age groups and demographics, and why their reinvention means kebabs are no longer just about late-night dining.


Keynote session with David Page: a career building iconic brands

Fresh from securing a £93m deal for Fulham Shore, in this keynote session David Page will share insights into building one of the UK’s fastest growing and exciting pizza brands, Franco Manca, and how he sold it to Japanese food group Toridoll Holdings. Having also been a key player in the growth of Pizza Express, David will reflect on a career in hospitality, give the inside scoop on key events and share his perspectives on the sector’s recovery.


Wagamama - relevant, contemporary, authentic. Thomas Heier, CEO

Having overseen Wagamama for two-and-a-half years, CEO Thomas Heier will share how the Pan-Asian casual dining brand is remaining relevant and contemporary as it approaches its 30th anniversary. The Wagamama boss will also share his approach to navigating a challenging eating out market, delivering an authentic customer experience to specific guest segments, and nurturing a happy and motivated workforce.


Harts Group: Quality, sophistication and style, with James and Sam Hart

Harts Group is the influential name behind renowned restaurant and bar concepts Barrafina, Parrillan, El Pastor, Quo Vadis, Bar Daskal and The Drop. In this Q&A, co-founders James and Sam Hart will share the design and cultural inspirations behind the upscale venues in the group, and how forward-thinking site planning and a sophisticated F&B offer make Harts a byword for quality, innovation and style.


Big Mamma: individual, immersive restaurants. Victor Lugger, co-founder

Behind some of London’s most talked about restaurant openings, Victor Lugger co-founded Big Mamma Group with partner Tigrane Seydoux. Having established the restaurant group in their native Paris, he’ll share why the group bet big on post-Brexit with a collection of highly individual, immersive restaurants across London and Europe - and how they developed the Sunday payment app, which is now used by over 3,000 restaurants worldwide.


Innovation showcase: Casa do Frango, Oowee and Tonkotsu

In a challenging operating climate, innovative restaurant groups are shaking up the eating out scene with stand-out propositions, financial resilience and expansion ambitions. Joining this panel, MCA welcomes the individual leaders behind London's cult Algarvian Piri Piri chicken concept Casa do Frango – winner of Emerging Concept at the 2023 Retailers Retailer Awards; Britain’s leading UK ramen brand Tonkotsu; and and contemporary QSR concept Oowee.


Insight: Katie Prowse, senior insight manager, Lumina Intelligence

Katie’s session will preview Lumina’s brand new Restaurant Market Report, with market information and a review of the impact of the cost of living crisis. Using data from Lumina’s proprietary Menu Tracker tool, Katie will highlight price increases, food and drink innovation and operator menu management strategies.


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