The Arena Summer Event

with Andrew Guy, CEO, Ed's Easy Diner

On Friday 26 June 2015, the respected CEO of Ed’s Easy Diner, Andrew Guy, headlined the Arena Summer Event as guest speaker and shared his vast expertise and insight into the UK foodservice and hospitality industry, and in particular the vibrant and prosperous casual dining market.  With over 40 years of experience in the UK, Europe and USA he told his own hospitality story, including the learnings from his successful career that led him to CEO of Ed’s Easy Diner and his aspirations in this role.

Valuable industry insight was on offer too, thanks to a briefing by Technomics.  This session utilised Technomic’s vast foodservice resources across the UK, US and Canada to identify key trends and spotlight potential opportunities for growth in the rapidly-changing UK industry.

Attendee List


Take a look at the attendee list for this event.

Event Review

Kicking off summer in style

The Arena Summer event attracted a diverse mix of professionals from across the hospitality industry, all of whom left at the end of a valuable day of insight, inspiration and engagement with plenty of food for thought – and a rather delicious mill of Santa Maria Tellicherry pepper!

The Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel provided the venue for the event and most definitely upheld its reputation for five-star hospitality.

Getting to grips with the market

Industry specialists, Technomic, set the pace with a compelling overview of the casual dining market and its opportunities. Technomic’s Vice President Patrick Noone’s engaging presentation style delivered a myriad of facts and stats in a most digestible manner. Here is a flavour of the insights shared:

  • The US is no longer ahead of other countries, with trends migrating at a very fast pace.
  • The top 100 UK chain restaurants and pubs saw sales rise by 6% in 2014.
  • The fastest growing full service restaurant chains are Bill’s, Byron, Loungers, Ed’s Easy Diner and Cote, with Papa Johns, Costa, Domino’s, Itsu and Subway leading the field for limited service restaurants.
  • Fast casual is driving the industry and getting sexier with premiumisation and customised, downsized menus.
  • Technomic has identified the 10Fs of fast casual, encapsulating what the consumer is looking for: food quality; fine ingredients; fitter wholesome food; fresh, first-rate décor, fair price, fast service, friendly employees, flexible offerings, full-view preparation.
  • QSR is being forced to elevate to mimic the fast casual model.
  • The big trends of casual dining that operators and suppliers must harness for success are: Healthy Eating – the ‘health halo’ continues to proliferate and challenge; Novelty Foods & Flavours, with more fun food hybrids to come; Spice – spicy sauces have increased by 75% in the UK since 2013; Pork – the pig is in (although our American presenter did apologise for the rise of the hot dog!); Cold Speciality Beverages – cold brewed coffee offers a huge opportunity, and anyone for a beer cocktail?; Global Influences – menus are becoming more global with teriyaki, Mexican and Cajun popular in the UK.

Patrick Noone signed off with this summary: “As in North America, UK menus will continue to evolve. Spicy and ethnic foods will dominate menus. Transparency will continue to be a differentiating factor. Health will remain top of mind…however, indulgence will still have a place on menus.” And with these wise words about the joy of eating out: “It’s an experience, so don’t forget that.”

A man of the people

Following an energetic drinks reception and a delicious three-course lunch, the post-lunch speaker, Andrew Guy, the CEO of Ed’s Easy Diner, gave an inspiring talk that rounded off the day and extended the morning session perfectly.

He began by thanking the audience for their contributions to Hospitality Action (HA) and Springboard, with £970 raised for the charities during the course of the day. A committed trustee for both HA and Springboard, it was clear from the outset that people are Andrew’s main focus and ultimately the secret to his impressive hospitality career, which spans four decades, and his ongoing success.

With casual dining brands offering good décor and food – Ed’s iconic 1950s American-style diners epitomise the images we cherish from the big and small screen (think Happy Days, Back to the Future and When Harry Met Sally) – the competitive edge has to be the people.  Describing Ed’s as a theatre set with the staff the cast and the customers the audience, he urged his industry colleagues to always remember “We’re in the entertainment business.”

Ed’s employs over 800 people, with 300 more to join by Christmas, and Andrew always works with Springboard to find new talent.  He describes their recruitment philosophy as “We hire smiles, with no requirement for hospitality experience or indeed any work experience.” With an upbeat positive attitude and a determination to get ahead, the training will take care of the rest.

A strong culture of internal promotion can be found at Ed’s, with new starters that have had a good first year (and a great reference from their manager) given the opportunity to enter the manager scheme, Ed’s Academy.  Graduates are guaranteed a junior manager position and Andrew gave an inspiring example of an employee starting out this way who now sits on the board.

Andrew also has firm views on the talent pool. He was keen to convey to his audience that talent is all around them at every level and it is their job to identify it and develop it to get the right team. He also urged that if an internal person looks 50% right, give them the job. The internal candidate (strengths and weaknesses) is known to you, unlike the polished external interviewee, and seeing people getting ahead is highly motivating for the entire team.  He assured the audience (who were nodding in agreement with Andrew’s viewpoint) that “very rarely has the 50% rule let me down.”

Looking forward, Ed’s is looking to expand from 41 to 55 sites by Christmas, with 80 the target for the end of 2016.  Again, Andrew was adamant that this will be achieved by hiring, training, motivating and keeping good people.

He also attributed the success of Ed’s to occupying its niche and protecting it.  Ed’s owns the ‘diner space’, which is difficult for others to challenge.  In fact, the top three reasons customers go to Ed’s are for Americana, customer service and the handmade milkshake.  The hamburger comes in fourth, which Andrew was pleased to add removes Ed’s from the much debated ‘hamburger wars’.

Confirming that the rumours of a sale are true, he was clear that the change would be only to the financial structure and not in the philosophy of how Ed’s runs, with the opportunities remaining the same.

He also didn’t entirely rule out the somewhat amusing concept of taking Americana to the US…