Nisha Katona MBE – the CEO and founder of Mowgli Street Food restaurants, is the latest speaker to join Casual Dining’s free business Keynote line-up for 2020. Back by popular demand, following her candid, standing room only Keynote interview at the show earlier this year, she’ll be delivering more exclusive ‘warts and all’ career and business insights in a highly anticipated opening day session on 25 March at ExCeL London.
And what a meteoric career it’s been so far. In the five years since Ms Katona founded her first restaurant in Liverpool (while still working full time as a successful barrister), she’s opened nine more sites across the UK (number 11, in Bristol, is coming soon), become a familiar face on TV, written three cookbooks, set up the Mowgli Trust charity to help local and regional causes, featured twice on the Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 list, and been awarded an MBE for services to the food industry.
Looking ahead, with expansion plans already in the works for Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow next year, and a new cookery show in development, there’s plenty more to come from this inspirational chef, restaurateur, and self-proclaimed ‘curry evangelist’.
“Casual Dining brings the whole industry together and steel sharpens steel,” she says. “There is nothing more invigorating and stimulating – it’s so important to keep our ideas and strategies fresh and relevant and one never stops learning from one’s peers.”
Other recently confirmed speakers include Andre Johnstone, wagamama’s business development director (and former UK marketing director), discussing how the multi-award-winning brand is ‘Driving innovation’ across its UK business (most recently with its new Mamago grab and go food concept). Stephen Hill from ramen chain Bone Daddies joins Dishoom’s Brian Trollip in the Ops Director panel. And Martin Wolstencroft, co-founder and CEO of Arc Inspirations, which operates 19 bars and restaurants in the North of England (brands include Banyan, The Box and Manahatta), will be sharing his thoughts on the casual dining scene in the show’s new Bar Leaders panel.
The Menu Innovation in Pubs panel now boasts the expertise of Mark Teed, food implementation manager at Star Pubs & Bars (whose role involves providing extensive food support to the 2,700-strong leased and tenanted pub estate) and Ross Pike, chef director at Oakman Inns & Restaurants, who calls Casual Dining the “best show” for finding “innovative new products and inspiration”.
Mark McCulloch is back hosting a must-attend restaurant marketing panel, which will be recorded live for the hugely-popular Supersonic Marketing Podcast series (listen to highlights from the 2019 panel here: www.supersonic.marketing/blog/panel-sessions-from-lunch-and-casual-dining). His guests for 2020 will include Sara Stark from Dishoom, Libby Andrews from Pho, and Oli Ingham from Wahaca.
Plus show stalwarts Simon Stenning, founder of FutureFoodservice.com, Peter Backman, principal of Peter Backman Foodservice, Peter Martin, director at CM&Co and VP of CGA, and Mark Stretton, MD of Fleet Street Communications, will be chairing a mix of research sessions, must-attend interviews and lively panels.
As previously confirmed, bosses from Casual Dining Group, Azzurri Group, Bill’s Restaurants, The Cosy Club at Loungers, The Ivy Collection, Caravan Restaurants, Giggling Squid and UKHospitality will also be giving their take on the challenges and opportunities of competing in this dynamic market. Expect more headline reveals in the new year.
“It’s brilliant to see some of the UK’s top leaders in the industry gathered together in one place [at Casual Dining], all passing on their knowledge and insight on the sector,” says Baton Berisha, MD of The Ivy Collection. “I’m honoured to be taking part,” he adds.
In addition to over 50 speakers in three dedicated theatres (sponsored by Yumpingo), the show will feature 220 exhibiting companies representing every link of the supply chain. The list is now available to view at www.casualdiningshow.co.uk/exhibitor-list.