Freeths LLP are proud to have sponsored and partnered with the Peach 20/20 Conference again this year. Read on for Selina Norris’ summary of the takeaways.

Peter Martin, the founder of Peach 20/20, was an exceptional host as ever and opened the summit with key data and insight on the current market.  Amongst the data was the prediction that significant losses in the independent sector are expected to continue in the near future but good news followed with the majority of the industry now beginning to see a profit again despite, as Peter eloquently articulated, “the cost of doing business” being and remaining a capital concern. Most pleasing of the statistics was that, despite the cost of living crisis, eating and drinking out remains the top spending priority for consumers over the next 12 months – news which was no doubt gratefully received by all.  As Peter correctly alluded “People hate being miserable” (here here)! Challenges for the boardroom, changing consumer habits and creating a winning culture were all further headlines.

Ross Walker, chief UK economist and co-head of global economics at NatWest Markets followed with an insightful analysis of Britain’s economic health.  Although a flatlining economy is the expectation for 2024, it is not all doom and gloom with spotlight on the prospects for growth and a welcome forecast for interest rates to stabilise.  Although the next few years will continue to be tough economy wise for our industry, there was a shared sense of hope by all for a brighter horizon.

With investment and funding an essential (and, regrettably for some), a crippling concern, Jane O’Riordan, chair of Caravan, Turtle Bay and Red Engine (and winner on the night of Chair/NED of the Year Award) led an enthralling panel discussion on where funding was or may be expected from in the current market.  As part of the panel, Sarah Willingham, CEO of Nightcap PLC talked us through the PLC’s recent acquisitions and investment opportunities whilst Ashton Crosby, co-founder and MD, Capdesia discussed the attractiveness of the hospitality market to investors and shared future expectations.  Although some of the opportunities for investment may have slowed and be more challenging to obtain, it seems the door is by no means closed for those who are willing to rise to the challenge and ask for it. Meanwhile, panel members Chris Miller, founder and CEO, White Rabbit Projects and Rod McKie, executive chair of New World Trading Co and non-exec chair encouraged optimism and tips on scaling successfully in light of the current economy.

After a brief networking break with some delightful drinks and nibbles kindly put on by a number of the partners (which I must add, included some delectable Peach themed buns created by buns from home) it was time for a head to head with host Peter Martina and Jack Gibbons, one of America’s leading hospitality trailblazers and recent winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year® 2023 Southwest.  CEO of the Dallas-based FB Society, Jack gave an insightful overview of how he has worked his way up over the last 30 years from a waiter to multifaceted business and restaurant owner.  Jack talked us through how the business has grown, hurdles it has overcome and how the concepts have developed from fine dining, stylish wine bars, taco stores, slider stores and food halls.  Jack gave the audience his own views on methods and actions for delivering rapid growth and how to push boundaries to new limits with encouraging recounts of FB Society’s journey to success. Jack also shared his love of FB Society’s brand Whiskey Cake as well as future goals of FB Society.  Of specific interest was Jack’s openness to competition, sharing ideas and creating a hospitality culture in which we can all thrive.

Kate Nicholls, OBE, CEO of UKHospitality followed, capturing the audience with her insider view on the political agenda.  Delegates were treated to Kate’s views on the prospects for the next government and the next 12 months.  Getting behind business rates reform remained high on the agenda.

The conference concluded with a leaders panel on future proofing the sector featuring Helen Charlesworth, MD, Stonegate, Ed Davenport, founder of Incipio, Marcello Distefano, MD, San Carlo Group and Sunaina Sethi, co-founder and people director, JKS Restaurants.  With key messages on sustainability (be ready and embrace), customer experience (make it the focus), changing consumer habits (adapt with the demand), and technology (use it to your advantage and tailor to your business to achieve gains operationally as well as for client engagement and experience) it was a lively discussion.

A drinks reception and awards dinner followed where deserving winners took home awards.  Click on the link for a full list of the winners: Hero & Icon Awards (

Awards over, I think it would be fair to say, delegates left armoured with helpful insights and tips from some of the industry’s best entrepreneurs and ready to take on another year with vigour, determination and resilience.

For more information contact Selina Norris

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