Boxpark CEO Roger Wade discusses the evolution of his pop-up retail, dining and leisure destinations, the importance of experiential concepts and the impact of the 2018 World Cup in this year’s edition of Inside Eating Out.
Name and job title:
Roger Wade, CEO
Number of employees:
Biggest changes over the next 12 months:
We don’t need to make any changes at Shoreditch because we have a waiting list of people wanting to come in. We’ve got two units available and offers from about 12 operators.
Croydon has been challenging, but the World Cup has given us a new impetus. We need to bring on board a lot more leisure operators. We’ve done the eat and drink well, but we need to do entertainment a bit better. We do have 300+ events over the year, but those are more concentrated around evening events. We’re reaching out to leisure operators like your Swingers, your Flight Clubs, your Karaoke Boxes. One of the unique opportunities that we’ve got is to go beyond an eating and drinking environment. We need to make it a total entertaining experience – to eat, drink and play – that’s the bit that separates us. We need to give an experience above and beyond a food hall.
We’re opening Boxpark Wembley on 1 December, which is creeping up on us. It’s the first indoor environment for us in a purpose-built shed, 365 days a year. We’re oversubscribed by 300 tenants on the kitchen units.
Expansion plans over the next 12 months:
Beyond Wembley, we’re actively looking for our first site outside of London in places like Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. But, we’re also looking for other opportunities within London. Ultimately, we want to be a group of about 12, and then we’d look to expand internationally. We’re definitely looking to find a site outside of London in the next 12 months.
Predicted finances for the next 12 months:
We are trading 400%+ EBITDA – they’re fabulous at the moment. We have cash in the bank, we’re profitable and things are really good. We’ve brought on board a new chief financial officer. Things are looking very rosy.
Takeaways and deliveries:
We’ve traditionally had delivery agreements negotiated with Deliveroo. We’ve recently expanded our delivery agreements to include Uber Eats and Just Eat, so it’s a much wider offering. They’re a big part of our success and are increasing. We’re tracking at about 20% of our sales through delivery and our aim with Wembley is to get that up to 50%. We’ve only just agreed the deal with Just Eat, which will be launching at Wembley.
Customer loyalty is based around great experiences. We’ve done a survey on 500 people at Shoreditch and 500 at Croydon, and we found that customers come to Shoreditch maybe once a month, whereas they come to see us more often at Croydon, about twice a month. It has to be a genuine experience, because they don’t come as often as you think.
What we realised from the survey was that word of mouth is critical. You’ve got to ensure that your fundamental content is great – the quality of the food, the drink and the environment.
Our PR reach is usually about 2.5m, but during the World Cup, that went up to 2.5bn. The queues to get in were ridiculous and our website crashed twice with people buying tickets. We sold out in 10 minutes. We need to keep trading post World Cup. If we could have wished for a type of press, it would be to be recognised as the fan zone to go to and that’s what we’re building at Wembley. It was all our Christmases come at once. We’ve learnt what the possibility is of people actually not going to the game, but staying at Boxpark because of the experience.
What customers will seek in hospitality this year:
It’s a lot more experience-driven and about unique spaces. The guys that question the norm and not just watch what everyone else is doing will succeed.
Hear from all 14 operators in Inside Eating Out in the August issue of Casual Dining Magazine.