Stephan M. Leuschner, Director Ghost Kitchens, Culinary Concepts & Broadcast at Rational, founder of its popular TrendTalk live webinar series and a frequent contributor to KTCHNrebel, is – unsurprisingly – very much looking forward to the forthcoming International Ghost Kitchen Conference. He’s not just attending, but also moderating an expert panel session at the event, held at the beautiful and historic Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam on March 1-3, 2023, Leuschner says “it is a great honor and opportunity to meet exceptional industry leaders from three continents.”
On Thursday March 2, Leuschner will chair the ‘Leadership Perspectives Panel’ and confidently predicts the session will mix the educational with the inspirational, due to the caliber and experience of his guest speakers.
“We will get inspired by outstanding entrepreneurs such as Massimo De Marco [CEO of Soigne’] from the US, Gary Moore [Regional VP of Franchise Operations, Dine Brands Global] – a veteran of the foodservice industry based in Dubai and Omar Rifai [Co-Founder of grubtech], a forward thinker who has massively contributed to the rise of food delivery and ghost kitchen business in the Middle East. Finally, from the Netherlands, we have Joey Bloemendahl [Global Head of Business Development, Just Eat Takeaway] one of the many great people behind Just Eat delivery. That name says all – a company that maybe is one of the reasons why food delivery and ghost kitchens grew and conquered the world.”
Wisdom and experience
The panel will touch many burning topics that drive the food delivery industry at the moment, says Leuschner, and “there is nothing better than listening to the people running this industry and learning from their wisdom and experience,” he says.
The sector is in “a phase of upheaval right now and the entire industry has to adopt to financial changes, the labor situation, environmental requirements, or simply the latest ‘zeitgeist’. This panel will give answers and hopefully can guide us in the coming foodservice journey,” says Leuschner.
The Conference, he says, “is exceptional” because it is taking place for the first time in Europe and therefore represents “another great opportunity to connect in real life – something we have missed over the last few years but now can embrace again even more. Just some two years ago when I started the TrendTalk series, there was no opportunity to sit in one room, face-to-face. Since then, we had more than 40 live speakers in the so far 11 sessions, but I never had the opportunity to meet one of them in person. I am delighted to see many of the fellow speakers attending this conference as well.
Shaping the industry
This event will therefore be a gathering of relevant individuals who “are shaping this industry” says Leuschner. “Besides that, it is an amazing opportunity to build new contacts, establish relations and learn what drives this industry and how to overcome the challenges of tomorrow.”
There has “never been in history”: he says, a gathering of so many relevant players in one room. “The line-up of speakers reads literally like the Who’s Who of the food-delivery eco system and the topics cover nearly every aspect of today’s situation.”
The Conference comes hot on the heels of the latest TrendTalk webinar from Rational, where one of the highlights was an interview between Leuschner and host Michael Jones on key trends around sustainability and efficiency in foodservice operations for ghost kitchen and meal delivery. Currently, the sector faces itself facing “a new year and new challenges” said Leuschner on the webinar.
Commenting on one particular challenge – that of attracting investment – Leuschner referenced Zhong Xu, CEO of Deliverect, who recently said: “Free money is done! Mortgages have increased, that means it puts pressure on your general profit.”
In recent years, said Leuschner, with cheap money available in this space, the ghost kitchen and meal delivery sector experienced a kind of ‘sandbox environment’ where experimentation and trial and error became possible, without operators too many losses before they carved a niche or expanded upon a concept that worked for their customers. “Today, I believe it is getting more and more important to build out a holistic concept of the right brands, right equipment, and right staff to be profitable on smallest space. Saving rent, lowest possible energy consumption and adequate labor costs are key. The time of ‘more is more’ seems to be over for the moment; the same applies to ultra-fast scaling we saw in some countries over the last years resulting in over-pacing in some cases,” he said.
Those very trends – and more – will be addressed at length by Leuschner and a plethora of additional experts across the program at the International Ghost Kitchen Conference in March. If you’re attending, have a great event – and do make sure you chat to Leuschner at the RATIONAL booth there too. “I am more than happy to show our great solutions,” he says.