Pub & Restaurant Leaders to Deliver Keynotes at Casual Dining 2018

Casual Dining has unveiled more new speakers for 2018, including MDs and senior directors from PizzaExpress, Mitchells & Butlers, Casual Dining Group, Loungers and Pho.

Returning to the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, on 21-22 February next year, the show’s free Keynote line-up now includes Susan Chappell, divisional director, exec committee, at Mitchells & Butlers; Mark Smith, MD of Vietnamese restaurant chain Pho; Nick Collins, CEO of Loungers; James Spragg, chief operating officer of Casual Dining Group (CDG); and Zoe Bowley, UK & Ireland MD at PizzaExpress.

Representing some of the UK’s biggest and most well-known casual dining chains, these five high-profile speakers will be sharing their expert insights into the challenges and opportunities of competing in this dynamic market.

James Spragg, who is responsible for the Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Belgo restaurant portfolio, as well as leading some of CDG’s key strategic initiatives, will be giving his take on ‘brand evolution’.  Prior to taking on the newly-created role of COO at the group last year, he was MD of Bella Italia and Café Rouge – overseeing the French bistro’s successful brand reinvigoration.  He’ll be discussing this, and how they are keeping these core brands fresh and relevant for 2018 and beyond, on the show’s opening day.

Keeping ‘relevant in a crowded and competitive market’ is also a central theme in Zoe Bowley’s exclusive Keynote, discussing PizzaExpress’ transformation agenda, on the show’s second day.

Founded decades before the term ‘casual dining’ had been coined, it’s been a favourite on the UK’s high street for over 50 years.  During that time, it’s seen off plenty of rivals and embraced new opportunities – expanding into retail and delivery, presenting ‘live’ music and comedy experiences, and launching 100+ international sites.  Recently, it’s just opened its 600th restaurant in Hangzhou Raffles City, in China.

Bowley, a member of PizzaExpress’ UK Board since 2011 (first as operations director, then UK chief operating officer, and now MD), will be revealing how a focus on putting their people first and being customer centric has been key to ensuring sustainable growth; both in and out of restaurants and across both home and international markets.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer our visitors such an incredible Keynote line-up for 2018 – and we’ve still got many more great names to announce!” says group event director Chris Brazier.

“This will be the first time that representatives from PizzaExpress, Mitchells & Butlers, Pho, and Jamie’s Italian, who we announced last month, will appear in the show’s theatre.  Casual Dining has already established itself as the destination show for restaurant, pub and bar operators, and these new speakers –including some of the most influential individuals working within the sector – just make it even more unmissable,” he says.

Casual Dining 2018 returns to the Business Design Centre in London on 21-22 February 2018.  Entry to the show’s Keynote Theatre (sponsored by Yumpingo) is free with advance visitor registration.  The central exhibition, covering three floors of the BDC, will feature over 200 leading suppliers showcasing the next-wave of food, drink, equipment and technology innovations.

“Casual Dining has all the ingredients for an excellent two days – from fantastic suppliers and their products to scores of operators and their perspectives.  All built into a program that stimulates and informs – it’s not to be missed!” says Mark Fox, CEO of Bill’s Restaurants.

Free trade registration now open

For more information, and to register for a free trade ticket, please visit