#cleaneating #eatclean #nourishyourbody #protein #nutrition #gains

These hashtags epitomised the food industry in 2016, spearheaded by the highly Instagrammable food writers like Deliciously Ella and the Hemsley Sisters. Last year was a #cleanliving turning point where, in our droves, us Brits swapped the "swift one" at the pub after work for a post-office spin class, while we ditched our morning coffes for green juices, and if you were really into that kind of thing, birchwater.

But Vincent McKevitt, founder of healthy eating take-out and café bar, Tossed, was a decade ahead of this trend.

After graduating university in 2004, he began planning his healthy eating empire, opening his first salad bar in London a year later. Now Tossed sells freshly made salads, and whole-wheat wraps, as well as protein bowls, eggs made to order and juices for breakfast.

Self-confessed fitness and healthy-food fanatic, McKevitt's view is healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring. Long gone are the days when a Weightwatchers low-fat, low-calorie ready meal was lunch for city workers. "We're now realising we need to eat proper food and a decent amount of it," he says, explaining how Tossed was the first made-on-site company in the UK to display all of its nutritional information. "It's about being strong not skinny."

But while McKevitt admits the recent clean eating trend has helped Tossed – he very recently opened his 29th store – it has also bought more competition into the sector.

"Now every Tom, Dick and Harry has a healthy eating café and even traditional players like Pret A Manger and M&S are offering healthy ranges."

Cashless

But McKevitt likes to do things differently and it's not just the healthy eating trend he pioneered – in March 2016, Tossed was the first hospitality business in Europe to go completely cashless. And in most of Tossed's locations, McKevitt has swapped the tills for self-serve iPad kiosks, which has allowed the business to simplify its operation and increase service.

"Our newest site has 20 self-serve kiosks – where else can you go and get 20 people served all at the same time?"

McKevitt says the reason behind going cashless was to support Tossed's USP, which is the customisation of meals.

"Our business model, although amazing, is slow," he explains. "You can walk into Pret A Manger and pick up a sandwich and go to the till and walk out. But there's a lot of questions with our thing – What base? What protein? What veggies? And dressing? There's a ridiculous amount of questions."

The customisation of lunch which separates Tossed from its high-street healthy eating competitiors, combined with the fact its food is made to order, really slowed down the process. So by removing staff from the five or so tills and placing them on food prep allowed Tossed to treble its ordering points.

By partnering with Pointone EPOS, Tossed offers its customers iPads with connected card readers, which also accept contactless cards and Apple Pay. The only locations Tossed is not cashless is within shopping centres due to restrictions set by the owners.

The technology solution also allows customers to set up an account and sign in at the iPad, which means they can just hit 'last order' and have their favourite meal from yesterday in an even shorter timeframe. Customers can also sign-in, order and pay on the mobile app, before picking up their meal in-store.

Food delivery

Meanwhile, a new trend to hit the entire food industry is delivery services like Deliveroo and UberEats – both of which McKevitt decided to use as platforms, despite losing 20-25% of his margin to the delivery middle-man.

He says companies like Deliveroo are both disrupting and enabling his business at the same time

"They're a necessary evil, because ultimately they take a lot of margin from restaurants," he explains. "But if you're not on there you're missing out. And as operators we can slate them, but that's what the consumer wants, so you have to deal with it."

He also points to Amazon's recent move into the food industry and how it could take its Fresh model and become a player in the meal delivery market. "I used Amazon Prime Now on Sunday evening at 8pm and two hours later it had delivered two bottles of wine, the supermarket was around the corner, so it was a bit lazy of me, but I still did it," he describes, noting this increasing trend to use delivery services.

"But in 12 months time, you're not going to have all those companies," says McKevitt. "Do you bet on Deliveroo or Uber? Uber is not as slick, but it has the network, so probably Uber. Then is it Uber or Amazon? Amazon is much bigger, so probably the long-game bet would be on Amazon."

He points out that with too many players in the meal delivery market, it's not ideal to have a tablet for every delivery company behind the counter. It's also not ideal to have 20 or so delivery drivers all wearing helmets coming into Tossed stores during the lunchtime rush.

And it’s the same in other sectors such as payments and table booking apps, even the fitness apps McKevitt uses down at the gym.

"With all this tech stuff, the main thing is there are no clear offers and there are too many from the consumer point of view and from an operator point of view – who do I go with?" he asks.

"But we have to suck it up and wait for them to fight it out until there's a clear winner."