Investment hunger for food-to-go opportunities will build post-pandemic and focus on category leaders and the strongest operators, MCA’s Food To Go conference has heard.

Darrel Connell, partner at Imbiba, an investor in Farmer J, said the specialist investor’s mantra across leisure, hospitality and lifestyle was to invest in category leaders in every subsector, such as food to go.

Farmer J, the health-focused fast-casual format, had plans to triple in size over the next 12 months, Connell said.

“We won’t go into me-too brands. It has to be differentiated and stand on its own two feet in that category,” he said.

He predicted a wave of insolvency processes as landlords geared up to take “serious action” when they were permitted to do so.

“The insolvency industry is really quiet at the moment. They see it as the calm before the storm,” said Connell.

Imbiba is “super-bullish” about London. “We think it will come back. I think there is a massive pent-up demand for people who want to get back into a working environment.”

Ashton Crosby, co-founder and managing director of restaurant private equity at Capdesia, said food to go was a “hugely attractive” segment.

“Our house view is that we are at, or approaching, the bottom of the cycle, at least in terms of supply side.”

The indicators were there would be a huge availability of property with reports of 30% of restaurants that would never reopen post-Covid.

“All that points to huge availability of property and sites on the market, massive reductions in rent, much less competition for prime sites. All of that I think is a good thing if you’re willing to invest in this sector.”

Capdesia, which has a minority stake in Wasabi Sushi & Bento, expects a boom in consumer spending in the short term with food to go is in a position to capitalise.