OPINION: Leisure sector buyers make kitchens the main attraction

Servery, Legoland

Leisure sector operators have under-invested in new catering equipment during recent years, but as the industry shows signs of recovering, procurement teams are being primed for growth. Foodservice equipment buyers need to think long and hard about the kit they need to improve service times and bolster margins, writes catering consultant Radford Chancellor.

The leisure venue catering market continued to be damaged by the squeeze on consumer budgets in 2014, despite the economic situation improving. However the market is predicted to rise in 2015, and this will have a positive effect on investment behaviour.

70% of UK adults buy food and drink from leisure venues showing the key role catering plays in servicing customers and the opportunities there are for secondary spend. Consumers have been cautious when it comes to catering purchases at leisure venues over the last few years. Discounts have become an attractive proposition to persuade them out of their caution.

We are aware of a number of very high profile leisure venues about to embark on large-scale catering investments.

But with consumer confidence set to rise in 2015, operators should look to provide more innovative menus prompting purchase, no longer relying on profit-damaging discounts.

We see a large increase in investment opportunities for the catering equipment and catering facilities sectors this year. We believe this is because there has been a sustained under-investment over the last five years, which relates back to the earlier unstable economy.

Managers and directors of many leisure facilities were thinking more carefully about what they were buying, only purchasing the essential products. In the main companies have been keen to hold onto their capital and only invest when absolutely required.

We believe operators understand that they require ongoing investment in their leisure venues, to ensure high standards, innovation and customer satisfaction. Of course, any investment needs to be underpinned by customer spending.

Leisure venue catering operators are seeking catering equipment which will improve service times, reduce equipment maintenance issues, reduce energy costs and improve profit margins. At the same time, they are seeking catering equipment that represents excellent value for money; buyers and specifiers are far more diligent when looking at the ‘life-time’ costs of products.

Many catering equipment opportunities will arise in 2015. We are aware of a number of very high profile leisure venues about to embark on large-scale catering investments.

In general, the catering equipment requirements for leisure venues are the same as for the catering sector as a whole, however there is emphasis on speed of service. There is a need to innovative within this sector, with concepts such as live cooking and healthy fast food or products that enhance venue perception.

Buyers are looking for equipment that is reliable, robust and requires minimal maintenance. Our advice for leisure sector buyers is always to look at the ‘life-time’ costs of catering equipment and not just the capital costs. While we understand capital budgets are still being held back, buyers should not lose sight of the longer term goals and costs.

Radford - NEEDS CUTTING OUTRadford Chancellor is owner and director of Radford Chancellor Ltd, a specialist consultancy providing practical advice and support to the hospitality and catering industry. www.radfordchancellor.co.uk

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