Foodservice operators face an opportunity to grow their lunchtime trade as the definition of lunch broadens and consumers become more adventurous in their choices.
That’s the view of analyst firm Horizons, which believes the blurring of lines between the breakfast and snacking sectors is reshaping consumer behaviour. Speaking at the lunch! trade show in London yesterday, Emma Read, Horizons’ director of marketing and business development, told the audience that consumers expect to be able to eat when they want and wherever they happen to be.
“Lunch is extending beyond its traditional times — it could now be anything from mid morning to late afternoon. Operators need to be prepared for this and adapt,” she said. “There are also new, innovative chains offering a much wider choice of lunchtime dishes – how much longer can the humble sandwich be our lunch of choice when you can buy fantastically healthy salads, noodle pots and a vast array of other foods-to-go?”
Currently around 3.5 billion lunch meals are sold accounting for 44.5% of the foodservice sector. This share has has grown 2% since 2012 and is likely to expand by a further 5.6% by 2018.
Read outlined some of the changes the market has undergone as operators embrace demand for faster, contactless payment methods, food ordering apps, delivery to desk or home, food on the go and bespoke dishes, as well catering for those with allergen requirements and specific health issues.
“Food is becoming increasingly personalised – you only have to look at what’s on offer from some of the new chains on the high street. These operators are offering food from breakfast to bedtime with everything in between. Those that don’t will be left behind.
Read said that the growing popularity of street food, particularly in large cities across the UK, continues to offer consumers new food choices, citing Borough Market in London as an example of a location where consumers are flocking for lunchtime meals due to the variety of cuisines on offer.
“Food stalls are selling exciting, innovative food that’s healthy, great value, easy to eat and different. They satisfy consumer’s desire to try something new. These operators are helping to drive lunch of the future,” she added.