10 things you need to know about the UK’s changing foodservice market

Lucky Chip burger

Research from the NPD Group has revealed consumers’ choices when buying something to eat or drink away from home and says that it illustrates just how much British life is changing.

The traditional love of a hot cup of tea is distinctly lukewarm, Brits prefer burgers to fish-and-chips and at pubs consumers are now more likely to order a soft drink than alcohol. Meanwhile, independent ‘ethnic’ restaurants are in decline while high street ‘casual dining’ brands are booming.

Here is NPD Group’s top 10 insights for the out-of-home (OOH) British foodservice market.

1. Drink up! The brave new world of the British pub

Branded pubs have chalked up a 35% increase in visits YE June 2016 vs YE June 2010. Independent pubs have suffered the reverse, with visits diving over 27%. As of June this year, the 838 million visits to branded pubs over the previous 12 months were close to double the 429 million visits recorded for the independents. That’s not all. Pubs of all kinds are seeing servings of alcohol drop while soft drink servings rise. Alcohol servings are down to 483 million for YE June 2016 from 614 million in YE June 2010. Soft drinks have jumped from 577 million to 647 million.

2. Britain’s love affair with tea has gone off the boil

The great British cuppa? Not anymore. Our thirst for tea is lukewarm at best while our demand for coffee is robust. Over the period YE June 2010 to YE June 216, servings of tea in Britain’s out-of-home (OOH) foodservice market dropped some 20% from 1.07 billion to 861 million. Coffee consumption over the same period was stable at around 2.1 billion servings, with a clear shift from traditional coffee to specialty coffees – Americano, Cappuccino, Latte, Espresso, Mocha and Macchiato.

3. Imagine burgers replacing fish and chips

The decline in visits to fish & chip outlets is steady, down nearly 8% YE June 2016 vs YE June 2010. Out of 11.3 billion visits to OOH outlets for YE June 2016, over 9% were to fast-food burger restaurants while less than 3% were for fish & chips. Significantly, our hunger for burgers far exceeds the expansion of the quick-service restaurant (QSR) sector serving fast food. Visits to fast-food outlets generally were up nearly 7% YE June 2016 vs YE June 2010, but visits specifically for burgers grew by a massive 25% over the same period.

4. Ethnic restaurants could do with spicing up

In the quick service sector, restaurants serving Chinese or Indian food as well as kebabs, have seen visits drop by 5% between YE June 2010 and YE June 2016. In full-service restaurants, serving more formal Chinese, Indian, Greek, French, Mexican or Spanish food, the decrease in visits is bigger at 6%.

5. We’re hungry for meal deals

But we still like to feel we are getting a bargain when eating away from home. For YE June 2016 (and the previous year to June 2015), 28% of OOH foodservice visits involved meal deals or promotions. Meal deals are big in the casual dining sector and were used in 40% of visits in YE June 2016.

6. Do kids make the decisions?

Do you love it when your kids are happy? The foodservice world loves your kids. For YE June 2016, nearly one quarter of OOH visits where at least one child was present (22.6%) were motivated by the fact that ‘the kids like it there’. NPD’s data show that kids ‘choosing’ an outlet are driving some £3.8 billion of foodservice business each year.

7. Casual dining is red hot

Britain has got casual dining fever. For YE June 2016, casual dining outlets did £5.07 billion in sales, up nearly 35% on YE June 2010. Consumers notched up around 502 million visits to Britain’s numerous casual dining outlets for YE June 2016; that’s 26% more (or nearly 104 million visits) than YE June 2010.

8. Signs of guilt about snacks

Chocolate bars are still our favourite snack, followed by crisps, but servings of each have decreased in recent years. For YE June 2010, Britain bought 334 million servings of chocolate and 288 million servings of crisps. But by YE June 2016 those numbers had tumbled by 14% and 30% respectively.

9. Breakfasts are getting bigger

Some say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s certainly a growing part of the foodservice industry, accounting for 11.2% of Britain’s eat-out visits – up from 9.5% six years ago.

10. London is the engine of Britain’s foodservice industry

London accounts for around 19% of eat-out sales nationally and nearly 16% of visits. But London foodservice prices are 17% higher than the rest of the country. The writer Samuel Johnson said ‘there is in London all that life can afford’. But can you afford to eat in the British capital?

Cyril Lavenant, NPD’s director of foodservice for the UK, said: “We all know preparing meals, snacks and drinks can be hard work so buying food and beverages outside will never lose its appeal and that’s why Britain’s out-of-home (OOH) foodservice market is big business. It could be worth £53.5 billion by the end of 2016, not so far behind the value of the UK auto industry. But food and drink bought away from home is a fast-changing business too, with new brands and concepts changing the look and feel of our town centres and our high streets, and even changing the way we enjoy our free time.”

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