Industry analyst Peter Backman has been finalising his annual update of foodservice numbers and says that “broadly, they show a bad situation getting better”.
With venues allowed to serve customers outdoors from yesterday and inside from next month, Mr Backman expects sales to reach about 55% of 2019 levels this year, bearing in mind that trading in some commercial sectors has been largely non-existent for the first four months of 2021.
Next year he forecasts sales to be at about 80% of pre-Covid levels with the most problematic sectors being workplace and hotels.
The market will probably get back to pre-covid levels in 2024 or 2025, he predicts.
“I have taken into account many factors such as the changing role of delivery in the makeup of full service restaurants versus limited-service restaurants, and the relative exposure of coffee shops to city centres and transport hubs.
“Similarly, the absence of overseas tourists and businesspeople will have a significant impact on hotels, especially those in central London, while staycationing Brits will have a reverse (and very positive) effect in rural and seaside locations (even if they choose to stay at an Airbnb rather than in a hotel).
“The broader leisure sector will experience a variety of different growth rates, at least over the next two or three years. As for the near term, as some sectors open up for eating outside, how will the next few weeks look? The simple answer is: we shall shortly find out – and by the end of June, assuming that all goes well with reopening the foodservice sector, I anticipate some fairly dramatic growth rates.”
Mr Backman said it was useful to understand what has happened on the other side of the Atlantic, where growth in the trade during the Easter period was up 20% year-on-year based on unofficial figures he had seen from the food supply side of the market.
“This is probably the same “surge” that early indications (based on forward bookings, consumer intentions etc) seem to be suggest will happen in this country. Although a direct read across from this US experience might be somewhat misleading, I think we can assume, nevertheless, a short term surge of perhaps 20% (compared with 2019) leading up to mid-May. A crucial question is how long will the surge last? Let’s hope the answer is “a long time”.