Britain’s travel hub foodservice market is set to embark on “explosive” growth, it was claimed this morning.
While the high street sector has been creaking under the strain of subdued consumer demand and rising costs, foodservice sales from key transport locations are now worth a staggering £2.75 billion a year.
And the overall winner for foodservice growth? Britain’s airports.
According to research house NPD Group, airports have seen the fastest growth in foodservice visits over the past three years of any sector, increasing some 31%.
Motorway service stations – up 16% in the same period – rank second. This is in contrast to the fortunes of foodservice operators located on Britain’s high streets and shopping centres, where visits growth has been hard to achieve.
In the 12 months to June 2019 high streets and shopping centres recorded a marginal decrease in visits (-0.2%, or -8m fewer visits).
NPD said that Britain’s travel hubs – airports, motorway service stations, train stations and petrol forecourts – now represent a “distinct” foodservice market.
The value of the travel hub foodservice market increased by over +11% for the year ending June 2019, from £2.47 billion to £2.75 billion.
Visits were up from 576 million to 619 million, an increase of more than +7%.
The travel hub foodservice market is already the same size in visit terms as the delivery sector was at the end of 2015.
NPD predicts that the travel hub market could see the same kind of explosive growth as the delivery channel, with consumer spending potentially growing by as much as +25% to £3.44 billion by 2022 (nearly £690 million more than current figures), thanks to the support of key trends.
Rail passenger journeys in the first quarter reached a record high of 1.76 billion, international departures from UK airports set a new record of 118 million last year and the British staycation boom is set to continue.
There are over 11,000 travel hubs in the UK currently, with the number set to grow.
Guy Fielding, business development director (foodservice) at The NPD Group, said: “Family holidays are front of mind this time of year and it is peak time for planes, trains and automobiles. Many of those that set off on their summer break by road will buy snacks and beverages from petrol forecourts and in motorway service stations.
“People travelling further afield on trains and planes will find high quality foodservice operators offering a huge range of foods and beverages in railway stations and airports to suit all budgets and appetites. A dynamic part of Britain’s £57 billion eat-out foodservice market, these travel hubs are seeing attractive growth and we predict more success. This is in stark contrast to the British high street, where the performance in terms of visits is flat.”
There is also evidence that customers buying food and beverages at airports, motorway service stations, train stations and petrol forecourts like what they find.
For the year ending June 2019, ratings of ‘excellent or very good’ for quality and taste of food have risen more within the travel hub sector than for the wider market, according to NPD’s research. Over the same period, the same applies for ratings of ‘excellent or very good’ for speed of service.
The number of deals and promotions in travel hub outlets is 64% higher than for the eat-out industry as a whole. Snacking accounts for most of what consumers eat and drink when travelling followed by lunch.
Breakfast is a bigger occasion in travel hub locations too, accounting for around one in five visits, in contrast to one in eight visits seen in the wider foodservice industry.