The UK restaurant market will grow by 32% to £11.7 billion in 2021 if it is allowed to reopen under the terms outlined by Boris Johnson in his roadmap to recovery last week, according to new research.
Analyst firm Lumina Intelligence said the figure was a “best-case scenario” that assumed all restrictions on social contact will be removed s planned on 21 June 2021.
In 2020 the market contracted by 53% to £8.9 billion as the Covid-19 pandemic left much of the industry closed or operating at reduced capacity for large swathes of the year.
The report also offers a “second scenario” in the event that a slight delay to the government’s proposed timeline sees hospitality remaining closed for indoor dining until late May and all restrictions being relaxed from August.
On that basis, market growth would slow to 24%, with the market reaching a value of £11 billion.
And if restrictions aren’t fully eased until October or later, the UK restaurant market is likely to only grow by 6% to £9.4 billion.
Lumina said that 52% of consumers are ‘very/extremely likely’ to dine-in at restaurants before June and consumer confidence is slowing improving.
However, technology will play a key role in reassuring consumers and maximising footfall once restrictions ease.
40% of consumers either ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that they feel confident eating out regardless of contactless ordering and payment technology.
However, this number rises to 56% of consumers if a restaurant has implemented technologies such as apps and QR codes that limit contact with staff and menus.
According to the report, 26% of consumers would be strongly encouraged to dine out in restaurants once lockdown is lifted if restaurants offered live music events.
23% would be strongly encouraged to dine out in restaurants once lockdown is lifted if a bottomless brunch was available and 17% if a restaurant hosted quiz nights. This reiterates the importance of restaurants offering experiences that cannot easily be replicated at home.
Customisable dishes on restaurant menus have grown by 83% in the total market and by 60% on chain restaurant menus compared to last year.
Over a fifth of dishes on restaurant menus are now customisable. The top three customisable dishes on restaurant menus are burgers, pizzas and burritos/wraps.
Katherine Prowse, insight manager at Lumina Intelligence, said: “Despite pent up demand from consumers for returning to the channel, operators will need to work hard to reassure consumers of the safety measures in place. Technology will play a key role in doing this.
“Nearly two-thirds of consumers say they would be more confident in visiting a restaurant if contact with staff and menus is restricted through the use of apps and QR codes.”
She added that focusing on the experiential side of dining out will be key to driving footfall.
“Over a quarter of consumers would be more likely to dine in at a restaurant that offered live music. With unemployment at its highest since 2016 and the threat of increased inflation, we have to recognise that restaurant visits are likely to be an infrequent treat. Experiences and events – as well as tech innovation – should encourage visits whilst discretionary income is under greater scrutiny.”