I was interested to see this bit of news come out recently. As most of you will probably know I owned and operated the Purple Onion restaurant, during my tenure it was known as Crosby’s, in Tarmonbarry many years ago. Well, one thing is for certain, things have changed significantly since then in the food and beverage business.
This week saw the 2018 Irish Foodservice Market Insights Report published by Bord Bia. The report tracks trends in consumer behaviour when eating outside the home and also highlights some of the challenges the industry faces. This report has shown that restaurants are increasingly seen as a form of entertainment and consumers are willing to spend money on something "unique and different". Essentially indicating that price is no longer the key deciding factor for customers when they are deciding to eat out. The trends in the report also reveal that Irish people are eating on the go more, and three meals a day are no longer the standard. The report predicts that Ireland’s foodservice market will grow by 6.1% this year to reach a total value of €8.2bn.
Convenience is key for consumers who are looking to source food ‘anytime, anywhere’. A continued emphasis on convenient options such as takeaways and deliveries will drive growth and spread to other segments that traditionally don’t cater for this style of dining, including restaurants, pubs, and perhaps even hotels.
Consumers these days are looking for more of an experience when eating out. Occasions of eating out will increasingly be divided into those that are convenience driven and those in which consumer demand “something unique.”
Third party delivery services are possibly the biggest disruptors in the industry, as technology provides app-enabled ordering which is increasingly moving into sectors of that haven’t traditionally delivered such as full-service restaurants and even pubs. Delivery-only kitchens are starting to appear in other countries and will likely be an area of focus for delivery companies in Ireland.
The growing on-demand foodservice culture is driving the popularity of cashless, click and collect, and third-party delivery options. As more tech-enabled solutions enter the market, much of the ‘front of house’ experience between consumers and the operator could ultimately become automated.
Fresh is best
The changing palate of the Irish consumer has led to a rise in demand for ‘fresh and locally sourced’ food, not only to meet the growing consumer requirement for ‘health and wellness’ but also reduce food miles and environmental impact. Plant-based diets are no longer ‘fringe’ and while the percentage of consumers that are vegan or vegetarian remains small, consumers are increasingly looking for alternative dietary options.
Business which operate with a conscience is now the expectation of modern consumers, not the exception and this includes reducing food waste and reducing packaging. This trend can probably be seen more in the retail industry at present but is quickly making its way into every aspect of FMCG and F&B. While the most of the focus, heretofore, has been on the coffee cup, the demands of consumers have moved onto plastics and broader packaging (both consumer-facing and back-of-house). Consumers demand “something” be done but are often poorly informed on the broader infrastructure needed to recycle or compost foodservice waste.
Irish consumers nowadays are; younger, and older, and being ‘all things to all consumers’ is increasingly challenging for operators. These operators require tech-enabled solutions to appeal to younger consumers, while older consumers tend to be more traditional in their usage of their business's services.
The ‘foodservice market’ includes all food eaten and prepared outside of the home and includes restaurants, pubs, hotels, coffee shops, schools and colleges, workplace catering, hospitals, and vending machines. Bord Bia's findings were published in the report, and show that consumer demand for convenience and sustainable practices are "disrupting the foodservice industry" and that with more operators using food as a tool to compete, new channels such as forecourt food experiences continue to emerge. The report also highlights the fact that city centres have now come close to the saturation point when it comes to quick-serve restaurants and cafés, and that "a tightening labour market" has led to shortages in finding and keeping qualified staff.
Bord Bia Chief Executive, Tara McCarthy, said: “As the economy has grown, so too has the foodservice industry. Strong growth in income and employment, coupled with strong tourism figures, have been key contributors to the overall health of the sector. While we expect to see continued positive activity in the next three years, going forward overall growth figures are likely to be lower than previous years. As globalisation continues and Ireland remains an attractive location for expansion of multi-national foodservice operators, Irish provenance and its sustainability credentials remains a strong differentiator and something that Irish consumers see as unique and important to their decision-making process which is encouraging for Irish food and drink suppliers.”
Maureen Gahan, foodservice specialist for Bord Bia added: “The Irish foodservice industry continues to exhibit strength but with some cautionary signs on the horizon, it is important that our businesses continue to monitor and plan for Brexit and have a strong focus on cost control. We would also encourage companies to prioritise investing in socially responsible activity, particularly packaging and explore ways to differentiate their offering.”
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