According to reports from the Eating Out Panel, one in six of us went out for our Christmas Day dinners. In layman’s terms, that means around eight million meals were served by restaurants and pubs around the country. Over a third of people chose to have their meal at a pub, with hotels and restaurants in hot pursuit.
And what is more, when questioned, more than 25% of UK adults who have never eaten out on Christmas Day, however almost half of this number were willing to give it a go.
There is no doubt that cooking a big celebratory dinner at home (or having to endure the stress of being catered to by friends and family) is stressful. Interestingly, most of those who went out were under 35 years old and were from London, perhaps showing an interesting generational trend within the new younger and time-poor sectors.
So what’s in line for the catering sector this year?
Frankly, it’s not expected to be much different from last year, and nowhere near the peak levels of eating out experienced in 2008. Foodservice consultancy Horizons is foreseeing around 2% sales growth for the UK’s restaurants, hotels, cafés, dining outlets, contract caterers and takeaways.
Those expected to fare particularly well are limited product takeaways which are considered small outlets in high traffic area, such as juice bars, Mexican street food and bakeries and coffee outlets.
Horizons’ managing director Peter Backman comments: “We envisage this trend continuing as entrepreneurial operators come up with novel ideas for brands. It is these operators who will bring new food trends to the market by renting small, cost-effective spaces that larger brands can’t.”
However, it seems that external global factors will influence people’s decisions to eat out, such as terrorist threats, the looming election, the uncertainty about ebola and other factors that negatively affect people’s confidence.
There is also a belief that the larger operators will be expending through acquisition with some of the smaller players in the marketplace.
“The larger players are now at the point where they will start to ask where further growth will come from. The eating out market in some sectors is reaching saturation and overseas expansion is difficult for most, so acquisition through 2015 and into 2016 is the obvious answer. Investors are much keener on the eating out sector than they were and obtaining finance for deals will get easier,” concludes Backman.
So although there is cautious optimism in the industry, those who are continuing to survive and thrive will carry on as before, and the only advice is to keep maintaining the tools with which they work, ie, the kitchen equipment. Here at AC Services (Southern), we reiterate the importance of keeping ovens well maintained and serviced, with a budget set aside for regular check-ups. No matter the state of the economy or worldwide events, if your oven goes, so does your catering profit margin!