The Beaver: The future of food

The Beaver: The future of food

So another year has drawn to a close. While there was a certain amount of doom and gloom last year, including a number of restaurant operators announcing unit closures and even some administrations, the wider foodservice market kept on surprising consumers with new possibilities, concepts, ideas and the exploration of traditional meal occasions.

Meal occasions, or meal periods, were once clearly defined by breakfast, lunch or dinner, with an element of snacking or grazing in between. Guests would usually only eat a main meal out of the home during one of these times – usually a Friday night or Saturday night ‘special’ dinner, with the remainder of the week consisting of home cooked meals. This has become obsolete in today’s market. As operators identify key meal periods in specific areas, consumer habits have changed significantly and the foods that are being consumed are more handheld, making for a much larger grab and go market in larger bustling cities.

Sandwich shops would traditionally open predominantly for lunch, with a small breakfast window, before shutting up in the late afternoons. By expanding their product ranges to include a wider range of items like egg pots, porridges and pre-made breakfast rolls to accompany their increasingly good coffee offer, they have helped develop the ever-growing breakfast market. Breakfast is now open earlier, for a much longer time than it was previously. Shifting to lunch occasions, the sandwich shop is in its prime trading period with typical sandwiches, wraps, salads, pots and toasties available to consumers looking for a quick grab and go offer.

However, where this gets really interesting is throughout the early evening. Dinner occasions are new for these operators and, while they sell the same product range as lunch, the consumption and sell rate is much lower. In some cases, operators in this market have acted upon consumer trends and have opened up their units later, increasing their product ranges to include full meals and alcohol. As a result, the once lunchtime only operator is now servicing the all-day market, targeting their product range to the changing market throughout the day. There certainly is a shift in the wider foodservice market to capture all day parts, as consumer eating habits are different, and this is where the increase in all-day dining has come in.

Let’s backtrack slightly, hopping in The Beaver’s time machine to 1990. Foodservice was completely different and the way it was consumed was too; so much so that 23% of consumers didn’t eat out of the home and only 2% ate out once a week. Jumping to the present day, only 4% of consumers now say they do not eat out, while only 16% eat out just once a week. These figures illustrate how significantly different the foodservice landscape is across almost 30 years.

The increasing crossover of market segments has also contributed to the all-day dining market. Traditional casual dining operators, such as those specialising in burgers, pasta and pizzas, are increasingly offering takeaway, or creating ‘offspring’ restaurants to operate as take away only or grab and go.

With one in three Brits having eaten out for breakfast mid-morning or mid-afternoon in the past six months, and 35% eating out for breakfast more frequently than two years ago, moving from a main meal-focused casual dining offer to a genuine all-day dining menu could hold the key for foodservice operator growth.

The much larger trends of convenience, quality and availability have given consumers much more choice than they once had, and has allowed operators to spawn new and inventive ideas that are eating into the different meal occasions. Last year certainly created a mouth-watering selection of operators and concepts that The Beaver is thoroughly looking forward to exploring in the year to come.