… and before you know it we are here! It’s December and The Beaver is joining the many other men fighting their way through various shops to grab last minute deals and treats before the big day (or before their other half moans that they have left everything until the last minute). Christmas is just around the corner and soon we will all be indulging into an abundance of food, drinks, gifts, games and quality downtime.
The food industry certainly won’t be slowing down across this period, with various restaurants remaining open during the Christmas window. However, there is a lot to reflect on across the past year. We have seen company voluntary agreements and closures from long-term, well recognised operators who have seemingly failed to either keep up with the trends of today’s world, or simply been out-gunned by smaller, more interesting competitors that the new generation of eaters are attracted to. Of course, there is the seemingly perpetually ongoing Brexit deal that has also had some impact on the industry – but let’s not dampen the mood, so The Beaver will end the political chat there.
While there has been a lot of dismay, The Beaver wants to keep this issue cheerful as we are heading into a happy, festive period, so let’s discuss the positive changes that we have seen across the past year. Food-to-go is a great place to start, as it is now reported to be outperforming the total eating out market, with year on year growth in visit frequency of 2.4%, against a drop of 0.5% in the wider market. With various reasons for this, the fact we are now more time precious certainly would lead to one argument – raise your hand if you pop out over lunch to grab lunch and take it back to your desk.
While convenience is a major factor in addressing our new ‘time currency’, variety has improved dramatically throughout these operators – think customisable salads, exotic wraps, half sandwiches, toasted flatbreads, authentic noodle soups and more. With consumers’ tastes rapidly changing and becoming more sophisticated, these operators have had to provide something much more than just a basic sandwich and drink.
Complementing this market is the ever-growing coffee scene, which has been quite hipster for a long time now in certain areas, but has become much more mainstream across the nation. Where Shoreditch used to be the hotspot, now you can go to almost any major city or town to find a quality coffee offer that is also selling an artisan grab-and-go food product. The Beaver has commented many times this year on how well developed the coffee shop is these days, going from a ‘ladies meet up’ place to a hipsters rendezvous, and now evolving into the flexi-office space. This will be an interesting sector to watch in 2019.
This year has specifically addressed various dietary and lifestyle changes, most notably veganism and vegetarianism, especially within the food-to-go market. Whilst Pret has had its bad press recently, it certainly set the precedent with its Veggie Pret test, which has now transformed into four permanent stores (three in London, one in Manchester), while operators from abroad such as By CHLOE have created new dining experiences based around plant-based menus. This has evolved further into the street food market, with consumers now able to get themselves a vegan doner kebab, plant-based burgers and gluten-free pizzas.
The Beaver could sit there all day waffling on about some of the other amazing changes we’ve seen this year, which cover technology, brand expansions, mergers, format changes and the rise in provenance among operators, but by the time you read this you’ll already be thinking about switching off and heading out for your Christmas parties. There’s certainly a lot to look forward to, so on that note The Beaver wishes you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.