UK Restaurant Market: Trends and Opportunities 2021

The UK restaurant market declined an astonishing 53% in 2020 it’s been an undeniably difficult couple years for the industry. We’ve looked to see what trends a strong presence over the past year have been and what will be here to stay…

Technology a necessity of the pandemic that isn’t going anywhere…

Lumina Intelligence has found that over 50% of 18-44s said they were highly/ extremely likely to use more technology in restaurants in the future post the pandemic. Consumers have become more conscious of reducing the ‘touch points’ when dining within restaurants since the start of the pandemic. Many operators have quickly adapted to this change from simple solutions such as having a QR code menu, taking away need for physical menus. Another form of technology many operators have implemented is having their own app service, which can provide internal efficiency as well as an improved consumer experience when done well.

The biggest inhibitor to technology is education, not surprisingly over 60% of 18 to 34 year olds have used some form of order and pay solutions since lockdown but only 20% of those over the age of 65 have used them. However, one of the greatest benefits to come from a digitalised ordering platform is consumers often spend up-to 15% more per order as opposed to ordering through a waiter/ waitress according to Vita Mojo’s CEO Nick Popvici.

Technology in the restaurant industry was given a massive amount of acceleration from the pandemic and has become standard within so many operators, however the convenience and benefits have been so beneficial that we expect there to far more development and implementation of new technology in the industry.

Plant based vs Meat Based or both?

Branded plant-based restaurants saw a rise pre pandemic, now heading towards the end of 2021 we’re expected to see a spike in various plant-based restaurants hitting the market. With names like Tom Kerridge and Lewis Hamilton coming up with their own vegan concepts the sector of the market is getting a lot of media coverage.

According to Lumina Intelligence Eating & Drinking Out Panel Flexitarianism is now the most popular diet trend in the UK with 30% of consumers looking to strike a balance in their diet between animal and plant-based products.  2019 saw the start of the trend to offer menu favourites as a vegan option, offering those with dietary needs to be able to try menu staples. Such a Carluccio’s Veganese or Nando’s The Great Imitator Wrap.  This trend increased from 2.4% to 5.6% in 2020 and we expect it to continue rise in 2021.

The rise of the flexitarian market springs from consumers being more conscious of the impact they’re responsible on the market, so while perhaps the purely plant based diets may not be increasing as rapidly previous years the flexitarian market is providing an increased demand for plant based and vegetarian products and dishes.

UK Restaurant Market Report 2021

The Lumina Intelligence Restaurant Market Report 2020/21 is the definitive report for the UK restaurant industry.

Sustainability & Waste Management: A more conscientious consumer and operator

A study by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) UK restaurants are throwing away 18% of the food they buy. The knock-on effect of this is that food waste accounts for 8% of greenhouse gases and has a cumulative cost of £3.2bn to the UK.

Sustainability is becoming an ever-bigger demand from customers, with the likes of ‘The Michelin Guide’ recognising the efforts of sustainability with the introduction of the ‘Green Star’ which received great media coverage during the last awards back in January 2021. With an increasing number of restaurants growing produce from their own kitchen gardens or choosing to on use local growers and trying to reduce items shipped in from various parts of the world. Some of the few restaurants accredited with the new ‘Green Star’ have also been commended on using supply chains that are plastic free, with many restaurants trying their upmost to reduce waste by 100%.

Key drivers for sustainability come from consumer shopping habits with 40% of consumers purchasing more locally produced food, this is set to influence menu’s trends for the future. The offering of sustainable products can help the drive of spend, we found that the price premium on sustainable beef dishes after 51% more expensive on average compared to their non-claim counterparts. It will be key for restaurants to improve quality and welfare claims in order to increase the average spend per customer.

The pandemic has been a vast inhibitor to the sustainability trend we’ve seen recently due to the use of PPE and single use products, consumers and operators alike will be keen to really push forward to get waste management under control and set industry standards through use of products with no plastic waste or recycled plastic packaging.

Delivery the new occasion of the market?

We have already established within our “2020: A transformational year for the UK foodservice delivery market” the delivery market saw an increase of +48% due to other eating out occasions being unfortunately being put on hold by the pandemic. Over the course of 2020 we saw almost one in three consumers (31%) ordering once a week. Due to the rise of delivery operators have been rapidly investing their delivery services, whether it be implementing online ordering systems, local delivery services or the larger players investing heavily into dark kitchens. With restrictions recently lifted we have seen a decline in delivery occasions from (32% to 18%) However this has very much stabilised over the past few weeks and give us a perhaps a more accurate idea of where the delivery market is expected to stay at for the foreseeable. Food for delivery has become an eating out occasion over the course of the pandemic and will continue to be a large player in the eating out market.