New research shows people want to be entertained when they go for a sit-down meal.
Bord Bia's new food service report, shows restaurants are increasingly seen as entertainment and consumers are willing to spend on something "unique and different".
The trends in the report also reveal we are eating on the go more, and three meals a day are no longer the norm.
The report from Bord Bia predicts that Ireland’s foodservice market will grow by 6.1% this year to reach a value of €8.2bn.
New demands of the Irish consumer
Convenience is key with consumers looking to source food ‘anytime, anywhere’. A continued emphasis on convenient options such as takeaway and delivery will drive growth and spread to other segments that traditionally don’t cater for this, including full service restaurants, pubs and even hotels.
Three meals per day is no longer “the norm” as day-stages blur and traditional ways of dining are disappearing. On the go dining will continue to grow and snacking and late-night occasions will grow in importance as consumers look to source food at any time.
Consumers are looking for more experiences when eating out. Restaurants and foodservice are increasing seen as “entertainment” and consumers are willing to spend on something that is unique and different. Occasions will increasingly be divided into those that are convenience driven and those in which consumer demand “something unique.”
Third party delivery is possibly the biggest disruptor as technology provides app-enabled ordering which is increasingly growing into segments 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.
The changing palate of the Irish consumer has seen the rise in demand for ‘fresh and locally sourced’ not only to meet the needs of ‘health and wellness’ but also for sustainable business practices. Plant-based diets are no longer fringe and while the percentage of consumers that are vegan or vegetarian remains small, consumers are increasing looking for alternatives options.
Operating with a conscience is the expectation, not the exception and this includes reducing food waste and reducing packaging. While the focus has been on the coffee cup, the issue is likely to spread to 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 are becoming younger, and older and being ‘all things to all consumers’ is increasingly challenging for foodservice operators who require tech-enabled solutions to appeal to younger consumers, while older consumers tend to be more traditional in their usage of restaurants.
The foodservice market includes all food eaten and prepared out of home and includes restaurants, pubs, hotels, coffee shops, workplace catering, hospitals, education and vending.
Bord Bia's findings are published in its 2018 Irish Foodservice Market Insights Report which tracks trends in consumer behaviour when eating outside home and also highlights some of the challenges the industry faces.
Findings from the report 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 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.
It comes as Bord Bia hosts its annual foodservice seminar in the RDS today.
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.
"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 in 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.”