However, during the rest of the year there is a growing trend towards dining out in hotels, restaurants, pubs and fast-food outlets.
According to a recent report, published by Bord Bia, the value of the foodservice market in Ireland has grown to €6.13bn in 2014 and is set to rise even further over the next three years.
Foodservice is the term used to describe all food consumed out of home in restaurants, hotels, coffee shops and from bars to workplace catering, hospitals, education and vending.
The Foodservice Channel Insights report indicates that fast food continues to dominate the sector, with consumer needs driving changes in recessionary times.
An increase in the market from €6.07bn in 2013 reflects the changing trends.
The figure is expected to reach almost €6.5bn by the end of 2017.
The report also indicates that diners’ expectations include health, entertainment and unique offerings when eating out, although price is still a key consideration.
Growth in consumer spending is predicted to be up 1.9% on a compound annual growth basis through to 2017.
Optimistic indicators for the future of the foodservice market’s performance lie in the rise in disposable income, increasing consumer confidence and greater tourist numbers.
The report mentions that agreement by the Government to retain the 9% Vat rate for hospitality in this year’s budget will provide stability into 2015.
Demand for value and high-quality casual dining, takeaway and food-to-go options is increasing and accounts for over a third of consumer spend (38%).
Quick service restaurants (fast food) is the fastest growing channel, reflecting a growing consumer need for value, convenience and customisation.
Rising consumer expectations around home delivery, mobile technology and snack-sized meals are driving changes in this channel.
A focus on ‘snackable’ menu items and small plates is also emerging.
The report states that these product trends should be monitored by suppliers as a source of innovation ideas for concept development work.
Bord Bia’s foodservice specialist, Maureen Gahan said the sector has continued to experience moderate improvements in 2014, with a positive outlook expected over the next few years.
“Despite a period of sharp decline, foodservice in Ireland now offers major opportunities for suppliers offering innovative products and solutions to meet changing consumer needs.
“With certain channels growing at faster rates than others, it’s important for suppliers to analyse their business in terms of where opportunities exist with key trading partners.
“It’s also important to understand what operators are most positively impacted by the rebound in tourism spend,” she told a recent Bord Bia industry seminar in Dublin.
Ms Gahan said social media has had a big impact in terms of directing consumers to new outlets and engaging them in special promotions and events.
Food ‘theatre’ is of growing importance and places new demands on chefs to display their culinary skills through front-of-house exhibition cooking.
Health will continue to be a key driver with consumers increasingly seeking out smaller portions of food and healthy alternatives when eating out.
Other trends highlighted in the in-depth report into the ‘out of home’ food and drink market include health and wellness with notable moves towards increased nutritional information on menus.
From last week, EU legislation requires detailed allergen information on all food products.
The onus will rest on caterers to ensure that details relevant to food allergies or intolerances are passed on to their customers.
Food and drink companies will be required to help consumers make the right choices for their health and nutrition while offering simple convenient solutions.
The report indicates that value is still dominant and that opportunities exist for producers engaging in lean, efficient production and delivering foodservice innovation.
As consumer prices have remained relatively stable over recent years, operators have been required to increase their level of innovation to manage costs and attract customers.
The origin of food and drink products is identified as a driving trend within the trade.
To the extent that a ‘local’ or ‘made in Ireland’ positioning can be used, it can provide a meaningful point of differentiation.
With growing interest in ingredients, the report says manufacturers need to be completely transparent about labelling, nutritional and sourcing information declarations, according to the report.
While traditional menu options remain important to core foodservice offerings, consumer interest in ethnic cuisine is growing and is opening up new opportunities for outlets to broaden their menus and restaurant offerings.
Manufacturers can develop closer ties with operators by working collaboratively to understand and respond to these emerging needs.
The report notes that quick-serve restaurants or fast food remains the largest Irish foodservice ‘channel’, demonstrating how a lower spend per transaction is motivating consumer’s choice of venue.
Although the decline in the number of pubs in Ireland has been well documented, they still account for a quarter (25%) of consumer spend, showing that improved food offering in pubs has gained traction with consumers.
Full-service restaurants account for 11% of consumer spend, with hotels at 6% and business and industry at 4.6%.
Coffee shops account for 5.6% of market value and is continuing to capture sales, with compound growth rate of 2.5% forecast over the next three years.
While it is an affordable luxury that has shown resilience through recessionary times, food service operators recognise that coffee can act as a major footfall driver and that getting the offer right is important.
Coffee shops with extensive food items on offer can contribute significantly to revenue performance.
Leisure and travel, education, the Defence Forces and the Prison Service account for the remaining market share.