The headline rate of inflation fell into negative territory in April, down by 0.1%, due to the sharp fall in oil prices seen earlier in the year.
John Pinder, managing director of Lynx Purchasing who publish the Lynx Summer 2015 Market Forecast, said: “Inflation is at a historically low level, and as we move from spring into summer the availability of UK meat, seafood and fresh fruit and veg is generally very good, quality is high, and value for money is excellent.”
He adds: “It’s not often these factors come along together, and so it’s a real opportunity for restaurants, pubs and hotels to refresh their menus. We’re not suggesting that operators drop their best sellers, but they should be speaking to suppliers about which produce is best value, and using specials boards and dish-of-the-day promotions to try new ideas.”
But although prices on products such as potatoes and bread have declined significantly, with suppliers such as Booker reporting a price decrease for 40 of its own brand Farm Fresh baking potatoes from £15.99 in May 2013 to £6.49 in May 2015, some key catering products such as beef, lamb and fresh fish have seen price increases to April.
Pinder said: “The current benevolent market conditions won’t last forever. Even when inflation is low, caterers don’t always see the same deep discounts that consumers enjoy, and the weather will always throw us some surprises in terms of supply issues.
The report also says the consumer appetite for new flavours and innovative dishes is still strong, with new smokehouse and barbecue concepts continuing to be rolled out and an upsurge in slow-cooked dishes and underused meat cuts such as brisket and pork shoulder appearing on menus.
Menu tips from Lynx Purchasing:
- Work with suppliers to identify good value cuts of beef and pork suitable for barbecue, smokehouse and slow-cooked dishes. With availability changing weekly, operators who can keep menus flexible to use different cuts will see most benefit.
- Reduce reliance on the most popular fish species, such as cod and haddock, by offering ‘catch of the day’ seafood specials, using fish from British waters with hake, pollock, mackerel, gurnard, grey mullet, bream, South Coast sea bass, dabs, lemon sole, brill and plaice all expected to be in good supply.
- Offer ‘seasonal British vegetables’ as a menu accompaniment, varied according to availability, quality and price. British cauliflower crops are forecast to be plentiful and so prices should be low all summer, while both new season British cabbages and courgettes will remain good value once home-grown supplies are available.