Cyril Lavenant, director of foodservice in the UK, for market research company NPD Group highlighted four major patterns operators need to keep their eye on during the next three years.
He said: “Will people eat differently in pubs in coming years? Yes. Just take a look at the new foodservice brands populating the British high street along with the street food revolution and nobody can suggest that pubs can resist that kind of momentum.
“There are many pubs that understand the new trends already.”
1. Demand for ‘healthy choice’ menu options
While healthy food can be somewhat subjective, the segment does cover vegetarian, vegan, low-fat, low-calorie, gluten-free or just increasing the use of fresh ingredients.
For pubs catering to this ‘healthy’ consumer, sourcing complexity is necessary for licensees looking to offer a contemporary menu. However, this trend needs to be taken seriously, Lavenant urged.
He added: “Keeping the health theme in perspective, in the 12 months to July 2017, just 3.6% of all out-of-home visits were driven by a health motivation (diners wanted something light/balanced).
“This is up only one percentage point compared to eight years ago. A much bigger motivation is to turn a meal into a treat and out latest data (12 months to July 2017) showed that the desire to ‘treat myself/others/kids’ drives 15% of out-of-home visits. This is up three percentage points compared to 2008.”
However, he also outlined how the light/balanced category is an area pubs can tap into because it accounts for 3.6% of all out-of-home visits, representing almost 407m potentially health-driven occasions.
Lavenant added: “At an average bill per person of above £4, this represents a £1.7bn opportunity.”
2. Ethical and local sourcing
Diners wanting to know where their food comes is no secret and this trend shows no sign of stopping according to NPD.
“This potentially fits nicely into a pub’s food agenda, especially in rural locations where it is easier to build links with local producers and to promote meat, cheese, bread and vegetables that come from locations your customer base will know and trust,” Lavenant said.
While pubs already offer a plethora of superfoods, organic products, reduced sugar and meat substitutes on top of a multitude of vegetarian and vegan choices, they are now offering new tastes and experiences by using foods high in protein, antioxidants and omega 3.
But it is not just food that pubs should think about when it comes to innovation, NPD has stated as enhanced water, smoothies, natural energy drinks and colas, and coconut water are all growing at a very strong pace.
One example the market research company gave was servings of coconut water, which have tripled in the past year.
“Pubs are well positioned to make similar adjustments and to profit from them,” Lavenant added.
But lastly, do not forget the pub traditional dishes as NPD revealed that servings of burgers were up 43% and pizzas up 36% in the on-trade.
He said: “The way a pub serves burgers and pizzas may well have changed since a generation ago but they are still classics. Those favourites will still be there in the future, especially if your customers include families.”