Diners are eating out less, that is no secret. But there is a silver lining to this cloud – they are spending more. The consumers that pubs need to be particularly aware of, however, are those looking for healthier alternatives to more traditional dishes.
CGA commercial director Graeme Loudon says: “Consumer frequency of eating out has remained flat over the medium term. However, average spend is on the rise.
“This is a result of consumers looking for provenance and quality,” he adds, explaining that, according to CGA Prestige’s FPI Service, they are willing to pay more and food prices have already risen by 7%.
Loudon continues: “Consumers value speed of service, with retailers in our industry adapting to this by bringing through express and food-to-go versions of their operations in order to capture this consumer need.”
Leading a healthy lifestyle is now crucial to diners, and pubs that have reacted to this by adapting menus accordingly will win, he adds. “In terms of what’s cooking, the health-conscious consumer is becoming increasingly important in menu construction.”
Loudon adds: “Almost two-thirds (65%) of consumers are proactively looking to lead a healthy lifestyle, and retailers are responding by including more free-from, superfoods, vegan and vegetarian dishes on their menus. All four of these items appeared in the top 10 food trends according to business leaders in the out-of-home market.”
These patterns are echoed by food innovators for the retail and foodservice industries Bingham & Jones, who say the healthy consumer is here to stay.
David Jones explains: “We don’t see gluten-free going away. The developments that are going on now with gluten-free and other free-from products at a foodservice and retail level are getting better and better, to the point where consumers can’t tell the difference.”
But it isn’t all good news for pubs. As Bingham adds, they are lagging behind their retail counterparts when it comes to a healthy food offer.
“What foodservice do not want to be is the unhealthy uncle. They have to react to what the market is doing because at the moment, retail is leading the way for the market and foodservice has to emulate that to a large degree,” he adds.
And this wasn’t the only trend the duo predicted. In agreement with CGA’s data, superfoods is a category that will continue to grow.
Jones says: “One area starting to be understood more and will take off is genuine superfoods, with the integration of plant-based proteins such as root product maca, lucuma fruit, spirulina and chlorella.”
Top food trends
3. Small plates
6. Indian street food
7. Food waste/sustainability
11. Cheaper meat cuts
Information from CGA
These are not the only ingredients set to see a bright future, according to the innovators. Jones says: “Two ingredients that are definitely on the increase, again being driven by retail and coming into foodservice, are cacao and agave.
“We all know about agave, but it is getting used more and more. There is no need to put sugar in a hot chocolate any more.
“With cacao, the health benefits are quite phenomenal: the magnesium content, the reaction it has on your health in regards to concentration, focus, and even for the menopause.”
A category that pubs need to tap into is fermented food as there are both health and taste benefits for diners.
Jones says: “Another area, which is not quite there yet for the foodservice industry but is definitely going to come through and is being led by retail, is probiotics and fermented food products.
“It is not being perceived that there are huge health benefits and it can be so tasty. For example, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi are starting to creep into dishes.
“A lot of food manufacturers are really looking to invest in that area, but it is heavily focused in London at the moment.”
However, there will always be a place in pubs for the more classic dishes and this is something operators will need to remember.
Jonny Bingham says: “Artisan foods and more traditional dishes will always be popular. There will always be a requirement for provenance and artisan foods.”
Customisation is one other trend the duo predict will be popular in years to come as diners can adapt even the final touches to dishes.
Jones adds: “There will be an influx of new ways to season food, other than salt and pepper. The way the market is going, we are finding there are many umami-style seasonings that actually enhance flavours as well as season.”
Bingham elaborates on Jones’s comments and provides a case study the duo did for foodservice supplier Fresh Direct.
He adds: “Customising toppings. Diners would personalise meals, in the same way they can customise a pizza or sandwich with final flourishes.
“They could use miso, wasabi powder, lemon zest but these are things they can choose, condiments almost, that finish their dish. We have said this to our customers and we know they are working on it so it will definitely come through [into foodservice].”
Jones adds: “The nation is going health mad, but it can still be a delicious integration into a foodservice menu if it is done well.”
Reiterating Bingham & Jones’s comments is research from The Morning Advertiser’s sister title MCA, which also states healthier eating is expected to grow in popularity over the next three to five years.
Premium chicken and vegetarian have risen to joint third place, reflecting the change in lifestyles, according to the 2017 MCA Menu & Food Trends Report, which is available for purchase on the MCA website. Market analysis manager Peter Linden says: “There is clearly a growing interest and demand for more vegetarian and vegan dishes throughout the eating-out market, and pubs need to address that many groups eating out at pubs may now include a vegetarian or vegan.
“Healthier eating more broadly is also a key growth area – this may include smaller portion sizes, less carbs and more veg, alongside good quality meat or fish.”
However, Linden didn’t deliver all good news as he predicted how the growth in one particularly category could be tricky for pubs.
He says: “More challenging for pubs is the growth in food-to-go, expected to be the most influential trend of the next two to three years, yet this will continue to focus mainly on weekday lunchtime trade.
“There is also further evidence of the bar rising for food standards and expectations, as well as growing interest in authentic, diverse cuisines. These trends may also be a challenge to pubs that are typically more generic in menu scope – albeit more value-led.”
Key growth area
NPD’s look ahead
Market research company NPD has highlighted four main trends operators should look out for in the future:
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, NPD urged.
2. Ethical and local sourcing
Diners wanting to know where their food comes from is a trend that shows no sign of stopping, according to NPD.
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.
Lastly, do not forget the pub’s traditional dishes, as NPD revealed that servings of burgers were up 43% and pizzas up 36% in the on-trade.
Some positive predictions included the barbecue food category, which Linden says will remain a key growth area over the next three to five years. But, a word of warning, rising standards will also apply here.
He adds: “The figures also reveal that consumer tastes are widening, with growing accessibility of an increasingly varied range of global cuisines.
“Regional Asian food, concepts from the Americas and new pockets of Europe are all gaining momentum, while contemporary takes on traditional cuisines are also gaining traction, proven by the rising popularity of contemporary concepts such as Dishoom and Kricket.”
These trends from across the seas are also echoed by CGA and are key patterns operators should be aware of.
CGA’s Loudon says: “Beyond the health-conscious consumer, we see chicken and Indian street food as key trends within the market when consumers are looking to indulge and try something new. The rotisserie and new wave Indian concepts in our market now are examples of retailers trying to exploit this trend.”
So operators need to remember that health is still key but have to be open to new concepts such as cuisines and serving styles from
international neighbours to really capitalise on future food trends and keep that silver lining firmly in place.