The McCain Foodservice 2018 Casual Dining Report aims to help operators better understand how to stand out in an increasingly crowded sector, where staying one step ahead of consumers can mean the difference between success and failure.
McCain Foods senior brand manager Jo Simmons said: “In an increasingly competitive sector, we know how important it is for operators to be agile and adapt quickly to cater for changes in trends and consumer behaviour.
“Our report highlights six recent successes in casual dining, giving operators an idea of the direction the sector is set to head in over the coming years.”
The six successes are:
1) The vegan revolution
The number of adults following a vegan diet has risen by about 500% since 2016, McCain said, with 3.5m vegans now living in the UK.
More and more venues are moving towards plant-based ingredients like jackfruit, tempeh, seitan and aquafaba to cater for this demand, with just over half (52%) of outlets offering at least one vegan option.
2) Creating experiences
Shifts in spending patterns indicate that consumers are spending less in traditional retail and foodservice, and more money on outlets that offer experiences.
Successful operators are creating experiences around the food they offer, such as through limited-time only menus or placing emphasis on communal or interactive dining.
3) Lighter indulgence
Some 50% of diners said they consider whether a healthier option will be available when choosing where to dine out.
However, consumers do not want to feel like they are moderating or calorie counting and operators need to find the balance between offering healthy, yet indulgent, options.
4) Bringing it home
The consumer demand for takeaway options has seen huge growth in recent years, with the growth in takeaway intrinsically connected to changes in the technology available to restaurants and pubs, and to consumers. Over the past decade, takeaway spending has grown to £9.9bn – a rise of one third (34%) from 2009.
5) Community spirit
Offering a mix of permanent and regularly changing local traders within renovated and restored buildings, food halls aim to give consumers choice and familiarity in a setting designed to inspire a sense of community.
The open and spacious set-up of these food markets aim to appeal to a cross generational audience. Customers can feel free to eat at their own pace and with many halls offering proper plates, crockery and even table service, they are equally as appealing to consumers wanting a casual bite to eat as those looking for a slightly more formal dining experience.
6) Craft beer meets craft food
Over the past 10 years, the number of UK breweries has almost doubled, rising last year to more than 2,000 for the first time since the 1930s, according to McCain.
Now, craft beer is making a move from bars and pubs into the world of casual dining. As consumers are choosing to drink less but better when eating out, venues are increasingly moving to offer bespoke and varied beer lists, as a counterpoint to the more traditional wine list.