Rachel Dobson, Lynx Purchasing managing director, said there were some very difficult choices for operators ahead, after Lynx Publishing published the Summer 2023 edition of its regular Market Forecast.
She continued: “It’s either keeping menu prices low, or serving high quality produce that offers consumers a genuinely different choice when compared to eating at home. Consumers may be going out less often, but many are looking for better quality when they do.
“While the Bank of England is forecasting that inflation will ease later this year, the price rises that operators have seen over the past two years are now bedded in.
“We’re starting to see some price improvements on products that have seen the biggest increases, such as dairy and oils, but higher food costs are here to stay.
“Once consumers start to feel more confident about spending, the opportunity for hospitality will be to add value to menus, rather than cut margins. In addition, showing support for British food producers has genuine customer appeal.”
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has recently called for closer links with hospitality, with NFU president Minette Batters arguing that “developing relationships between the out of home sector and British farmers and growers will create even more opportunities to serve up local food that is safe and fully traceable, providing the provenance the public increasingly appreciates.”
The latest edition of the Market Forecast from Lynx Purchasing offered further insight. The continuing high costs of rearing cattle is currently keeping beef prices up, it revealed, and pork prices were also at high levels with a strong global demand.
Continued concerns about the spread of avian flu meant many countries had introduced restrictions on poultry, and they supply could change quickly, leading to high prices. Both fresh and liquid eggs have also seen substantial rises for this reason.
Prices for milk, butter and cheese have started to come down in foodservice, following an increase in global milk production, according to Lynx Purchasing. In due course, this will also help to reduce the price of the many manufactured products which use cream.
What’s more, the government had increased the number of migrant agricultural worker visas by a further 10,000 this year, which Lynx believed should improve the availability of fresh fruit and seasonal produce across the summer.
The yields of larger potatoes like bakers and very low, dur to a poor harvest after last summer’s hot weather. Frozen chips and potato products are seeing sharp increases as the quality issue works through into food manufacture.
Factoring in volatility
Furthermore, prices for rapeseed oil are starting to fall as this year’s crop becomes available, making it a more economic option than both sunflower oil and olive oil.
Dobson said operators would have to continue to factor volatility across a range of produce into their planning.
She added: “Each hospitality business has to make its own decision about the trade-off between menu quality and pricing, based on its customers’ expectations. In the current market, though, trying to compete with the cheapest place town for eating out is a race to the bottom.
“Poor quality produce also contributes to food waste, for example by loss of yield during preparation and cooking, or simply when indifferent-tasting food is returned uneaten on customers’ plates. There is a real opportunity for operators to forge partnerships with British food producers and make eating out a genuinely different experience.”