The restaurant industry continues to show signs of improvement, and as customers return in greater numbers to pubs and eating establishments, the ingenuity and adaptability honed by restaurant operators during the downturn will give customers a better dining experience for their money than perhaps ever before.
Looking forward, Technomic has identified 11 trends for 2011, some of which are unique to the U.K. foodservice industry, while others mirror trends in North America and elsewhere.
“In foodservice, the world is certainly getting smaller” says Technomic Executive Vice President Darren Tristano. “It is always interesting to compare the proliferation of menu trends in various regions of the world and see how they coincide and contrast. Even as the trends become more global in nature, there are always distinct cultural cues and preferences that restaurant operators need to recognize in order to succeed.”
Here are the 11 key U.K. foodservice trends that Technomic has identified for 2011.
1. Expansion across the pond: A number of U.K. and U.S.-based chains will make big expansion pushes. U.K. chains like Wagamama, Pret A Manger and YO! Sushi will look to expand their presence in the United States, while U.S. chains like Chipotle, T.G.I. Friday’s and Hooters will spread their footprints in the U.K. market.
2. Growth of the fast-casual segment: The 2010 Technomic Top 100 U.K. Chains Report shows that the fast-casual segment grew by 28 percent in 2009, a pattern that continued during 2010. As U.K.-based fast casuals like Nando’s continue to grow and U.S.-based fast casuals move into the market, the category will swell.
3. Greater emphasis on breakfast: Operators will pay more attention to the breakfast daypart. Many chains that previously have not served breakfast will begin doing so, and those chains already serving breakfast will expand their offerings.
4. Seasonal menus will tout local sourcing: Restaurants will usher in each new season with new menus developed to highlight the foods and flavours associated with that time of year. These menus will showcase locally-sourced ingredients, with operators striving to communicate a farm-to-table business model.
5. Attention to health on the menu: Consumers’ evolving health concerns will increasingly be reflected on restaurant menus. Low-sodium offerings will become more commonplace, and restaurant-goers will increasingly seek out “functional” foods, such as items touted as boosting the immune system.
6. Mexican will go mainstream: Mexican cuisine, which up until now has been vastly underrepresented in the U.K., will grow in popularity. The growth will come in large part from U.S.-based Chipotle Mexican Grill, but U.K. chains such as Wahaca and Benito’s Hat will also fuel growth in the category.
7. Extension of delivery services: More chains will begin offering delivery, promoting it heavily during cold-weather months. They’ll increasingly use technology to communicate their new service, à la Wagamama’s ordering app for the iPhone.
8. Fixed-price menus will allow for customization: Concepts with prix-fixe menus will increasingly let customers choose the number of courses and specify their dishes, selecting from a condensed version of the full menu. Fixed-price limited time offers will showcase new creations that let chefs experiment with items beyond the permanent menu.
9. Social media will play a bigger role: Chains are already using social media forums to supplement their traditional marketing tactics. With the continued expansion of Facebook and location-based programs, more restaurants will use these forums to create a direct, open line of communication with their customers.
10. Brand repositioning: Many operators are revamping or repositioning their brands, and multi-concept operators are selling restaurants that no longer fit their business models. Mitchells and Butlers, for instance, have already sold off units to other operators in an effort to concentrate on food-focused concepts, and other companies will follow suit in 2011. Some chains will look at purchasing smaller sites in an attempt to save money and take advantage of real estate bargains.
11. Reinvention of pubs: In light of the smoking ban and growing societal concerns about alcohol abuse, pubs will continue to shift their attention to the lunch and breakfast dayparts. A new emphasis in these converted family-friendly establishments will be gourmet coffee.
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