Innovative recipes and menu ideas will help your caterers to thrive in 2013, writes ELIT ROWLAND
Consumers may be going out less, but they are more willing to try new things, according to foodservice consultancy Horizons’ review of 2012, which was published last month. “People are looking for innovative foods and new menus, despite being more careful with their money,” says Peter Backman, the company’s managing director.
It’s not difficult to get ideas. “Look around at what the other operators are doing, as well as the multiple retailers, even cookery programmes – there are lots of resources to go to.”
But it’s not just about the food, adds Backman. “It’s also about ways to package up products, like offering a home delivery service.”
These extras could help to differentiate businesses, which will be critical as the year gets off to a tough start. “Quite a few products have been hit by drought or rain,” says Backman. This will result in inflation, putting the onus on wholesalers to support catering and foodservice customers with money-saving tips and menu ideas.
This could prove particularly useful for the independent pub sector. Food sales accounted for over 40% of total sales in many managed chains last year. However, tenanted pubs struggled to keep up. “Some pubs don’t understand food. Wholesalers can provide the menus, training, money-saving ideas and special events for these businesses,” says Backman.
One theme that will continue to be popular this year is food provenance. “The organic trend took a nosedive in the recession, but provenance is still a good talking point – knowing where the food comes from is increasingly important to a lot of customers,” says Backman.
Helping catering customers to get involved in seasonal opportunities is also an important way to drive sales and customer interest. Last year, one Nottingham pub enjoyed a 500% increase in sales of roast dinners after its wholesale supplier, Booker, participated in ‘British Roast Dinner Week’, which was launched by foodservice-supplier Unilever Food Solutions. Manager Geoff Sharif says, “We sold more than 75 plates that week,” which brought in 50% more profits.
This kind of support, together with the advantage of locality, will help the independent channel to thrive in the year ahead. “Chain operators have more purchasing and marketing power, but independents have a feel for the local market,” says Backman.
For wholesalers, this year will be about getting the little things right, focusing on ‘the customer’. “Pay attention to detail, pricing and understanding both the caterer’s and the consumer’s needs.