The explosion of American-style ‘dude food’, gluten-free menus and out-of-home breakfast is boosting the UK eating-out market. Elit Rowland reveals how wholesalers are responding.
6 ways to grow foodservice sales
- Dude food: Help customers to respond to the popularity of American dining concepts by stocking gourmet-style burgers and hot dogs, which are now a top 10 favourite menu item in the UK.
- Better bread: It’s not just what’s inside that counts – brioche buns and rolls have seen a dramatic uplift in sales. Help customers to upsell burgers and hot dogs with these important bakery items.
- Breakfast-out and on-the-go: A growing number of consumers are eating breakfast out and on the go. Help caterers to respond by developing a menu that caters for healthy and indulgent appetites.
- Gluten-free: Coeliac disease is no fad. Caterers who study their demographics and offer a diverse, gluten-free menu can reap the rewards. Offer a core range of gluten-free breads, pastas and flours.
- Provide technology: Many head chefs do their own buying. A transactional website and supporting app could make the shopping process quicker and easier, thus encouraging more caterers to shop with you.
- Blurred lines: Capitalise on the blurring of lines between foodservice and retail by seeing how your offer can meet the needs of c-stores that are introducing bakery and other food-to-stay or -go lines.
It is a good time to be in foodservice. People have more money in their pockets, employment is on the up and inflation is at a record low, all of which is boosting confidence in the economy. The result is that consumers are spending big on eating and drinking out.
According to digital hospitality resource BigHospitality.com, restaurant spend in May was up an impressive 17% year on year, while the pub sector enjoyed a 14% boost in sales – the highest it’s been in the past 13 months.
Things are looking good for the next few years, too. Research consultancy Horizons has forecast a growth in value of more than £10bn for the UK’s foodservice sector by the end of 2019. Speaking at the company’s annual briefing earlier this year, managing director Peter Backman said that the foodservice market is likely to hit £56bn by 2019.
For wholesalers that supply restaurants, hotels, cafés and coffee shops, this is great news. The operators that keep ahead of national and global food trends, while providing educational tools and support for customers, will secure a generous share of the market.
The American invasion: Offer gourmet hot dogs and burgers
American-style casual dining has exploded onto the UK eating-out scene, partly driven by the popularity of casual-dining outlets. Caterers and wholesalers not already on the ‘dude food’ wagon need to get on it – and fast.
There’s no doubt that dude food is enjoying a fast-growing slice of the eating-out market. The number of outlets operating in this sector is rapidly growing: American-style barbecue restaurant Red Dog has just secured its fourth site, burger outlet Meat & Shake is opening two new London sites, and Five Guys has opened seven sites in just two years and has plans for 22 more this year.
The challenge for wholesalers is to ensure that their customers can keep up. The first step is to work with suppliers that offer sales-driving lines. Gourmet burgers and hot dogs are a critical place to start.
“Hot dogs have featured on 85% more menus than last year and have nudged scampi & chips off the top 20 menu items,” says Rachel Neale, foodservice marketing manager at AAK Foodservice, which has just added Uncle John’s Signature Hot Dogs range to its portfolio.
But it’s not all about the meat – caterers and their wholesale suppliers must also take note of the huge growth in speciality breads. In particular, brioche has hit the eating-out scene hard – many mid- to high-end outlets, including Lobster & Burger, Wahaca and even Gordon Ramsay restaurants, are now serving gourmet burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork and more in glossy brioche buns.
Bakery brand Kara Foodservice is well ahead of the game after launching a new line of gourmet brioche buns and rolls last year.
“Hot dogs are now the nation’s fastest growing menu item,” says Kara’s head of foodservice Chris Haddy. “Our range enables caterers to offer premium dishes by upgrading the carrier, which is a cost‑effective way to tap into this growing market.”