As the leading foodservice agency we like to keep abreast of the latest foodservice trends and eating out market insight and so we were delighted to attend the MCA Menu & Food Trends Report this morning. If you weren’t lucky enough to be there, worry not, as we have listed our top ten take outs below:
1) The market on the whole is looking positive, as despite falling consumer confidence (likely to be due to uncertainty around Brexit) disposable income is at an all-time high and up £12 YOY with the average person having £198 per week to spend – hopefully on eating and drinking out of home!
2) GDP is growing at 0.6% and has now been in growth for twelve consecutive quarters. Indeed MCA predict the eating and drinking out market as a whole will grow by 3% this year, out-performing the economy as a whole. You can see why when you look at participation levels which are running at a healthy 92.6% with increasing frequency to boot, with breakfast and snacking/grab & go showing the strongest growth over the next 2-3 years when it comes to day parts.
3) However, as operators look to offset the increased overhead of the National Living Wage (which in general they believe will have a positive effect on the industry) menu prices are on the rise as we see a ‘menu pricing step’ change, with 5% rises not uncommon. Mains and sides currently see the most price rises, whilst overall operators look to rationalise menus (with the exception of premium pubs which are extending menus) with a drive to do less but better, by focusing on quality, which is the no.1 consumer driver.
4) When it comes to protein, chicken is still no. 1 with a 20% share of lunch and dinner, but the peak of chickenisation may be waning as Beef and Pork are the fastest growing proteins with vegetarian dishes and seafood in decline. Interestingly the mega trend of healthy eating doesn’t seem to be born out when it comes to actual consumer behaviour from the research, as indulgence seems to be winning out. However, healthy eating is sighted by industry chefs as likely to increase in popularity over the next 2-3 years, especially gluten-free, vegetarian, fish and vegan. Consumers are also moving to more on the go and informal eating out styles and tending to eat fewer courses, with a rise of one course meals and move away from traditional format sit-down dining.
5) Menu items in growth include in-bread carriers (think sandwiches and all their various permutations), premium burgers, all day breakfasts, sausages, along with ham, bacon and cheese fillings in bread carriers. However, vegetarian, mushroom dishes, seafood, curry and salad don’t seem to be proving as popular. Smoked and slow cooked are both coming through on menus alongside the ever popular, grilled, roasted and fried. Whilst natural cooking methods like wood-fired, BBQ and steaming are growing, especially when they can offer theatre and quality cues to customers. Spices and sauces are being more widely referenced on menus along with a broad variety of cuisines, provenance and up-selling messages to drive spend.
6) Formats such as street food, all day dining, pop-ups and food on the go are topping the chart when it comes to growth with healthier eating, BBQ, premium burgers, street food and Vietnamese tipped by industry leaders to be the fastest growing cuisines over the next 3-5 years. And it will be more important than ever to offer a point of difference aligned to customer demand as menus shrink bringing with it the risk of homogenisation at the same time as increasing prices. Big bold flavours can help to set menus apart, along with authentic cuisines (Asian is especially strong) and of course value for money.
7) Consumers want quality – no change there. With millennials looking for cheaper menus, promotions, fast service and healthier options (despite the fact that only 6% of all consumers polled were driven by health when choosing where to eat out), whilst the 50+ market are more focused on convenience and environment, as well as if they have visited before. Sectors that seem to be upping their game when it comes to delivering against consumer drivers include workplace and colleges, as contract caterers and in-house operators up their game to compete with food on the go and casual dining high street concepts.
8) As for mega trends – they remain the same: healthier eating, indulgence, informality, premiumisation, provenance and value scrutiny. Established cuisine trends include: BBQ, North American, Mexican, Brazilian/South American, Vietnamese, Thai and SE Asian. Coming-up behind them are Caribbean (Turtle Bay is a personal favourite), Modern Spanish, North African, British, Nordic, Modern Greek, Lebanese Persian, Contemporary Indian, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese. Throw in Germanic, Malaysian and Peruvian and you’ve got a fair old choice out there.
9) As for ingredients and the ever present question of ‘what’s the next pulled pork?’ look out for…alternative grains, alternative cuts, ‘burnt’ foods, Cacao, Dosa, fermented foods (pickling), Pokē and root to stem vegetables coming through on menus. Whilst avocado, Banh Mi, cauliflower, Chia seeds, grilled cheese (yum!), Matcha and sweet potato are listed as hot trends while breakfast pots, Chipotle, Harrisa, Kimchi, Quinoa, sourdough and Siracha come under emerging trends. Then, moving to more established trends you have edamame, fresh pasta, kale & super foods, mac ‘n cheese, ramen and sushi. But what do the industry experts think will be big? Allergies and healthy is high on their predictions with gluten-free, vegan and raw diets becoming more important to cater for. They see street food as continuing to be strong and cooking methods like wood-fired becoming more popular. Key to success will be concepts which are easy to understand, on-trend, offer value for money and are approachable.
10) Finally, it’s time for the drinks menu, with mocktails, beer cocktails, birch water, Mead, reverse osmosis water and Soju identified as warm trends while hot trends include craft spirits, Japanese Whisky, loose leaf tea and prosecco or wine on tap. Emerging trends include Almond milk, green juice, premium tonics and unusual smoothies. Whilst at the more established end of the trends scale you have artisan coffee, coconut water and craft beer. As for those on the slide, bubble tea, full sugar carbonates, flavoured water and fruit juices may have peaked.
As for the MCA team, they personally have been doing more of the following over the past year: using chopsticks to get the best out of Asian food, using mobile payment apps, ‘gastro-tourism’ i.e. travelling for food and seeking out the latest restaurant openings, eating more Chia pudding as part of a clean eating regime, enjoying crushed avocado and craft beer – but not all at once! Whilst Simon has been on a gourmet tour of NYC taking in an innovative vegan concept ‘by Chloe’, Michelin beer pairing at ‘Luksus at Torst’, design led restaurant concepts including ‘Quality Eats’, Jewish Russian Bagel café turn evening Bistro ‘Sadelle’s’ and even sour craft beer!
As ever the briefing was highly enjoyable and informative, and really the above barely scratches the surface of the full report which is available to MCA Forum members. Well done to the team at MCA on a great event and a comprehensive round up of the market.