When it comes to the eating out market there is a huge amount of research around consumer drivers and what motivates different demographics. Every aspect is analysed, from pre-visit online research, to the impact of special diets and the type of cuisine and format consumers are looking for.
Economic and legislative influences also have a massive impact on the market, both on consumer demand and frequency, in relation to consumer confidence, as well as, operator influences like the exchange rate issues around Brexit, foodservice inflation (now running at 6% according to CGA Prestige*), the National Living Wage and rocketing rents, which all have their role to play. However, there is one factor that shapes the entire eating out and convenience led food-to-go market which is often over-looked and that is…the great British weather.
As a nation we are known for our obsession with the weather and little wonder when it is as changeable as it is. Not only is it a favourite talking point (certainly this heat wave has been), it is also one of the most important influences on how we eat and drink. Supposedly 23°C is the tipping point at which we tend to eat less and switch to lighter meals**, favouring salads and summer dishes. Whilst extremes of weather like snow storms or torrential rain often mean consumers stay in, rather than venturing out to brave the weather. It’s obvious really, but something as basic as the weather has a dramatic effect on sales and which sectors win or lose depending on the swing of the barometer or the mercury level in the thermometer.
I once had a client whose business model meant that they had a lot of business with both the big pub groups and the delivered pizza sector. Therefore when the weather was bad and no one went out sales dropped in the pub chains, but were bolstered by an increase in demand in the pizza delivery world. Then, conversely, when the sun came out and the beer gardens heaved with people, the drop in delivered pizza sales was countered by the increase in pub group sales. This of course was a magic formula, but some products and brands don’t have that luxury. Ice cream is an obvious one – if the summer sun fails to shine then sales will be down despite the best efforts of sales and marketing.
The simple fact is we will never be able to completely predict or mitigate the impact of the weather, but rather, we need to ensure when looking at sales figures and market performance that we factor this into the equation. Equally, when possible, operators and brands might want to look to create business models that can thrive whatever the weather, with a strong mix of products or menu items that appeal all year round. This is something the rise of home delivery can assist with. As when the weather hits (as it surely will – despite this lovely summer) and we hibernate on the sofa, rather than head out into town, those same high street brands will be able to keep sales rolling with the likes of Deliveroo and Uber Eats. So next time you’re eating out or grabbing a meal in the world of convenience think about how the weather has affected that purchase, from what you eat to where you eat it, I would put money on the fact that the weather has had a role to play.
* The most recent CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index for April 2017 showed inflation in our sector now running at almost 6%.
** This was something a contact imparted to me as a point of fact, but I cannot find a source – hence the supposedly!