Thanks to MCA Insight and HIM for the fantastic and informative Food Strategy Forum last week. The new afternoon session allowed us to enjoy a fabulous lunch at the Soho Hotel before settling in to listen to the MCA team taking us through their 2018 summary insights into the Out of Home market performance and Foodservice Delivery.

The level of information was vast and the full report can be purchased via MCA, but here are my top take-outs from the day:

Consumer uncertainty has resulted in market growth being subdued, with a consumer panel reporting that frequency of eating out is down 1.3% yoy. However, the number of visitors is up 0.8% and the average spend per head per visit is up 0.9% too (although this is likely to be driven by menu price inflation), resulting in an increase of 0.4% total spend.

Lunch and dinner visits have declined yoy, but the lower ticket meals such as breakfast and snacking have seen an increase in number of visits. Consumers still feel that they can treat themselves with breakfast visits up 2.8% and snacking visits up 0.1%, but they are cutting back on higher spend occasions.

Food to Go is outperforming the wider market. A third of meals now bought out of home are ‘to-go’, which obviously aids growth for the sandwich and bakery channel. In fact, the sandwich & bakery channel has seen almost a 10% increase in visits, whereas eating out visits in both fine dining and leisure channels are down by almost 20%.

46% of consumers would like to see an expanded range of healthier options in pubs & restaurants in the future, indicating that their offering is still not quite right for the growing population that have a focus on healthy eating.

The takeaway delivery market continues to gain pace in 2018 with a 9% increase in active users (totalling 31.9bn), a 0.2% increase in ordering frequency (average of 2.23 times per month, per head) and a 3.9% increase in average spend per head (now at £9.47 per head per order). The takeaway delivery market is continuing to attract new users – with 20% of users reporting to have used takeaway services for the first time in 2018. 18-34 year olds are driving the demand for delivery with 89% participation in comparison to 71% for 35-49 year olds and only 39% for the over 50’s.

Unsurprisingly, delivery seems to be having an affect on dining in. 20% of consumers agreed that they order delivery more often than they go out for a meal. In fact, 27% of consumers suggested that using takeaway delivery services makes them less likely to eat out in a restaurant, a worrying stat for restaurants.

Some fantastic concepts to watch out for were also discussed during the afternoon. Aleisha mentioned several new concepts but the two that have made it on to my ‘must go’ list are:

The Flour Pot Kitchen in Brighton – Small bakery and café chain serving baked loaves, skillets and muffins during the day and artisanal pizza, flatbreads and craft beer in the evening.

Farmer J in London – Seasonal, locally sourced and freshly prepared food to go. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner options with a combination of ‘field-trays, grab and go items and dine-in dishes.

Thanks to the whole team at MCA and HIM for a hugely informative day and a great afternoon.