It’s fair to say that this year has not gone as predicted, but as we look forward to 2021 and the positive steps towards mass vaccination, Lumina Intelligence shared with us their insights on how this has gone and what might be in store. Here are my top take outs from their comprehensive presentation available to Forum Members:

What’s happened in eating out:

Simplified menus post lockdown 1 with dishes down 21.6% overall. Allowing for Covid safe back of house service, cost management and easy online ordering.

Price increases up 1.9% overall with pubs up 5.2%, whilst chain restaurants were only up 1.2% showing how pubs can justify a higher price point based on their high-quality offer.

Digitisation of menus and service across the board as operators look to implement contactless Covid safe ordering and payment and leverage the market for delivery.

Customisation with 83% (4 in 5) dishes being customisable/adaptable – although these tend to be pizza, burger and Burrito or wraps. This is also where vegan options come into play with customers offered the option to choose a meat free alternative.

Fewer sharing dishes due to the danger of cross contamination. With a drop of 15% down to 3.4% of dishes. Whilst fast food seems to have embraced them with a +229% increase based on at home sharing.

Gluten Free & Veggie/Vegan on the rise with now 1 in 10 mains able to be made gluten free. Whilst 14.3% are vegetarian and 8.3% are vegan.

NPD is in decline understandably as operators look to adapt to highly challenging times, with only 5% of dishes on the menu being new. However, this is only a drop of 2% from 7% last year so some are still innovating and will have used lockdown time to innovate.

Menu Engineering – with menu simplicity signaling a premium establishment. Indeed, shorter descriptions also signal a more fine dining menu. Whilst price points are also telling with round figures indicative of premium establishments with others left digit price anchoring and 99p or 95p endings to entice customers.

Quality of food is the no.1 key consumer decision maker at 28% with a focus on premiumisation and provenance. Equally, instagramable food, high quality drinks and atmosphere also up across 18-24 & 25-35 age groups.

Sustainability may have taken a back seat to safety in Covid times but is still high on the priority list with consumers, with 43% looking for sustainability. So, once safe we are likely to see this important trend re-emerge. Buying and supporting local is also a big trend with 78% believing that supporting local is important or very important. Whilst consumers are also still keen to reduce single use plastics.

Who we dine with has also changed as we see smaller group sizes due to restrictions, more pet friendly options in response to the rise in dog ownership during lockdown, as well as more solo dining.

Outside dining has also offered operators a life-line with 25% more investment in outdoor dining options from pods to marquees or simply patio heaters and awnings.

Experiences have moved in-home, with cocktail making kits and take home drinks on the rise.

Partnerships have emerged to pivot in these challenging times including Biff’s Kitchen and Punch and Yo! Sushi and Co-op in order to diversify revenue streams.

Healthier lifestyles as a trend has been amplified by the current crisis with 6% of all out of home meals involving a vegan dish. Ingredients such as Seitan and of course Gold & Green Pulled Oats offering great tasting vegan options. Whilst lighter and low and no alcohol have driven a number of NPD launches in the drinks market, notably Guinness 0.0. and Hard Seltzers like Keepr’s, as consumers look for alternatives to alcohol or high sugar fizzy drinks.

Delivery has continued to do well and is likely to remain a habit the UK keep long after Covid. The good news being that research indicated that it won’t cannibalise eat in but rather grow the market as the main alternative is seen as staying in and cooking. Good news for those operators who have invested in pivoting as they will want to get the most from their investment longer term.

Meal Kits have also seen a boom with restaurants offering an at home experience either direct or through platforms such as Dishpatch. Often proving so popular they sell out in minutes, as seen with Honest Burger kits.

Other trends we are seeing include heat and spice continuing as well as classic and indulgence as consumers may eat out less but chose to indulge when they do.

Of course, Covid has put pay to some trends as restrictions and the focus on Covid safe service and hygiene mean there is less experiential dining, we have more time but limited social interaction and can no longer use reusables like keep cups.

Opinion is divided amongst industry decision makers as to how 2021 will go with a possible no deal Brexit, 39% are positive whilst 47% expect a deterioration next year. With high unemployment and Brexit, matched with a lack of clarity over possibly supply chain implications, 2021 will bring its own challenges. On the positive side operators expect to benefit from pent up demand however this may well be dampened by a further drop in consumer confidence.

But hopefully as the industry comes back online in 2021, we’ll see opportunities around both the Euros and Olympics, especially if we have another hot summer allowing for outside screenings. It would also be great to see the return of things like spirit festivals at pubs and more experience-based events when it is safe to do so.

Another great webinar from Lumina. To find out more about their services visit www.lumina-intelligence.com/