It is unquestionable that hospitality and foodservice are amongst the industries that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. Yet many pubs, restaurants and cafes have adjusted with an ‘adapt or die’ mentality of gritty determination that has seen them through two lockdowns and everything in between.
Whether that was a speedy switch to takeaway, launching an online profile for the first time, or turning cafés into local stores offering customers an alternative place to shop for food and drink, the industry’s incredible adaptability kicked in when we were plunged into our first lockdown.
The minister for environment, food and rural affairs, MP George Eustice, has quite rightly described workers in the food and drink industry as “hidden heroes” and has stated that employees of wholesale and takeaway businesses are key workers “delivering an absolutely vital service”. 1
It’s clear to see the pandemic has dented the hospitality and foodservice sector significantly and that it will take years to fully recover. For the whole of 2021 it is predicted that the industry will see a £10 billion fall in revenues, down to only £88 billion, 10% lower than in 2019. 2
Despite these grim statistics, it is important to highlight how the hospitality industry has evolved and changed, partly due to necessity and partly as a result of pre-Covid trends in consumer behaviour. In particular, the shift to using takeaway and delivery.
If we compare January 2020 to October 2020 with the equivalent period in 2019, delivery has increased 14% in frequency of visits to 804 million. There has also been an increase in spend by 40% to £5.7bn. Indeed, delivery now accounts for 16% of the foodservice industry’s £41 billion spend, which has nearly doubled from its pre-Covid proportion of 9%. The big three delivery platforms, Just Eat, Deliveroo and UberEats have profited from the pandemic, seeing their January to October (2020) business expand by 20%. They have increased their share of the market’s spend nearly threefold and now account for more than 8% of the total foodservice industry. 3
It is easy to place the reasoning for this solely on the pandemic and subsequent restrictions on hospitality, however, it is evident that a shift towards delivery and takeaway was developing beforehand.
A few days before the UK government announced the first March lockdown, consumers were already beginning to use delivery services more frequently to order takeaway food and drinks. According to the snap poll on March 18, 2020, 60 percent of 18-24 year olds surveyed had already increased the frequency they use delivery services. The 35 to 54 year old age group had the biggest likelihood to increase frequency, with 40 percent saying they would do so. 4
Not only has there been a significant increase in consumers ordering takeaways over the past few years, there’s also been an increase in the average spend. In 2018, households were spending around £38 per month on takeaway food across the period, a significant 25% rise on the previous decade. 5
It is clear to see there was a pre-existing demand for delivery that was then accelerated when the pandemic hit. Much like the boom in online shopping through next day guaranteed delivery, food delivery and takeaways work on the same premise. They’re quick, easy and give the customer instant gratification without even having to leave the house!
With takeaways becoming one of the only ways foodservice outlets could continue operating during the lockdowns, it’s clear to see how this could become a long-term business strategy for restaurants once Covid restrictions are lifted. 6
It is without a doubt that the public appreciate and anticipate takeaways now more than ever before, as they bring a sense of normality and a hint of joy to these gloomy lockdown days. Although they come close, nothing quite beats going out for a meal in your favourite restaurant with friends.
It is re-assuring to hear that Britons still value going out to eat in restaurants – with 50% saying they prefer to dine out or get a takeaway from a restaurant when spending time with friends and almost 6 out of 10 (58%) say they choose restaurants to “eat something special”. Such findings provide a much needed ray of hope for restaurant operators and it suggests that the public will be keen to return to restaurants to eat in when the chance arises.
Through our third national lockdown, our hospitality industry continues to battle on with a significant sense of resilience and hope that is nothing short of inspirational. There is now a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine and hopefully we can all get back to our beloved restaurants, pubs and cafes soon.
 www.publicsectorcatering.co.uk/news/report-predicts-50-fall-hospitality-and-foodservice-revenue – Stats are from the ‘Immediate Future of the UK Hospitality/Foodservice Market’ report.
 ‘Spend in food delivery could hit £7.1bn in 2020’, Propelhospitality.com (24 Nov 2020) www.propelinfonews.com/pi-Newsletter.php?datetime=2020-11-24%2006:00:00
 Statista Research Department, ‘Increase in food delivery usage due to COVID-19 in Great Britain 2020, by age’ (19 Nov, 2020) – www.statista.com/statistics/1107212/covid-19-food-delivery-frequency-in-great-britain/
 NPD’s Sentiment Survey – ‘Spend in food delivery could hit £7.1bn in 2020’, Propelhospitality.com (24 Nov 2020) www.propelinfonews.com/pi-Newsletter.php?datetime=2020-11-24%2006:00:00