Restaurant sector set to continue its resurgence

It’s always advantageous to know as much about your customers’ business as you possibly can and if the latest annual ‘Restaurants and Bars’ report from BDO is anything to go by the hospitality sector is braced for a very interesting year in 2014.

Last year the company predicted an increase in deal volumes within the sector and that most definitely proved to be the case as restaurant operators caught the interest of private equity firms and investors cheered the return of IPOs.

“A very strong year of trading from most in the sector, together with the long-awaited return of consumer confidence, have really kick-started the market and the sector has finally regained the ground lost during the recession,” comments David Campbell, partner, head of restaurants and bars at BDO, which has branches throughout the UK.

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Glancing into its crystal ball for this year, BDO foresees some key trends unravelling that provide an insight into what restaurateurs will be thinking over the next 12 months.

While some of these are naturally very food-driven — it anticipates more menu-pairing with cocktails and beer, not just wine, for example — others are very much operational, which naturally has implications for catering equipment distributors in terms of new business.

“We see hotels further developing the existing ‘pop-up restaurant’ concept, which has proved the most popular of the pop-up ideas — the others including art galleries, shops and salons,” says Govinda Singh, director, hotels, tourism, leisure and hospitality at BDO.

“It can be a way for a hotel to earn revenue from otherwise dead space, particularly during periods of low demand. Recent examples include Nobu’s presence in Claridges and the Crustacean Bar on the Terrace of The Churchill Hotel near Marble Arch."

BDO suggests that greater customer customisation of food and drink will also become a feature of the restaurant market this year, too. And although this trend is mainly evident in the restaurant sector, it notes that there are examples of it creeping into hotels.

“The most recent example is the interactive sushi station at Jumeriah Carlton Towers, which forms part of their live canape stations for meeting and events, and the smoothie bar at the Four Seasons for corporate and other guests,” says Singh.

BDO also highlights the growing notion that restaurant and bar operators can translate their business or their brand into a successful hotel concept, with early examples being the Buddha Bar, Soho House and Hard Rock. It’s a development that is poised to continue in 2014.

“This looks like the flip-side of the trend we have been talking about — just as hotels are putting more effort into their restaurants and bars, successful restaurant and bar brands are aspiring to open hotels,” says Singh. “Both sectors are hankering for something that the other can offer, so perhaps it will be a natural synergy for the two to cohabit. As ever, time — and the bottom line — will tell!”

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