UK eating out market has ‘reached rock bottom’

Foodservice consultancy Horizons has suggested the hospitality sector’s nadir has now been reached, potentially paving the way for the market to experience more stable growth in future.

Presenting the company’s annual review for the last 12 months, managing director Peter Backman said there were grounds for optimism when it comes to 2013.

“The overall position has been characterised by slow decline of the sector over the last few years – but we suspect that this has been a result of a certain amount of culling of inadequate operators,” he commented. “Some sort of bottom has now been reached or will be in early 2013. At some point during 2013 we expect consumer confidence to start returning and spend on eating out will start to rise again.”

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Backman said the year ahead would be characterised by the continued need for operators, and suppliers, to attract consumers with innovation in terms of food offers and new service styles, which perhaps might include amore embracing return to all-you-can-eat buffet styles of service.

Discounting will continue, predicts Backman, but operators will be careful about how they target these offers and ensure the marketing behind them serves to build a stronger relationship with customers as well as maintaining their interest with special offers.

“We are unlikely to see operators abandoning discounts and money-off deals this year as consumer confidence needs to be more robust to sustain an effective price rise,” he said.

Backman noted that trading in the UK’s hospitality sector was so tough during 2012 that operators have become resigned to the fact that current levels of business are the new norm.

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