Fast food equals fast profits as takeaway sector transitions

Once associated almost exclusively with deep fried food, The UK takeaway market is a multi-faceted beast these days. As the sector grows in size and variation, there’s a compelling sales opportunity for catering equipment suppliers — providing they understand how customers think, writes James Williams of Prysm Group.

“While most industry sectors are struggling in a challenging financial climate, it seems the UK’s takeaway industry is weathering the storm well. It’s worth a staggering £10 billion annually, showing a growth of 1.7% every year in the last five years.

In fact, the average British consumer now spends over £100 a month on 12 takeaway meals, which equates to more than £1,300 a year. So it should be no surprise that takeaways have grown by 8% in the UK’s top 10 cities, with the most successful brands being Domino’s, growing its portfolio by 50%, Eat (36%) and Pret (30%).

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The humble sandwich, that British staple of lunch breaks everywhere, is worth in the region of £3.5 billion in the UK alone. Leading the charge has been Subway, which now has more than 1,400 stores in the UK.

Pizzas and sandwiches are winners, while Burger King has closed many of its stores in the same period, but what of other cuisines? It seems there has been strong uptake in what you might call ‘middle class’ takeaways offering healthy meals based around fresh vegetables, spices and low calorie options.

Now that Chinese has replaced fish n’ chips as the nation’s favourite takeaway, what does it mean for the takeaway sector?

Our research shows that British consumers are increasingly looking for a broader variety of options on the takeaway menu, with a palate that is keen to explore international dishes.

But restaurants have been reluctant to invest in new equipment specifically aimed at individual cuisines in case they don’t prove to be popular with their clientele. Few small businesses can afford to experiment if the cost is prohibitive, explaining why most of the catering businesses that we are in contact with favour multi-purpose equipment.

As utilities bills continue to rise, energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important to buyers when considering their next purchase. With refrigeration units operating around the clock and ovens on heat for hours at a time, incremental savings are soon seen.

Many of the kitchens we’ve spoken to have told us that one of their top requirements when the time comes to replace equipment will be to realise a demonstrable reduction in monthly operating costs. We’ve also had anecdotal reports of the rise of the group buy, with takeaways pooling resources to boost buying power when negotiating with suppliers.

It’s not a new tactic, but we’re told that independents are more willing to co-operate since the start of the recession. After all, everyone is bidding to maximise profit.

James Williams is Event Director at Prysm Group, organisers ofTakeaway Innovation Expo at Olympia, 28-29 November 2013. www.takeawayexpo.co.uk

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