With the foodservice market being valued at anything from £46-£51billion this year, this is a large slice of pie for catering equipment distributors, suppliers and manufacturers to get their teeth into.
According to research firm the NPD Group, geographically, London is far and away the growth powerhouse of the foodservice industry, with its recent report revealing that London accounted for 20.2% of this sector in Britain for the year ending June 2015.
This means that the London market alone is worth more than £10billion a year. However, the NPD Group did warn that without London’s robust contribution, Britain’s foodservice industry would have registered a flat performance over the year to end of June 2015.
The main factors supporting growth of the catering equipment market since 2010 has been the overall improvement in the economy and the strong resilience of the restaurant sector. Innovative concepts and new restaurant brands, along with an improvement in household spending on eating out has helped grow the catering sector – and therefore demand for catering equipment.
However, commercial kitchens’ size has been shrinking. Space is at a premium thanks to skyrocketing rents, particularly in the south east of England, which force operators to reduce their leased floorspace. Equipment therefore has to adapt to cope.
So there have been many launches of ‘slimline’ versions of cooking equipment, warewashers, refrigerators and chillers etc, which are suited to smaller kitchens. Not only that, these products are becoming the veritable Swiss army knives of appliances. Multifunctional equipment which can boil, roast, fry and any other cooking technique within a small footprint are the order of the day.
Time is also of the essence thanks to the rise of quick service restaurants, particularly in light of the growth of high end burger chains such as Byron and Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Indeed, recent research published by Mintel found that one in 10 people are now shunning fast food restaurants in favour of their gourmet neighbours.
Therefore, equipment which is instantly operational and cooks food to perfection ever quicker is required. This is where technology such as induction, which is very responsive, finally seems to be finding its feet and is being widely specified.[[page-break]]
Another trend is that of open kitchens. A chef is often front and centre of a restaurant, with a visible kitchen becoming a selling point for an operator to demonstrate the quality of its food and cooking processes. Pizza and Italian restaurants have particularly embraced this, and the sight of wood-fired ovens on display has become commonplace.
This means that a lot of commercial kitchen equipment manufacturers have to consider aesthetics in their design. No longer are ovens, prep counters or light equipment such as pots and pans hidden away at the back of an operation. The appliances have to look good as well as performing to a high standard.
At the more basic end of the foodservice market, venues such as cafes and coffee shops are among those investing in ever more automated equipment. With staff turnover tending to be high, these kinds of operators are using features such as programmable menu controls on combi ovens or one touch beverage machines to ensure that the food and drink products they provide remain consistent across the board.
Operators are now ever more willing to invest in catering equipment replacement as the market moves further away from the economic downturn.
A recent white paper from Electrolux Professional took a look at the replacement habits of nearly 300 chefs and operators. This found that over 67% of respondents had replaced equipment over the last 12 months. Top of the swaps were cooking suites, followed by light equipment and dynamic preparation equipment, then refrigeration, fryers and dishwashers.
With operators also considering environmental factors and sustainability of equipment, often in response to tightening legislation such as the EU Energy Labelling rules or the phasing out of F Gases for refrigeration, manufacturers and distributors have to ensure that the catering equipment they create and specify, respectively, is long lasting and energy efficient.
This may push the price up at a time where price wars (particularly online) and margin slicing are widespread in the market. Lower end operators may simply choose the cheaper products which they are happy to write off after a year, but there is still plenty of room for quality equipment which may have a higher asking price but takes into account the overall through-life costs.
While the foodservice market is an extremely competitive one, there is still profit to be made for those manufacturers and distributors which offer products and services that stand out from the crowd.