As a new year starts, Hospitality & Catering News asks those in the know to give their predictions of what we might see in the industry over the next 12 months.
Consumer confidence to remain fragile, but growth of delivery and rise of inbound tourism
Despite stagnant wage growth and high inflation, global information company The NPD Group does predict growth for the hospitality and catering sectors in 2018. Visits should grow by an additional 83 million, a 0.7% rise on 2017.
However, consumer confidence will remain fragile and restaurant owners and operators are already looking at ways to adapt. Those with an accessible, casual offering will ‘meet the consumer’s appetite for a contemporary experience that also offers a family-oriented treat’ according to NPD’s foodservice director UK Cyril Lavenant.
Cyrus Todiwala OBE, chef-patron at Cafe Spice Namaste says: “Like us, many will be cautious and careful with expenditure going into the New Year. We have seen a trend that shows a drop in customer confidence; we know just from speaking to many of our regulars. But yes, we will develop and advance and we are growing as our new restaurant is due to open in April. In this environment, we need to take things in our stride but work cautiously.”
The main area of growth, NPD believes, will be in the delivery market with the likes of Just Eat, Deliveroo and UberEATS rapidly expanding and providing more operators with the chance to reach customers in this way. It predicts and additional spend of £656m (+17%) by consumers on delivery occasions by 2019.
Lavenant says: “Delivery shows no signs of running out of steam over the next two years and will help to bring home the bacon in Britain’s £55 billion foodservice industry. Burgers, casual dining, breakfast and lunch are also thriving and should help operators shrug off fragile consumer confidence, as well as inflation and stagnant wages, to achieve growth.”
While UK consumers may be cautious, hoteliers should get ready to welcome more guests from abroad, particularly those from the US and China in 2018. According to national tourism agency VisitBritain overseas visits to the UK are forecast to break through the 40 million mark for the first time in 2018, reaching 41.7 million (up 4.4% on 2017 which is expected to see 39.9 million visits.) Visitors will also be spending more in 2018, a 6.8% rise on 2017 to £26.9 billion.
VisitBritain director Patricia Yates said: “Tourism is one of the UK’s most valuable export industries. It is also a fiercely competitive global industry and these results not only demonstrate Britain’s continued ability to compete internationally for visitors, they are testament to tourism’s importance as a driver of economic growth.”
Service levels stretched, greater reliance on technology
As hospitality recruitment specialist, The Change Group notes, with net migration from the EU decreasing since the Brexit vote and there being less talent available, the hospitality sector will need to find resourceful ways to attract and retain skilled employees in 2018. It believes that firms offering flexible working and better pay, as well as more tailored training and career development will be the ones to entice more British people to work in hospitality.
“The challenges which hospitality companies have faced in 2017 are not going to go away any time soon,” says Craig Allen, co-founder of The Change Group. “We’re already seeing the sector wanting to find ways to work around issues and bring a fresh perspective, especially in terms of the all important question of recruiting the best talent.”
Paul Martins, board member of Westminster Venue Collection and director of sales at Cavendish Venues warns that service levels may become stretched if plans aren’t put in place now.
“Discussions surrounding challenges such as staffing levels and expenditure will become even more significant,” he says. “If living costs increase and there is difficulty attracting skilled event professionals and employees with a sufficient high-work ethic, service levels may be stretched, and profit-margins reviewed.”
With staffing levels looking shaky, experts predict that those who embrace the growing number of new technology services available to them could benefit. Rather than replacing people, technology can free them from arduous tasks to enable them to focus on the guest they believe.
Richard Powell, general manager at New Place Hotel, Southampton, explains: “Simplifying the guest’s journey from search to stay will continue into 2018. Effective use of technology will not only ensure the guest’s journey is efficient and easy, but technology will also help to personalise the experience; to know and anticipate guest needs and therefore exceed expectations. The traditional receptionist role will become more of a ‘host’ role, with the all-important human interaction used for information and feedback. The whole process can be enhanced by technology, but not replaced”
Food and drink
The continued rise of vegan food, more experimentation and tackling food waste
2017 was the year vegan food became more mainstream and we will continue to see it grow in 2018. Not only have more casual dining chains, like Wagamama and JD Wetherspoon added more vegan dishes to menus, but we also saw the arrival of plant-based restaurants, such as Wulf & Lamb and US chain by Chloe. Experts predict this will continue into 2018.
Ben Marks, chef at Perilla in London adds: “I think vegan food will become far more common and accessible as people become more conscious about the environment and their health. I think we’ll see top chefs having to embrace the movement, dietary requirements have massively increased since I started cooking and it’s difficult to ignore the issues that are arising with our environment.”
Andrew Wilson, co-founder of Wilson Vale, notes that the trend has been embraced in workplace catering and believes this will increase in as the appetite for plant-based food continues to grow among vegans and ‘flexitarians’.
“We always offer vegetarian, but we’re finding that more meat eaters will eat vegetarian and vegan food now,” he says. “I’d say its about 30-35% of people now eat more flexibly. It’s exceptionally tasty and healthier as well, so I think that’s something that will certainly take off a bit more in the next year. “
Todiwala is set to meet demand by introducing a separate a la carte vegan menu at Cafe Spice Namaste. “And since we have ourselves embarked on a well-being exercise with the entire staff and team, we will be look at increasing the vegetable intake in our own diets too,” he adds.
With consumers continuing to travel. Todiwala also predicts the growth of ‘multi-pronged cuisines’. A thought echoed by Rowena Romulo, owner of Romulo Café London.
“I think that the appeal of foods that evoke comfort and security will continue to grow in these uncertain times,” she says. “This cuts across cuisines. At the same time, people are still willing to experiment with new tastes, textures and flavours and seek these out because it’s all part of the on-going desire for fresh experiences. This should bode well for still niche cuisines like Filipino food.”
Tackling food waste will continue to be on the plates of many chefs with many looking at more creative ways to tackle the problem. In 2017 Blue Hill chef-patron Dan Barber, Osteria Francescana chef-patron Massimo Bottura and Skye Gyngell of Spring played key roles in highlighting the issue and showing what could be done.
André Garrett, executive chef at Cliveden House says we can expect to see more of that this year: “I think we will see more and more movement away from food waste and as a result, an increase in ‘nose to tail’ cooking or `root to shoot`, using every part of a vegetable.”
Hospitality & Catering News, Interviews Editor