January slower than usual but the better weather generated a small boost in March

Martyn Herriott - Monday, May 13, 2019

Our guest blogger Peter Bachman returns to give a brief overview on the UK Foodservice industry in the first quarter of 2019. Peter has been involved in the Foodservice industry for over fourty years and his insights and observations are well renowned within the industry.

At face value, growth figures were positive compared to last year, but sales plummeted during the onset of the Beast from the East in the same quarter in 2018 and overall growth this year was not as great as the fall last year, leading to poor comparative figures for the quarter.

The threat of the unknowns surrounding Brexit are likely to be a major contributing factor. Operators have held back on new marketing initiatives, outside of the traditional discount offers, and consumers have reined in their spending fuelled by low confidence. Suppliers have ramped up stock holdings to prepare for the unknown, incurring considerable costs which will affect profitability.

My insight

The outlook for the foodservice sector to continues to darken amid the debilitating effects of Brexit on consumer and business confidence. The market will continue to point downwards for the next two quarters.

On a positive note, the squeeze on operator margins has eased over the quarter and sales in some sectors have outperformed the overall eating out market, such as food-to-go and food sales in pubs.

Delivery continued to expand amid indications that the costs of delivery are hurting many operators, while the rise of dark kitchens operating under “virtual brands” (i.e. brands that are not found on the high street, but on aggregator apps) is providing unwelcome competition for high street restaurants. Things are likely to remain tough in the coming months for the commercial sector. But figures and trends indicate that food to go, food in pubs and restaurant delivery will continue to do significantly better than the overall market.

The non-commercial sector – including B&I – will also feel pressure due to cutbacks in government expenditure and in the case of staff catering, competition from the high street desperate to take business wherever it can find it.

Peter Bachman

Peter Bachman Food Consultant

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