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Casual Dining 2018: Event roundup

Casual Dining 2018: Event roundup

Casual Dining 2018: Event roundup

Casual Dining is a ‘not to be missed’ event in the restaurant space. Why do we like it? Because it’s a good opportunity to meet with key partners and resellers under one roof, but more important, it’s vital for understanding what is happening in the industry.

Particularly interesting this year was a talk from MCA’s Simon Stenning in which he gave a detailed analysis of the state of market and its potential for growth now and in the future. Here were our key takeaways:

Consumer confidence

Consumers’ disposable income is falling despite an improving economy. However unemployment is low – so they should be confident, but they’re not. It’s this lack confidence that is a real problem for the food and drink industry. Right now confidence is in negative territory which presents a serious concern for businesses; with consumers feeling pressure to save, they are naturally acting with caution.

The frequency pressure-point

Through 2017, the average amount spent per restaurant visit rose slightly – except for December where there was a small dip. This suggests, not that consumers are happily spending more, but that prices in restaurants are increasing, most likely as a result of inflation. The greater impact of this is that consumers are heading out to restaurants less frequently in order to keep their spending low.

If frequency is under pressure then marketing is the best weapon to wield in battle. Restaurants need to make every visit worth the value of the consumer’s money. The customer experience must be optimised, and that includes personalised offerings and attentive, well-trained staff. There are turbulent times ahead and they require skilfull navigation.

Mid-size venues are struggling

During the talk Simon explored the nitty gritty of which markets are doing well, and which are flailing. In summary, we learnt the following:

  • Pub restaurants are doing well
  • Coffee shops have seen a small dip in sales
  • Supermarket-to-go food has shrunk slightly
  • Fast-food restaurants have seen a decline
  • Formal and casual restaurants are experiencing an increase

It was said that mid-size venues are the ones that face the toughest battle in 2018. Only those that continue to capture the attention of the consumer will easily keep their head above water. To do this they need to be provide something different and innovative. Examples cited included the health venue, Crussh, and Turtle Bay, which offer guests a fresh experience.

Overall – and taking all factors into account – there’s been a 1.7% growth in eat-out figures. This level of growth is slower than in previous years, but it is still growth! Among restaurant owners there’s an overwhelming feeling that trading is challenging, but there’s also great positivity about the future.

A bright future?

Despite concerning figures, restaurant managers see the current market as a small blip in their timeline. A huge 92% of those questioned by the MCA said they believe consumers will eat out with greater frequency 5 years from now.

Indeed, the forecasts are for growth, especially in the branded market. Even now, 10 new branded operations are opening every single week and there are a number of emerging brands we were told to keep our eyes out for: Kokoro, Veeno – and German Donner Kebab.

To conclude: the Casual Dining show is a great event to visit, and not just because of the food samples. Sitting in on various talks and debates we confirmed that, while there are some difficulties in the market, restaurants are being pragmatic about them. In most cases they are learning from others’ mistakes and are looking forward to a strong future. Is it going to be a tight year? For some – sure. For others it’s one packed full of opportunity.

Personally we’re really excited to see how the industry adapts to tackle its challenges head on and we’re pretty confident that technologies which help to enhance marketing and the customer experience – like Preoday – are going to have an important role to play in that.

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