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Lunch sales set to outperform rest of foodservice sector, says Horizons

By Luke Nicholls , 21-Sep-2012
Last updated on 21-Sep-2012 at 10:59 GMT

The UK’s lunch market, already worth £14.9bn to the foodservice sector, looks set to occupy a growing share of overall sales in the next 12 months as more consumers are looking to grab something quick, cheap and easy to eat on a daily basis.

That’s the view of Emma Read, director of marketing and business development for foodservice analyst Horizons. Speaking at the Lunch! trade show held at London’s Business Design Centre yesterday, Read pointed out that consumers are opting to spend less and order differently with the continuation of the economic downturn.

“Britain’s lunch market is worth 35 per cent of the total foodservice market,” she said. “Growth over the past few years has outperformed what is essentially a flat market overall. Lunch business has risen by 3.3 per cent on 2009 figures.

“We expect this growth to continue and expect the lunch market to account for closer to 36 per cent of the total foodservice sector by 2014.

“Driving the lunch market is the fact that time-pressed consumers no longer make their own lunch, preferring quick options wherever they are. They are also prompted to eat out by money-off vouchers and meal deals, many of which are predominantly lunch-based.

“Work pressure also means that consumers are more likely to opt for a takeaway to eat at their desk.”

Discerning diners

However, Read went on to warn eating out operators that their lunch offer had to be right to capitalize on this growing market, as consumers are becoming increasingly demanding; Horizons’ 2012 consumer QuickBite research showed that food quality was the biggest factor in choosing an eating out venue, with price second on the list.

“Across the board, consumers are becoming more discerning and particular about how they spend their money,” she added. “They have high expectations and expect good quality food, friendly service and a relaxed ambience.

“While consumers have continued to eat out throughout the downturn, our research shows they are only willing to do so when an outlet meets these high expectations and the price is right.”

Average spend per head dropped in 2012 to £12.30 (including drinks) from £12.69 in 2011.

Quality food on the go

Earlier this year, train bookings website thetrainline.com documented the price of lunch at Michelin-starred restaurants across the UK to show rail passengers that eating in well-rated restaurants may not be as expensive as they may think.  

The website compared the prices of a set lunch at 129 Michelin-starred venues to find out where the most affordable could be eaten.

Meanwhile, just yesterday BigHospitality reported that Network Rail’s latest train station F&B sales results prove that the areas are now becoming eating, drinking and dining destinations in their own right as quality ‘food on the go’ has fast-become the key area of growth for the UK’s eating out market.