This was the conclusion reached by Peter Backman, managing director of foodservice consultancy Horizons, at a briefing on Friday at London’s Barber-Surgeon’s Hall.
Backman told the audience of industry executives that the outlook for foodservice was at best one of limited growth, but more realistically one of no growth for the foreseeable future.
“The foodservice market is still in the doldrums, foodservice share of food spend has dipped below 30 per cent and although consumers are spending more money when they eat out they have cut down on the frequency of eating out occasions,” he said.
“This situation is likely to continue well into 2012 and beyond as the economic outlook is unlikely to improve, although I am confident this will start to grow in the longer term.
“Sales of food and beverage for out of home consumption have shown a rise since 2003 but that rise has now reached a plateau and if you take into account the impact of inflation, this represents a decline.”
However, economist Philip Shaw of Investec painted a slightly more upbeat picture. “This was a nasty recession as it was triggered by a banking collapse and therefore the recovery will tend to be more fragile,” he said. “I don’t think there is going to be a double dip recession in the UK, but more likely will be a period of slow growth over the next year or so after which the recovery will then gain more momentum.”
Horizons’ director Backman later spoke how the high degree of innovation in the casual dining and quick service sectors were keeping customers eating out by providing new concepts and fresh menus.
“Despite the fact that foodservice sales overall have plateaued we are still seeing a high degree of innovation in the sector and this is helping to keep customers interested,” Backman said. “Most of the new concepts are quick service operations merging contemporary styling and healthy food with a fast, fun and young feel.
“It’s all about tailoring your offer to meet whatever your customer needs at whatever time of day.”