Wednesday is the new Friday
Past contenders for the new Friday have been Thursday (why wait for the weekend?) and Sunday (why let the end of the weekend stop the fun?) but hump day has always seemed a rather unlikely contender for this title. But then Covid came along and changed the game. Every day might feel like a wet Sunday at the moment but once offices finally reopen the after work meal and drink ritual will return. However, predictions that people will be in the office for fewer days, most likely at the start of the week, are leading some to predict that the new end of the office working week - aka Wednesday - will see the biggest spike in trade in the week. Michelle McIntosh, founder of the soon-to-launch restaurant meal kits business Restaurant Box, anticipates customers frequenting restaurants early in the week and then switching to meal kits from Friday onwards. Having that ‘Wednesday feeling’ doesn’t roll off the tongue though, so some clever marketing might be needed.
Staycations are here to stay
With the Government sending out signals that holidaying abroad might not be possible this summer, all things point to 2021 being the year of Great British summer staycation, with restaurants in key holiday destinations hoping to have a much-needed bumper few months (weather permitting). Mintel predicts that Brits will spend around £7.1bn holidaying on these shores this summer – up 22% on 2019’s figure - with holidaymakers boosted by the vaccine rollout. “Demand for staycations during the summer period is expected to exceed pre-Covid-19 levels and could well reach a new 10-year record due to pent-up demand following disrupted travel plans,” says Mintel’s Marloes De Vries. “The UK holiday market will continue to benefit from cautious and price-sensitive consumers who will opt to stay closer to home. The introduction of quarantine hotels and compulsory testing for all arrivals adds another layer of uncertainty in what would normally be an important booking period. As a result, more travellers will choose to book a staycation.”
Chefs support this view. “I do think that staycations will be a big one,” says The Black Swan at Oldstead chef-patron Tommy Banks. “Not only because less people will want to travel abroad, but because people want to support the independent and local businesses.” Moor Hall’s Mark Birchall shares a similar view. “The way we travel will change in 2021,” he says. “Travelling abroad will be uncertain for much of the year with vaccine passports and other restrictions still unknown, so I feel we will see a rise in families taking their summer and winter holidays more locally.”
There's a subscription for that
The ongoing pandemic has made businesses think outside the box when it comes to bringing in extra revenue and encouraging customer loyalty and one such approach that has already proven to be successful with a number of players is that of subscription programmes. Last year Pret a Manger launched its YourPret Barista coffee subscription where customers get up to five ‘barista-prepared’ drinks each day for a fixed monthly price of £20, with 16,500 people subscribing on the day of its launch. Leon has since made a similar move with its coffee subscription, where £15 a month get subscribers unlimited coffee, and a vegan subscription that offers 30% off all Leon’s vegan dishes, drinks, coffees and cakes for £6 a month. Thanks to the likes of Netflix as well as recipe box companies such as Gousto, people are happy to sign up to monthly subscriptions and restaurants should be no exception. We expect to see more businesses get on board this year to secure some regular income while they get back on their feet.
Make way for even more makeaways
2020 was the year of the makeaway (as well as the other obvious thing) and 2021 isn’t going to be any different. In fact, this year we expect to see even more restaurants take the plunge into creating DIY meal kits buoyed by the success of their peers and their popularity for key dining occasions such as Christmas Day and Valentine’s Day. “At Home’ delivery boxes are going to continue to thrive,” predicts chef Paul Ainsworth. “Although restaurants will be back open and hopefully busy, I do think it’s a service that people just love. The likes of Tommy Banks and Sat Bains have created very special products which don’t clash with their restaurant offering.” Banks himself is not one to argue. “Food boxes are here to stay,” he says. “We are keeping Made in Oldstead going and I know lots of other chefs plan to do the same.” Recent high-profile entrants into the makeaway market, including Musette by Tom Aikens and At Home by Mark Birchall, show that while the lifting of lockdown looms ever closer chefs are seeing DIY meal kits as a more long-term opportunity. Since launching Simon Rogan at Home last year, for example, the group has delivered more than 10,000 meals nationwide, and says it will be doubling capacity this year.
More equitable delivery
Food delivery services played a crucial role for hospitality in 2020 and proved to be the saviour of many restaurant businesses. However, criticism has come from certain quarters of the restaurant industry about the commission charged by some companies and also the pay and working conditions of some of the couriers. Progress has already been made in both these ares. At the end of last year Just Eat announced it was switching to paying its couriers an hourly living wage rather than pay per job and will also pay pension contributions, holiday pay, sick pay, maternity and paternity pay, and Big Night, the independent restaurant-focused delivery platform looking to ‘radically empower’ the independent restaurant community, meanwhile, is from this month is offering nationwide delivery for the first time. Launched by The Laughing Heart owner Charlie Mellor and tech industry expert Pavel Baskakov, Big Night aims to disrupt restaurant delivery with what it believes is fairer pricing for restaurants by offering commissions of between 5% and 6.5% and charging customers a flat £1 delivery fee. Could this set a new benchmark for 2021?