NPD Group's eating out trends for 2019

Areas like delivery, sustainability and slimmer menus will shape Britain’s £56bn out-of-home foodservice industry next year.

4 December 2018
deliveryfast casualflexitarianmenuplant-basedrestaurantssustainability
image credit: Getty Images

While Britain’s foodservice industry is grappling with all sorts of cost pressures, tapping into new trends could help them grow.

Dominic Allport, insights director with the NPD Group, said Britain’s delivery market will enter a new phase in 2019, while key sustainability issues will require foodservice outlets to explain to consumers how they are helping the wider environment.

“Veganism and vegetarianism are not just passing fads and are working their way onto menus,” he added. “We’ll see the growth of delivery-only virtual restaurants. Finally, a slimmed-down menu will also bring rewards.”

Here are the five trends the NPD Group sees dominating next year.

1. Delivery will thrive as consumers cocoon themselves indoors

Driven by technology, the rise of in-home entertainment subscription services like Netflix and a desire to save money, consumers are likely to eat more meals at home.

Consumer spend on food delivery could grow by 10% in 2019 to reach £5bn, as it already plays into trends like convenience and indulgence.

In the future, consumers will order takeaway food from grocery outlets, while Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats will reap greater rewards through subscription and loyalty programmes. Also, look out for foodservice brands partnering with in-home entertainment providers.

2. Transparency and trust will make their way onto the menu

Consumers want to know more about the contents and source of the food they consume and the impact on their health and the environment. There is increased concern over the environmental impact of raw materials such as palm oil and plastic.

The best operators will set the transparency agenda by providing answers and addressing consumer concerns about single-use items.

3. Plant-based eating will continue to grow

It’s not just about the vegans or vegetarians. NPD data shows that out-of-home flexitarian visits have increased at twice the rate of overall market growth over the last three years.

Among 16- to 34-year-olds, overall visits have declined by 3% since 2015, but flexitarian visits within this age group have increased 4%. However, some operators have failed to adapt because they see veganism and vegetarianism as a short-term fad.

Operators need to respond carefully to ensure a balanced menu that doesn’t alienate meat eaters.

4. Virtual restaurants will take off

Usually run from ‘dark kitchens,’ a virtual restaurant is a delivery-only brand. While they often trade from an industrial estate rather than a traditional retail location, virtual restaurants can also be run from under-used conventional restaurant premises.

These kinds of businesses have several advantages: they can begin trading quickly, are relatively cheap to run and are flexible, aided by a lack of overheads such as dedicated retail premises and waitstaff. Deliveroo has around 400 virtual restaurants and Uber Eats is aiming for a similar number by the end of 2018. Just Eat is entering this space with ‘digital pop-ups.’

Restaurant operators should look to grow virtual brands into meaningful propositions in the eyes of consumers, while the wealth of customer data available to delivery services will provide opportunities to marry virtual restaurants with local preferences.

5. Menus will become slimmer and easier to digest

In the face of today’s fierce competition, innovation can result in crowded menus, with some restaurants trying to be everything to everybody.

Operators should focus on what they do best and establish a great reputation for a specific cuisine, style or experience.

As an added bonus, slimmer menus will mean less complexity in the kitchen, a leaner supply chain, lower food costs and less food waste too.

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