Fixed day-parts and mealtimes are a thing of the past. Busy lifestyles combined with flexible working have resulted in a blurring of the traditional dining segments. Today’s diners want to eat when they’re hungry and when is convenient for them – not when the clock dictates it’s time to do so. So how can caterers make the most of the ‘all-day’ opportunity?

Targeting specific day-parts Health plays a major role in influencing what we choose to eat, including at snacking occasions, but depending on the time of day, health can have little to do with the foods and beverages we consume. With snacking being all the rage in the food industry, it’s important to know why and when consumers are reaching for your products. “In today’s consumer market, sugars are now number-one on the list of what we try to avoid in our diets, and while that’s true, it would seem it’s more true the earlier we get in the day,” says Darren Seifer, food & beverage industry analyst, The NPD Group. “Later in the day is when we connect with foods on a more emotional level and eat foods based more on how they help our moods.”

Break the fast Britons spend on average £13billion a year dining out for breakfast, and it was the fastest growing eating out day-part in the eating out market last year. Research by the Trajectory Partnership’s ‘Eating Out Today and Tomorrow’ report, shows that almost two in five people expect to eat breakfast at a destination in the coming years, and one in six will be buying breakfast to take away. Most pub and casual dining operators with sites in urban and travel locations are engaged in trying to capture a share of the morning market, whilst traditional players in this space, are exploring ways of elongating their offer into the evening. The Wetherspoons pub chain, for example, now sells a million cups of coffee a week and 25million breakfasts a year. Young adults and the rise of social occasions are key drivers in boosting breakfast and brunch sales, according to The Future of Breakfast: An Insight Report 2017. The report, by Lamb Weston, found that young adults are the most likely to eat breakfast or brunch on a monthly basis across all types of hospitality venues, with 48% of 18 to 24-year-olds eating breakfast in cafés, restaurants or pubs once or twice a month or more, and 41% of 25-to 34 year-olds doing the same. Millennials are also eating breakfast/ brunch later in the day, particularly at weekends, with 32% eating brunch after 11am on Saturdays and 39% eating out after 11am on Sundays. This group is also driving the rise of “Breakfastarians”, who are looking for breakfast or breakfast-influenced dishes throughout the day.

The American dream Food trends from over the Pond are dominating breakfast and brunch choices. Zareen Deboo, Ferrero UK & Ireland, explains: “We are seeing a rise of American-inspired dishes such as pancakes and waffles becoming a core dish on menus so it’s vital that operators look beyond the traditional Full English and offer variety.” Hash browns are another menu musthave, says Jo Holborn, McCain Foods. “As the trend for brunch has grown, we’ve started to see hash browns used in slightly different ways, whether that is as a base for toppings such as smashed avocado and eggs, or even as a breakfast themed alternative to topped chips.” Big Al’s new Fully Cooked Sausage Pattie also taps into the growing breakfast on-the-go markets.

Ladies who brunch Brunch is viewed as a sociable, indulgent event and is being driven by women, with 58% of females saying they like to indulge when eating out for breakfast. The right breakfast/brunch offer also helps drive outlet loyalty, with 41% of women saying if they find somewhere they like for breakfast/brunch they visit regularly. “Brunch is big business,” says Helen Fricker, senior leisure analyst at Mintel. “It seems that diners cannot get enough of a weekend brunch and operators are only too happy to cater to this. Over the last few years there has been a huge rise in brunch availability and all types of foodservice outlets have entered into this space. The range on offer is ever expanding and the variations available continue to evolve.”

Snack attack Research by the Irish Food Board shows a new emerging role for snacks amongst the younger demographic, who view them as a boost rather than a treat. Millennials tend to graze throughout the day and are less likely to have three set meals so they therefore need regular snacks to perform a broader, more nutritive function. The peak period for snacking is between 3pm and 6pm accounting for almost one quarter (23%) of all snacking occasions. Meal deals are a great way to attract ‘snackers’. Consumers spend 6% more when purchasing a meal deal so they’re a brilliant opportunity to ‘upsell’. With 62% of tea occasions also including other items, think about offering tea and a cake/muffin/flapjack at a discounted price. “Tea deals are a great way to push up average spend,” says Steve Fox, purchasing director, Bartlett Mitchell (Tetley Tea Report 2018). “If we can sell one of our hot beverages and a homemade cake that is a great profit margin for us, as they are two categories that give us the best margin.”

Top 10 snack foods (MCA Eating Out Market Data Report 2017)

  1. Crisps
  2. Sandwich
  3. Cake
  4. Cookie
  5. Chocolate
  6. Biscuit
  7. Beef burger
  8. Muffin
  9. Baguette
  10. Doughnut

Let’s do lunch! According to Mintel’s Attitudes Towards Lunch Out-of-Home UK 2017 Report, the number of consumers buying lunch to eat out of the home for an everyday occasion rose to 76% in 2017, up from 64% in 2016. Additionally, the percentage buying lunch out of home for a leisure occasion grew to 75%, up from 68% in in 2016.

Super sandwiches Endlessly versatile, the humble sandwich, whether served hot or cold, is hard to beat for a perfect grazing choice. Adding specials or limited edition choices elevates a caterer’s offering and gives repeat customers added interest and something different to try, it also provides a platform to test new and creative sandwich styles. “Look to global cuisines for inspiration, at present hot Cuban style sandwiches created with layers of ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese and pickles are popular. For a lighter variant look to the selection of visually appealing Danish smørrebrød, an open style sandwich on rye bread using toppings such as smoked fish, crème fraiche and herbs,” advises Chris Dickinson, of Pan’Artisan.

Good afternoon Older consumers are more likely to enjoy a leisurely lunch, according to research from The NPD Group. There were 1 billion lunch visits out-of-home (OOH) by the over-50 age group for YE June 2017, and this demographic spent £6billion on lunch over the year. Cyril Lavenant, foodservice director UK at the NPD Group, said: “The over-50s demographic in Britain will grow in size and become wealthier, more active and more experimental than previous generations. For anybody running a business in Britain’s £54billion foodservice industry, there’s a distinct ‘over-50s opportunity’.” Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British pastime and a brilliant revenue generator for operators in a traditionally quiet day-part. It’s also a great opportunity to get creative with many venues creating their own signature afternoon teas, such as the K West Hotel & Spa’s Glam Rock Afternoon Tea and Bohemia’s Afternoon Tea Cruise. Sharing boards and sharing plates are another important menu element for the mid to late afternoon period. By enabling customers to self-select in terms of meal size, it works equally well for grazers and those looking for more substantial meals. Ben Bartlett, celebrity chef and brand ambassador for Lion sauces, recommends: “When it comes to creating a versatile small plates menu, include a range of breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Offering a few handheld, easy eating dishes that customers can take out and eat on the go can also help to drive sales.”