According to MC Allegra Foodservice, the forecast turnover for restaurants is £20.6billion by 2017, and £12billion for pubs and bars.

To ensure your slice of this lucrative market it’s essential to get your offering right and keep up-to-date with trends and technologies.

Here, Stir it up gives the lowdown on the latest research and products for the independent profit sector…

Premiumised informality

“Premiumised informality” is the new mantra for on-trend pubs and restaurants as diners demand gourmet food in a relaxed, informal setting. As a result, Casual Dining and Quick Service Restaurants are growing at the expense of Full Service Restaurants.

In order to tap into this trend, caterers need to make sure that they offer consumers an indulgent range of products, at affordable prices and within a modern and memorable environment, and food suppliers are quickly getting in on the act by offering premium products.

Mohammed Essa, General Manager UK and Ireland, Aviko, says: “In recent years, we have seen the emergence of more premium styles of fries that cater for a wide range of tastes – whether it is for longer, crunchier, healthier or more rustic variations. This variety gives pubs and restaurants a great opportunity to avoid menu fatigue and trade-up their fries to create a real point of difference – as well as a higher mark-up. It also helps them tune in to the growing trend for ‘posh nosh’ such as premium burgers and hot dogs – all dishes which demand to be partnered by equally premium accompaniments.”

Extended dining opportunities

Rather than restricting opening times to cater for lunch and dinner, many pubs and restaurants are extending their opening times and offering breakfast, as well as afternoon tea in the traditionally quieter post-lunch timeslot.

Isabelle Haynes, Tetley senior brand manager – Out of Home, says: “It’s no secret that out of home breakfast sales are booming. The number of breakfast occasions grew by 8.4% to 1.14 billion year-on-year, according to NPD Crest research, and growth shows no sign of decline. The British trend mimics that of America, where breakfast makes up around a fifth of the out of home market.”

Breakfast diners are keen to try something new too, says Eimear Owens, country sales manager – UK & Ireland, Santa Maria Foodservice: “Try a Mexican twist on eggs benedict by topping an English muffin with refried beans, poached egg, Santa Maria Salsa and hollandaise sauce. To keep customers interested caterers can also add breakfast side dishes to their offering, like fresh fruit with Santa Maria Chilli and Lime crème fraîche or Santa Maria Basil and Tomato sautéed potatoes and ham.”

Market your wares

In this increasingly competitive industry, attracting consumers and building brand loyalty is playing a crucial role for operators’ successful performance.

Chara Pantazi of Kara Foodservice, advises: “From table-booking to paying the bill, the technological innovation, namely mobile apps, digital menus, remote ordering and digital payments. Loyalty schemes which offer real benefits are also a way to attract customers and prompt them to pay repetitive visits to specific establishments.”whole process can benefit from widespread”

Online presence is also significant, as consumers nowadays turn to their mobile phones or iPads to check reviews and to interact with their favourite products, brands and places. Chefs can make the most of their social media activity by successfully engaging with customers over sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Recent independent research, commissioned by Premier Foods, discovered:

  • Nearly three-quarters of consumers have used a social media site to help aid an eating-out choice
  • 75% of caterers admit social media is important or very important to communicate with both existing and potential customers
  • 40% of consumers post photos as part of their eating-out experience

Complimentary after-dinner chocolates are an excellent way to market your business and add a premium feel to your offering.

Two products trending heavily are Salted Caramel Truffles and Personalised Neapolitan Chocolate Squares, both of which are available through your Country Range supplier.

Child’s Play

Kids eat with their eyes, so it’s no wonder that many pubs and restaurants make special provisions when catering for young diners. The decision of where a family chooses to eat will, more often than not, be dictated by the needs of the children, so it pays to give attention to getting your menu just right.

Sarah Gray, channel marketing manager for Premier Foods, advises: “With children becoming more adventurous, it is important to offer them a wide range of flavours. While children are increasingly embracing ethnic foods, they still enjoy classic dishes such as the Sunday roast.” Sarah suggests offering a dessert such as Angel Delight, which is popular with children, and by mixing this with natural yoghurt and fresh fruit, it will count towards one of their five a day and is a great source of calcium.

Sharing platters

The popularity of sharing dishes has increased considerably over the past few years, and consumers now expect to see them on menus almost as much as they expect to see starters, main courses and puddings.

Anne Marie Cannon, brand manager at RH Amar, says: “Sharing platters have become a firm fixture on pub and restaurant menus, influenced by wider Mediterranean and Asian eating trends, for example meze, antipasti and tapas from Southern Europe and Dim Sum from Asia. Sharing platters work because they are fun, sociable and offer diners a more inclusive and casual dining-out experience.”

In response to demand, a wide range of ready-made products are available to suit all tastes, including Meadow Vale’s Chicken Tikka and Satay Chicken Skewers, Opies Foodservice’s Marinated Olives and Aviko’s Chilli Cheddar Nuggets and Beer Battered Onion Rings. Country Range also produces a good selection of great-tasting products suitable for sharing platters, including garlic bread, wholetail breaded scampi, seasoned wedges and southern fried chicken goujons.

Be creative in your presentation and use plant pots, steel buckets, chunky chopping boards and mini frying baskets to present food and make platters a talking point with customers. Sharing platters also work well for dessert.

Keep your offering smokin’ hot

Barbecues are ever popular in the summer months and a great way to distinguish your offering, says Grace Keenan, brand manager for Kerrymaid: “Barbecues have always been a popular pub and restaurant offering, and the casual atmosphere coupled with range of tantalising summer drinks, makes for a great al fresco offering, and is sure to help drive summer sales. As consumer tastes are becoming more adventurous, it is worth caterers taking advantage of this current trend to create some exciting and interesting burger options, as world cuisines infiltrate the growing barbecue market. As Brazilian, Korean, Thai and Mediterranean flavour profiles make an appearance in barbecue ranges, caterers have quite a lot of scope to offer an on-trend extension of the traditional hamburger, and which can be positioned at the heart of an exciting barbecue menu to boost sales.”

Profit from puddings

Dessert represents a huge missed opportunity for the UK out-of-home (OOH) sector according to ice cream brand Amore di Gelato.

Their recent survey revealed 75% of diners suggested that they rarely or never ordered dessert when eating out, but most (80%) would if they felt the options would be of a guaranteed high quality standard. Results from the survey also revealed that 65% of respondents felt that menu options were too limited, and failed to answer their needs.

Mike Godwin, MD of Amore di Gelato, says: “For a long time the UK OOH market has fixated on the rest of the menu, neglecting desserts as a concept. The proof really is in the pudding – consumers want desserts and are willing to pay well for one, providing it is as high a quality as the rest of the food they are being served.”

Bite-size desserts and platters are increasingly popular, especially cheesecake, panna cotta and soufflés, says Derek Baird, business development chef at Macphie. “Other trends to watch out for include sweet and savoury combinations such as chilli and chocolate, hot and cold fusions such as spice cream, hot sauce, warm brownie pieces, cold ice cream,” he adds.

Clean up your act

Research commissioned by Diversey Care shows that the appearance of a restaurant had a significant impact on customer behaviour. The majority of people questioned said if an establishment looked unclean on their arrival they would either leave immediately or before completing their meal. This means that the outlet loses business immediately because people who have chosen to eat there then spend less than they would have done if they stayed for a full meal. The impact on repeat business is also significant.