26 May 2022

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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Share of market between restaurant meals and take-aways becoming clearer
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Share of market between restaurant meals and take-aways becoming clearer

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Public habits are certainly changing as a result of the pandemic

Over the past 18 months the market has seen an enormous increase in meals consumed at home, either as a result of take-aways or deliveries.

However the market has been distorted by the fact that we had a lockdown in place and of course restaurants were largely closed. People still wanted food they could not or would not produce themselves at home. As we know, a huge number of restaurants adapted their models to provide take-away food and accordingly manage to remain open.

You might ask what is the difference between a home delivery meal and a take-away? Apart from the obvious which is that the take-away you collect yourself and as a result get a slightly cheaper deal it turns out that it could be that take-aways were purchased by people who would be more likely to eat in restaurants normally.

You may wonder how this deduction can be made. During the pandemic the whole idea of take-away / delivery food took off because it was basically the only way of getting food prepared by others, hopefully professionals. A tracker set in place showed that take-away food sales were 206% higher in July 2021 than they were in July 2019 and indeed the July 2021 figure was a drop on growth in May 2021 of 273%.

Now the restrictions on eating out have been lifted and the figures are interesting. Eating out has started to increase again, much to the relief of the industry and it is the take-away market which appears to be coming down, by 1.3% whilst delivery has maintained its share of the market of 20.5% month on month. The two combined in July represented a third of the market of restaurant and pub groups.

This is an important and significant shift in public attitude to dining at home versus dining out. Consumers have demonstrated that they liking dining at home and this will no doubt guide the industry in the future.

Why has this change taken place? It is of course a matter of speculation at this stage but one possible answer is “quality”. Traditionally take-away food has been fairly restricted to certain styles, e.g. Indian, Chinese, fish and chips etc. However during the pandemic, a phenomenon which affected all businesses, a large number of quality chefs decided that they needed to move the focus of their businesses to “eating out”; failure to have done so would have brought about a lot more closures.

So is the general public getting used to the idea of quality food at home, something which has come about simply because suddenly such food is now available whereas pre-pandemic it was not. I speculate that this could well be the case. Take-aways usually conjure up in the mind “fast food” of a lower quality and perhaps the public is disposed to buying quality food of a higher quality to eat at home.

There are significant good reasons why eating at home is becoming popular. Firstly, the price is usually less. Actually take-away food tends to be a bit cheaper but not necessarily a lot cheaper. But the restaurant no longer has the large overheads of wages and premises maintenance to worry about. There could even be a VAT advantage where there is cold food involved.

Secondly the idea of your dinner arriving at the door so effortlessly is an attractive one; the host or hostess can spend the time otherwise spent in going to collect it in ensuring that his or her appearance and that of the home are “just perfect” where guests are expected.

Thirdly, no need to drink and drive or worse, refrain from drinking because of having to drive. This is a major reason for people to eat at home. Moreover if you fancy a drop of really good wine, you can drink it at home at supermarket price rather than restaurant price – now we’re talking. It is not unknown for the drinks side of a restaurant bill to be the same as the food, often more!

If it is just a cosy evening in for the family, well you can watch your favourite film on your home cinema system. Wonderful!

And for many, in the immortal words of Mr Pickwick “I sleeps where I eats”.

Easy peasey!

Let’s watch this space and see how the eating at home model rolls out – is it just a short term fad or does the restaurant trade have something really notable to think about? What is really important is to ensure that decent food is served in the right containers and at the right temperature. Get that right and you could be on to a winner.

Adrian Leopard 24-08-21

Photo Farhad Ibrahimzade

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Adrian Leopard & Company is the trading name of Alderney Offshore Ltd, a company registered in Alderney, Channel Islands number 1220.

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Adrian Leopard & Co is represented in the UK by 3CL (UK) Ltd trading as Adrian Leopard Associates.

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