The NPD Group’s Foodservice team in the UK have identified key trends that we think will reshape Britain’s £57 billion out-of-home (OOH) or eat-out foodservice industry in 2020, with the need for increased sustainability from foodservice operators being a clear theme. While I’ll focus on the UK for this entry, these trends are not exclusive to Britain. Many if not all of these are either already reshaping other global foodservice markets, or they soon will be. As Britain goes, so goes the world? Let’s hope so!

Foodservice delivery is great – but sustainable foodservice delivery is even better

Delivery is one of the fastest growing order channels in Britain’s OOH foodservice market with visits up +11% over the year ending October 2019. NPD is forecasting that food and beverages purchased through the delivery channel will represent 10% of Britain’s entire foodservice market by 2022. But while delivery offers speed and convenience, it has the potential to fall foul of consumer concerns around waste, packaging and carbon emissions. Delivery operators need to strike a better balance, perhaps by reducing the size of delivery catchments and using more acceptable, recyclable forms of packaging. Winners in the foodservice delivery channel will work hard to limit any adverse environmental impact. An increased emphasis on making deliveries in the greenest way possible will help spur continued growth in foodservice delivery visits well beyond 2020.

Success means breaking boundaries

There used to be a clear distinction between restaurants, pubs, bars, coffee shops and fast food. And consumers would know if they were visiting a retail, leisure or foodservice outlet. But those boundaries have blurred. Winners must be prepared to break boundaries as a way of staying ahead of consumer needs and trends. With rising consumer expectations for ultra-convenience and engaging experiences, smart foodservice operators understand that defying old conventions can be a route to success. The old ways are not always the best.

There’s more to life than meat

Data from the NPD Group shows that in the last three months to October 2019, almost 3% of British eating out visits were influenced by whether or not an eating out place had vegetarian or vegan options on the menu. Over the course of a year, 3% represents over 300 million visits, and it is likely that this figure will grow rapidly in future. Winners will understand the value of meat alternatives and that consumers of all kinds (even those who love meat) enjoy non-meat meals. That means providing a range of great meat choices complemented by appetising vegetarian and vegan options. Meat-like plant protein (such as foods produced by Impossible and THIS!) will take off and has a major role to play in future market growth.

Kids’ menus are growing up

Kids eventually grow up; but what about kids’ menus? Are foodservice operators keeping up with children’s increasingly sophisticated eating out tastes? Winners will be those suppliers and operators that are able to offer classic kids’ meals with a contemporary twist, while also experimenting with new menu items or ingredients. Offering kids’ meals that will surprise and delight children and parents alike will be a key route to trading success.

Food halls will storm ahead

The food hall format is growing rapidly and tapping into the trend for informal, unstructured eating. These large indoor spaces allow street-food vendors and established restaurants alike to serve adventurous customers from their own stalls. Winners will provide atmosphere, variety, excitement and value for money. Food halls offer lower rents and guaranteed footfall for operators, as well as more choice for consumers, creating a lower-risk environment where well-executed concepts can thrive in a fun and informal atmosphere.

What we see in these five trends is how creative and innovative the foodservice industry can be, and how well it understands and adapts to consumer expectations. The brands that are challenging conventional foodservice formats, including blurring the lines between foodservice and retail, will continue to enjoy success, as will the operators that provide appetizing choices for all palates.