With weekly spend through the week beginning Aug 10 recovering to 56% of the levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the continued strength of delivery, which increased and is now higher in spend than it was before the lockdown, there is evidence of an encouraging recovery in the British out-of-home foodservice market. In addition, since reopening of pubs and restaurants for eat-in occasions, in-store spending has recovered to 40% of the levels seen before the lockdown. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme, supported by the UK government throughout August, is likely to further support the recovery.
It is not clear if this reflects the start of a sustainable improvement, or the short-term satisfaction of pent-up demand following relaxation measures. Perspex screens, hand sanitizers, masks, gloves, social distancing messaging and other initiatives underline that the British foodservice experience has changed, but it also shows this industry is working hard to recover. These tentative signs of improvement are welcome, and foodservice operators will want to build on this.
Looking ahead, as more Brits choose a staycation, there will inevitably be more customers for the foodservice industry. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme might boost visits, but its short-term validity isn’t likely to have a long-term impact. However, the VAT tax cut that applies to hospitality and tourism until January 2021 means that with prices already falling it’s likely to provide much-needed stimulus as operators pass on lower prices to consumers.