“The place to be”
“Looking purely at the numbers,” says Emma Read of Foodservice data consultancy Horizons, “the lunch market is the place to be.”
Horizons July 2014 ‘Eating Out-Look’ consumer survey showed that when asked, 46.9% said they had eaten lunch out in the past two weeks, compared to 43.44% in the same period last year. While dinner is still the most popular meal to eat out, numbers are beginning to decline, with lunch “taking a share away from the dinner time market”.
Break-out stars of the lunch to-go market, such as POD and Leon have had major successes this year, with POD announcing this week a major expansion plan. The company has seen double-digit like-for-like growth since the start of 2014, and will focus expansion outside of London’s square mile. Leon has just opened a swathe of new restaurants
“Lunch for Less”
In the year since the Lunch! show’s last outing, says Read, larger quick-service operators have begun to make significant changes in order to move into the space more traditionally occupied by Pret, POD, Leon and salad brands like chop’d and tossed.
“I look back a year ago and we were talking about things like POD or chop’d or tossed and it’s really interesting to see how things have nudged forward since the last show,” Read says.
Larger operators such as Pizza Express, Giraffe and Wahaca have “spotted an opportunity”, she says. By creating offers in the £4-£7 price bracket, branded to entice customers with their promises of “lunch for less” or Wahaca’s “Lunch Break” deal, they are appealing to the time-starved work force, allowing them to compete with traditional lunch operators.
As expected, the Lunch show was dominated by the growing tendency towards “healthy” and “sustainable” options.
Leon, which has largely lead the drive towards more considered, healthy fast food, showed itself to still be a major draw for the industries attentions. The opening day’s biggest crowds gathered for the final talk by Henry Dimbleby, c0-founder of the chain and director of the Sustainable Restaurants Association, which was using the day to launch its new café rating.
And, says Read, “healthy eating is the trend that just doesn’t go away”. The move towards gluten-free has seen a massive “explosion on menus of late”, with even large brands such as Wetherspoons directing their marketing strategies towards dietary trends.
Other highlight’s from the two-day event’s speakers’ programme included Tim Hall, the creator of POD, Sarah Doyle, brand director of EAT and Steve Flanagan, director of marketing and category for Starbucks UK.