There has been some talk recently about the British foodservice industry’s return to growth. At NPD, we’ve had a couple of pretty upbeat reports from our elevator story correspondents in Great Britain in the past couple of quarters so there are reasons to be (somewhat) cheerful. But the fact is that British consumers have not bumped up their use of restaurants enough to get the industry on a growth path again. The commercial foodservice market was almost flat, but ever-so-slightly down, for the 12 months ending October 2013.
In fact, our CREST ongoing foodservice market research shows that the industry in Great Britain is still almost 3% smaller than it was in 2008. That weakness is entirely a reflection of ongoing difficulties in the independent foodservice sector. Chains and global chains in particular, have grown pretty consistently in the aftermath of the global economic crisis.
Consumers were making some sort of commercial restaurant purchase a little more than 150 times per person per year in 2008. That number fell with the crisis and has yet to return to that level.
If we think about the future it seems apparent that the return of economic health and correlated employment will bring growth to the foodservice market. First, they’ll have to build back to their previous rate of use and then, as heavier users age and replace older, less frequent users, the industry will indeed begin to grow. That’s very likely to happen. There’s just a bit of a problem of getting some growth in the first place right now.