The UKs lunch market looks set to grow over the next 12 months as consumers increasingly eat out wherever they are, expect a wide choice of eating out options but often want something quick, cheap and easy-to-eat.
Emma Read, director of marketing and business development with foodservice analyst Horizons, predicts that the lunch market, already worth £14.9bn, will occupy a growing share of overall foodservice sales.
"Britains lunch market is worth £14.9bn, thats 35% of the total foodservice market," explained Read. "Growth over the past few years has outperformed what is essentially a flat market overall. Lunch business has risen by 3.3% on 2009 figures. We expect this growth to continue and expect the lunch market to account for closer to 36% of the total foodservice sector by 2014."
Previous Horizons research has shown that the eating out habit is here to stay, with the average British adult eating out 1.4 times per week in 2012, a rise from once a week in 2011.
Consumers continued to eat out despite the onset of the economic downturn in 2008, but opted to spend less and order differently. Average spend dropped in 2012 to £12.30 (including drinks) from £12.69 in 2011.
However, while many top-end restaurants have seen lunchtime trade suffer, business through quick service and casual dining restaurants has remained relatively strong as consumers down-trade, preferring something fast to eat-in or takeaway, rather than a more formal sit-down meal.
Driving the lunch market is the fact that time-pressed consumers no longer make their own lunch, preferring quick options wherever they are. They are also prompted to eat out by money-off vouchers and meal deals, many of which are predominantly lunch-based. Work pressure also means that consumers are more likely to opt for a takeaway to eat at their desk.
However, Read warned eating out operators that the offer had to be right to capitalize on this growing market, as consumers are increasingly demanding. Horizons 2012 consumer QuickBite research showed that food quality was the biggest factor in choosing an eating out venue, with price second on the list.
Across the board consumers are becoming more discerning and particular about how they spend their money. They have high expectations and expect good quality food, friendly service and a relaxed ambience. While consumers have continued to eat out throughout the downturn, our research shows they are only willing to do so when an outlet meets these high expectations and the price is right.