Adults following a vegan diet increased around 500% since 2016.
Meat substitutes, food halls, and experiential dining are set to become more prevalent in casual dining over the coming years, according to new research from international food company McCain Foodservice.
McCain’s 2018 Casual Dining report, which is designed to help foodservice operators better understand how to create a distinguishing brand in an increasingly crowded sector, identified six key trends among consumers.
“In an increasingly competitive sector, we know how important it is for operators to be agile and adapt quickly to cater for changes in trends and consumer behaviour,” McCain Foods senior brand manager Jo Simmons said.
“Our report highlights six recent successes in casual dining, giving operators an idea of the direction that the sector is set to head in over the coming years.”
(Also read: Top vegan trends operators should know about)
The vegan and healthy eating revolution
Among the report’s key findings include the rise of veganism among Brits and the increasing availability of vegan products in casual dining menus nationwide. According to the report, the number of adults following a vegan diet has increased around 500% since 2016, with 3.5 million vegans now living in the UK.
More restaurants are now moving towards plant-based ingredients like jackfruit, tempeh, seitan and aquafaba to cater for this demand, with around 52% of outlets offering at least one vegan option. McCain forecasts that the number is set to grow further in the coming years, with supermarkets, independents, and high street outlets leading the change.
McCain also found out that around 50% of diners say they consider whether a healthy option will be available when choosing where to dine out. Casual dining operators are responding to the trend by looking to meet the idea of “healthy indulgence” on menus, offering meals that taste as good as they are healthy whether it means offering meals that are lower in carbohydrates, fats, salts, sugars or even animal products.
The importance of experience and community
Shifts in consumer spending patterns also indicated that Brits are spending less money in traditional retail and foodservice, and more money on outlets that offer experiences, like the “do-it-yourself nature” of Korean barbeque.
In traditional Korean barbeque and Bulgogi restaurants, tables are fitted with in-built grills – or otherwise portable stoves – as operators allow customers to cook their meats themselves, grilling their food to their own liking and creating their own, memorable experiences in the process.
Diners reportedly also place a large significance towards the communal aspect of cooking and eating. Food halls, which aim to give consumers both choice and familiarity in a setting designed to inspire a sense of community, have seen great success over the past couple of years, with the UK’s largest – Market Hall Fulham – opening in London back in March 2018, and a further 16 halls set to open in the city over the next few years.
Breweries across the UK have also seen a rapid expansion is a result of a craft beer boom, with a new wave of brewers catering to a more discerning, savvier breed of beer drinker.
According to the research, the craft beer trend is growing outwards from independent bars to large chains and supermarkets, firmly planting itself in the mainstream, with a wider number of consumers than ever taking pride in knowing their stout from their saison. As consumers choose to “drink less, but better” when eating out, restaurants are increasingly moving to offer bespoke and varied beer lists, as a counterpoint to the more traditional wine list.
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