CHICAGO — The United Kingdom’s restaurant industry continues showing signs of improvement. As more customers return to pubs and eating establishments, the ingenuity and adaptability honed by restaurant operators during the downturn will give customers a better dining experience for their money than perhaps ever before, Technomic relays.
Technomic has identified the following trends for 2011:
1. Many UK- and US-based chains will make big expansion pushes. UK chains like Wagamama, Pret A Manger and YO! Sushi will look to expand their presence in the US, while US chains like Chipotle, T.G.I. Friday’s and Hooters will spread their footprints in the UK market.
2. The 2010 Technomic Top 100 UK Chains Report shows the fast-casual segment grew by 28% in 2009, a pattern that continued during 2010. As UK-based fast-casuals like Nando’s continue to grow and US-based fast-casuals move into the market, the category will swell.
3. Operators will pay more attention to the breakfast daypart. Many chains previously not serving breakfast will begin to, and those chains already serving breakfast will expand their offerings.
4. Restaurants will usher in each new season with new menus developed to highlight the foods and flavors associated with that time of year. These menus will showcase locally-sourced ingredients, with operators striving to communicate a farm-to-table business model.
5. Consumers’ evolving health concerns will increasingly be reflected on restaurant menus. Low-sodium offerings will become more commonplace, and restaurant-goers will increasingly seek out “functional” foods, such as items touted as boosting the immune system.
6. Mexican cuisine, which up until now has been vastly underrepresented in the UK, will grow in popularity. The growth will come in large part from US-based Chipotle Mexican Grill, but UK chains such as Wahaca and Benito’s Hat will also fuel growth in the category.
7. More chains will begin offering delivery, promoting it heavily during cold-weather months. They’ll increasingly use technology to communicate their new service, à la Wagamama’s ordering app for the iPhone.
8. Concepts with prix-fixe menus will increasingly let customers choose the number of courses and specify their dishes, selecting from a condensed version of the full menu. Fixed-price limited time offers will showcase new creations that let chefs experiment with items beyond the permanent menu.
9. Chains are already using social media forums to supplement their traditional marketing tactics. With the continued expansion of Facebook and location-based programs, more restaurants will use these forums to create a direct, open line of communication with their customers.
10. Many operators are revamping or repositioning their brands, and multi-concept operators are selling restaurants that no longer fit their business models.
11. Pubs will continue to shift their attention to the lunch and breakfast dayparts.