Operators who do their homework on the eating-out market, including implementing strong buying disciplines, can broaden their customer appeal, says Lynx Purchasing managing director Rachel Dobson. “Since the start of 2018 we’ve seen a number of well-known casual dining operators announce branch closures, renegotiate with their landlords, and cut back on expansion plans.
“It’s clear that some brands had over-extended themselves. While every business is dealing with the challenges of more cautious levels of consumers spending, there are still customers ready to eat out if they are offered good value and quality.
“Many of the businesses we work with are independent restaurants, pubs and cafés, and we’re advising them to look carefully at their menus and suppliers, and make sure they are implementing sensible buying habits that will enable them to make the most of opportunities in the current market.”
Lynx Purchasing is highlighting the changing eating out landscape as it publishes the Spring 2018 edition of its regular Market Forecast, which draws on exclusive data from its suppliers to look at buying trends. Issues flagged up in the Market Forecast include:
- Beef: Strong export demand is pushing up prices for UK customers, and the high profile investigation by the Food Standards Agency into catering butchers is also causing challenges There is more caution about using the trimmings from primal cuts, which increases not only the price caterers pay for steaks and joints, but also for beef mince to make menu favourites such as pies and burgers.
- Fish: The Marine Conservation Society has been calling on restaurants to remove wild caught sea bass from menus for some time, due to overfishing. New regulations have been put in place that aim to significantly reduce catches and chefs should consider using high quality, certified farmed sea bass, as an alternative.
- Dairy: Dairy prices have generally eased from the very high prices seen in 2017. However, the price of butter is softening, but is still higher than a year ago. As fluctuations continue, this has an impact on a range of products which use butter as an ingredient, and is likely to mean unpredictable prices for caterers into the spring and summer.
- Sugar: The sugar tax on soft drinks, which comes into force in April, will hopefully not come as a surprise at this stage, but the full impact on prices is still not clear, as some brands may implement a price increase over and above the tax itself to offset higher production costs.
Dobson adds: “There will be boosts to trade around upcoming occasions such as Easter, as well as two Bank Holidays and the Royal Wedding in May; and, as we know, it sometimes only takes a spell of good weather to persuade customers out to eat and drink.
“While there are many factors beyond operators’ control, we are emphasising the importance of cost control and good buying habits to all our customers. Our new free insight guide, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Purchasing Teams’, details seven proven ways that operators can make simple improvements to their purchasing, to generate substantial savings that can mean the difference between staying profitable or going under in this challenging market.”
Both the Spring 2018 Market Forecast and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Purchasing Teams guide are available to download free from the Lynx Purchasing website at www.lynxpurchasing.co.uk