High quality produce with a focus on the best of British is a key opportunity for hospitality businesses to thrive beyond the cost-of-living crisis, says hospitality buying specialist Lynx Purchasing.
“There are some very difficult choices for operators ahead,” says Rachel Dobson, Lynx Purchasing managing director. “It’s either keeping menu prices low, or serving high quality produce that offers consumers a genuinely different choice when compared to eating at home. Consumers may be going out less often, but many are looking for better quality when they do.”
As Lynx Purchasing publishes the Summer 2023 edition of its regular Market Forecast, Dobson adds: “While the Bank of England is forecasting that inflation will ease later this year, the price rises that operators have seen over the past two years are now bedded in.
“We’re starting to see some price improvements on products that have seen the biggest increases, such as dairy and oils, but higher food costs are here to stay. Once consumers start to feel more confident about spending, the opportunity for hospitality will be to add value to menus, rather than cut margins. In addition, showing support for British food producers has genuine customer appeal.”
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has recently called for closer links with hospitality, with NFU president Minette Batters arguing that “developing relationships between the out of home sector and British farmers and growers will create even more opportunities to serve up local food that is safe and fully traceable, providing the provenance the public increasingly appreciates.”
Dobson adds: “In retail, while supermarkets are not necessarily profiteering, their drive for lower prices often comes at a cost in terms of food quality. There are plenty of examples of produce where poorer quality has become the norm. Think of fruit and veg which look good but have no flavour; chicken that is intensively produced; or potatoes that are small and damaged due to extreme weather.”
Dobson adds: “Operators will have to factor continued volatility across a range of produce into their planning. Each hospitality business has to make its own decision about the trade-off between menu quality and pricing, based on its customers’ expectations. In the current market, though, trying to compete with the cheapest place town for eating out is a race to the bottom.
“Poor quality produce also contributes to food waste, for example by loss of yield during preparation and cooking, or simply when indifferent-tasting food is returned uneaten on customers’ plates. There is a real opportunity for operators to forge partnerships with British food producers and make eating out a genuinely different experience.”
A FREE copy of the Summer 2023 Market Forecast can be downloaded from the website at www.lynxpurchasing.co.uk.