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Research Finds Wider Menus And New, Emerging Food Trends

Menu length is driving spend, according to research from food & drink insight specialists Lumina Intelligence. 

The research has revealed menu counts and inflation have increased, with operators introducing new mains to drive spending. New dishes have higher price points as operators premiumise and drinks prices have been boosted.

Counts of items on menus have risen across all channels, with chain restaurants and pubs & bars leading this growth by expanding drinks menus.

Restaurant main course counts have seen the largest boost in average items, as operators focus on dishes that command the highest spend and are generally customers’ focus. Pub & bar operators have focused on expanding alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks ranges, while QSR operators have prioritised menu innovation in the main course category to drive appeal of the highest-cost course. Coffee & sandwich shop operators have increased the average number of mains they offer, driven by menu innovation from Greggs and Subway.

Prices are increasing on menus: Operators are now battling to align soft drink price increases with inflation, with the average price of a soft drink on a menu increasing by an average of +8.0%. Chain restaurants have increased prices on menus the most compared with the same period a year ago, as food price inflation and energy cost increases drive operational costs while consumers cut back on spending.

Operators are now driving spend through new dishes, which are priced higher than same-line dishes last year.

Same-line price inflation is relatively modest overall, although main dishes have seen the largest increase in price, driven by restaurants and QSR. QSR has focused price increases on additional courses, with considerable price rises on desserts, snacks and extras. Snacks have seen the highest percentage increases, with operators boosting prices of packaged goods in line with cost increases.

Restaurant moves: A wider variety of starters are targeting incremental spend, including tapping into the growing trend for indulgence with cheese-based starters and twists on classics. Operators have also developed a wider range of more novel desserts with, for example, dessert pizzas gaining share. Premium ingredients such as truffle and saffron are being introduced in mains, including pasta and fish dishes, to communicate quality and boost value for money perceptions.

Pubs & bars: Chicken-based starters have gained share as a relatively inexpensive ingredient. Chicken mains are a key focus for some operators with new trend-led international dishes such as Crispy Chicken Bao Buns (Slug & Lettuce). Variations of cocktails have carried the highest price inflation in Q2 as pubs & bars target higher spends, including new cocktails such as All Bar One’s ‘Strawberry Spagliato’, inspired by a viral TikTok video to appeal to the Gen Z audience.

QSR developments: Operators continue to diversify menus to attract wider audiences, although burgers remain the most popular main dish. Healthier, less calorific and higher-priced dishes are being introduced by some: evidence of targeted premiumisation while boosting health credentials. Meanwhile, premium and trend-led innovation is driving prices of drinks such as waters and smoothies.

Coffee & sandwich shops: Sandwiches are losing share to more premium items such as wraps, which are on average 22% more expensive on menus. The retro food trend has arrived at the sandwich and bakery channel, with new dessert items inspired by British classics – for example Greggs’ Sticky Toffee Muffin – proving a growing hit with consumers seeking a sense of nostalgia.