The Changing Demographic of Catering
The post Covid & post Brexit challenges have had a huge impact on the events and catering sector and the escalating energy and supplier costs mean that the food sector is having to make some tough decisions to survive.
During the Covid lockdown many restaurants and caterers turned to the takeaway food market in order to survive and it is clear that post Covid many still see this market as an area for growth.
- One of the main factors to consider for restaurants is overhead costs and during Covid many restaurants received concessions from Landlords which they now need to be repaid which has in some cases forced many eating establishments to close or down size in order to control overhead costs.
- With many retail shops closing down and more and more people shopping on line, town centres are experiencing less foot fall which means less potential customers for restaurants and coffee shops
- There is also now the further issue of increasing energy and food supply costs which restaurants will need to pass on to their customers and certainly in the less wealthy areas this will could reduce business as the cost of living crisis impacts peoples budgets.
- Finally, there are the issues of staff, and like most sectors there is a huge shortage of staff in the food and events industry as many people were forced to seek alternative employment during Covid and are reluctant to return. The best chefs are also at a Premium both in terms of availability and affordability and this is often having an adverse effect on quality as the best ones move to the 'highest bidder'.
Like the restaurant sector, the business sector also went through some huge changes during the pandemic with people who could work from home asked to do so. This created a whole new sector of 'home workers' who set up laptops and work stations in kitchens and living rooms and conducted meetings via Zoom. Without the stress of travel many people enjoyed the experience of home working so much that many have continued now the Covid risks have dissipated.
A lot of businesses have seen this as an opportunity to close down expensive offices and instead rent out one of the growing number of meeting room spaces so they can get their staff together collectively once or twice a week and allow them to work from home for the remainder of the week.
These regular business gatherings often last for several hours and are seen as an essential part of team building and so a lot of companies bring buffet lunches and catering in so their staff do not need to go out for food.
WEDDING / FUNERALS & CORPORATE EVENTS
Again, during Covid most weddings and events had to be cancelled and funerals were limited to a very small number of mourners and once the pandemic eased there were huge back logs of celebrations and parties to rearrange.
This created opportunities for the beleaguered hospitality sector to open up their houses, hotels and gardens for small wedding celebrations and events and this has given a lot more scope for caterers to produce hot and cold food platters and lavish spreads of sandwiches, salads, cakes and sweets.
DIFFERENT FOOD OPTIONS
The UK has definitely developed a taste for a wider variety of foods and this has provided opportunities for smaller 'artisan' and specialist catering such as vegan food and creative cakes and biscuits. Artisan markets are sprouting up in most towns & villages throughout the UK with many small businesses producing and supplying directly to their customers.
The increased opportunity for caterers, restaurants and artisans to sell and deliver their wide variety of foods directly to their customers has increased demand for the right sort of food packaging. Additionally as a lot of suppliers have limited space for stock and don't want to tie up their money unnecessarily they want to know they can buy their packaging when they need it and get next day delivery.
That is why a lot of food caterers are choosing local UK suppliers who carry stocks of food packaging and better still UK catering disposables manufacturers who can also offer the most competitive prices as well as short lead times.
Catering companies also want packaging that will protect their food from the rigours of transport and contamination whilst giving visual impact when the party food, buffet, sandwiches or cakes are presented to guests.
There are also environment concerns surrounding packaging and consumers like to know that the containers they are using are reusable and can be easily recycled once finished with. Although there has been a lot of adverse publicity surrounding plastics there have been a lot of improvements to both the material used in making packaging from a high percentage of recycled plastic and also ensuring that the packaging can be reused and recycled once finished with.
Products such as Caterline reusable plastic platters tick a lot of boxes when it comes to making the best choice for catering disposables as they are made from recycled rpet plastic, can be washed and reused and are 100% recyclable.
Not only that, the rigid plastic platters give complete protection to the contents and with the firm clip closure will also keep the food fresher for longer. With their crystal clear lids the contents can be easily viewed and the black bases also feature a non-slip design to help keep the food in position during transit.
Although it is bio-degradable or bio-compostable Cardboard packaging does not offer the same protective qualities as recycled plastic as it is flimsy and can be easily crushed during transit or if stacked. Cardboard platters do not seal as well as their plastic counterparts either and food such as sandwiches can often dry out as the cardboard soaks up moisture.
Additionally, cardboard packaging is single use and although it is biodegradable it can take many months to degrade and of course more trees need to be used to replace the packaging which causes deforestation issues.
There is no doubt that the next few years will see further challenges to the food and restaurant sector but as usual, the resilience of the British people will ensure that the catering sector evolves and survives. By using innovative UK catering disposable manufacturers the food producers will have a reliable source of supply that will compliment their eye catching food displays.
- Gary Briscoe