Franchises appear to be spearheading growth in the food industry, according to a new report, which shows café chains grew by 5.2% in 2011 while independent cafés declined.
The report, titled Australian Foodservice Market 2012, was produced by BIS Foodservice, a business unit of industry research provider BIS Shrapnel.
The report reveals that in the 12 months prior to June, the number of food service outlets in Australia declined by 1%, driven largely by a 1.1% decline in commercial outlets.
Café chains grew by 5.2% in 2011, while independent cafés, and bakeries with cafés, declined. Fast food chains also grew in 2011, by 3.8%.
However, a further decline in independent fast food outlets – combined with a decline in snack food chain outlets – led to an overall fall in the Quick Service Restaurant channel of 1.7%.
Restaurant numbers declined by 2.6% last year, and function caterer numbers fell 7.3%.
According to the report, these numbers reflect current economic conditions and fluctuating consumer confidence.
And while Australians have continued to eat out since the global financial crisis, they do not eat out as much. They have also changed where and what they eat, and how much they spend.
“In short, pasta and risotto is up while steak is down, for example,” says Sissel Rosengren, head of BIS Foodservice
“People might still buy an entrée, but now it’s usually a cheaper item such as a soup or a salad… People are generally eating two courses when they used to have three.”
“There has also been a return to comfort foods with demand for fish and chips, and bangers and mash, on the rise.”
Surprisingly, consumers are demanding red meat more often, with 21% of outlets reporting an increase in demand. Coffee demand continues to rise, while poultry is also in high demand.
However, many restaurant operators believe 2012 will be another “lean and trim” year in which it will be vital to watch costs in order to stay in business.
As such, operators are minimising costs where possible.
“Restaurants are now keeping staff numbers at a minimum… Chefs in some places are now expected to take orders, wash dishes and make coffee,” Rosengren says.
Operators are also preparing more food from scratch in order to reduce food costs, according to the report.
This trend is also influenced by an increased preference for fresh produce among consumers, as well as locally sourced products.
“Flavours in QSRs are back to basics and we are seeing a return to more traditional foods,” Rosengren says.
“However, the channel will continue to experience pressure to change its menu offerings due to Australia’s high level of obesity, particularly among children.”
“There is also an expectation that demands for vegetarian offerings will increase in this channel over the coming years.”
With regard to the future, BIS Foodservice says the market is expected to grow year-on-year for the next five years.
The report found confidence among foodservice business operators is up despite the total number of outlets – as well as overall turnover – declining last year.
“Businesses are now adapting to evolving consumer demand and understand the need to offer the full service to customers in order to retain regulars,” Rosengren says.