Health, coffee and delivery shaking up food-to-go

Fiona Speakman addresses a packed out lunch! show audience about the scale of food-to-go and the disruptors that could push the sector to change shape.

Healthy options and drinks including coffee are pivotal to future success in food-to-go, CGA data revealed at last week’s lunch! show—but delivery, street food and technology are all rapidly disrupting the sector.

A session from CGA’s client director Fiona Speakman (pictured below-right) indicated the scale of the food-to-go market, with BrandTrack research showing that three in five (59%) out-of-home eating visits are to the QSR and coffeeshop sectors now.

For around half of food-to-go consumers, convenience (51%) and location (52%) remain key drivers. But the availability of healthy options is increasingly significant in decision making too, the BrandTrack survey shows—especially among visitors to London-based on-the-go brands like Itsu, Leon and Pret.

What’s more, consumers are willing to pay a premium for healthy options. Across all food-to-go brands, their average spend is £5.38—but it is much higher at healthier brands like Itsu (£7.55) and Leon (£6.58). This healthy cohort has a higher average monthly spend on eating-out as well, at £104 compared to the £92 average—proof that this is a potentially lucrative market.

Food-to-go consumers also over-index in the value they place on the quality of drinks, Speakman told the lunch! show. “It’s not just about good food… having a good drinks range is also part of the winning equation,” she said.

Interest in coffee continues to surge, with BrandTrack data showing that 32.7 million people have visited a coffeeshop in the last six months—up by 2.7 million in the last year alone. Coffee is crossing channels and reaching new dayparts—but consumers’ standards are up too. “Expectations of coffee shops are rising—they’re becoming close to what consumers expect in a restaurant.” Improving the quality of food and demonstrating commitment to sustainability and ethical issues could be two ways to keep sales growing, she added.

Delivery sales are meanwhile rocketing, with the Go Technology report from CGA and Zonal showing that last year 27.3 million consumers ordered food delivery over a six-month period—a boom that has huge implications right across out-of-home eating. But with half (54%) of respondents to CGA’s Business Leaders’ Survey thinking they are behind the market in delivery, there is huge scope to grow sales further—but only if operators can optimize their speed of delivery, the quality and temperature of food and their price points.

Beyond these big trends, Speakman highlighted fast churn and innovation in the food-to-go market, with street food stealing share from the high street and big brands moving into the sector—as with Pizza Express’ Za. Retailers are also using technologies like order-by-app to speed up service and distinguish themselves in a crowded market. “Differentiation is crucial, and keeping things interesting will be key to success in the food-to-go space,” Speakman told the lunch! show. “The market’s evolving—so your offer needs to evolve too.”

For more insights into the data presented at lunch!, and how CGA’s analysis can unlock fresh sales in the food-to-go market, contact Fiona Speakman.

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