Industry Analysis



Table of Contents

Food Ordering Habits in the UK

About 22 million flexitarians in the UK want to reduce their meat intake. Similarly, 30% of Americans are going beyond cutting down their meat consumption to seek plant-based alternatives.

1. Healthy Eating

  • QSR consumers in the UK are more concerned with eating healthy. They are paying more attention to what they eat, the food’s origin, its carbon footprint, whether it is organic, and other environmental factors.
  • Affluent consumers who want to eat happily and guilt-free are incentivized to do so due to the industry’s new and improved regulations. Generally, UK consumers would also pay more for “better quality food and ingredients.”
  • There is a growing trend of vegan, vegetarian, and environmentally friendly food, partly due to the 22 million flexitarians in the UK who are actively trying to reduce their meat intake.
  • The demand for vegan and vegetarian food in the UK has taken root over the past few years, with available options from supermarkets to takeaways. As such, major fast-food chains are adapting their menus to cater to this market.
  • The number of vegan restaurants on Deliveroo increased by 168% in the past year, while vegan orders quadrupled in the last two years.

How the US Compares

  • The US QSR market is experiencing similar dining habits, as demonstrated by KFC’s vegan-friendly Beyond Chicken, which sold out within five hours in Atlanta.
  • There has also been a 600% uptick in the number of people who identify as vegans in the US.
  • About 30% of Americans are going beyond cutting down their meat consumption to seek plant-based alternatives.
  • In a study of the purchasing patterns of 450,000 Americans, “health and curiosity are the primary drivers of plant-based meat purchases, though vegans and vegetarians are more likely to be motivated by environmental and ethical concerns.”

2. Takeaway Delivery

  • According to Deloitte, “home delivery in the UK is growing 10x faster than the total eating-out market.” Meanwhile, by the end of 2020, UK consumers are projected to spend 22% more on takeaway deliveries.
  • Online ordering and the use of delivery apps for fast-food orders in the UK are growing rapidly. According to The NPD Group, online makes up 38% of fast-food orders, while apps constitute 16%. However, apps are expected to improve significantly, as its use increased threefold in the past two years.
  • Currently, apps make up about 39% of takeaway and fast-food deliveries in the UK.
  • Delivery services such as Uber Eats, JustEat, and Deliveroo are developing strategies, partnerships, and innovations to adapt to recent trends.

How the US Compares

  • The US has also experienced a surge in food deliveries and digital delivery methods in the past decade, with digital ordering representing around 50% of all food deliveries. Digital orders, including via apps, online, or text, grew 23% since 2016.
  • Online delivery now accounts for 5% to 10% of the restaurant business, with QSR and fast-casual dining as its fastest-growing segments.
  • The rate of food orders via the internet increased from 17% to 24% in the US over the past year, and “meal-delivery sales to the four largest apps — DoorDash, Grubhub (which owns Seamless), Uber Eats, and Postmates — have tripled since 2016.”

3. Food Halls

  • Food halls are increasingly being adopted in the UK casual dining sector, with “empty spaces from derelict markets (Mackie Mayor in Manchester), tube stations (Fulham) and empty shops (the former BHS on Oxford Street) all offering thousands of feet of communal dining spaces from multiple outlets and creating increased competition for brick-and-mortar venues.”
  • This alternative to more permanent dining locations provides operators with a low-risk opportunity for their business location.
  • However, consumers in the UK see food halls as a fun experience that allows them to experience new tastes with friends. It particularly appeals to young individuals seeking the “convenience and flexibility of having multiple dining and drinking options.”
  • This trend is expected to increase significantly in 2020, as new operators such as The Market and Eataly enter the market.
  • The number of food halls in the UK is expected to double over the next few years.

How the US Compares

  • About 33% of US diners who visited a food hall in the last six months did so because they wanted to get a quick meal, 28% wanted to try out a new restaurant or a fun, social activity.
  • The majority (59%) visited a food hall to spotlight the most popular food options. In comparison, 58% want food halls that “incorporate a variety of service types, such as retail, grab-and-go, and full-service sit-down restaurants.”
  • The number of food halls in the US is also expected to double over the next few years, due to the ease and convenience that it provides diners. According to a report by Cushman & Wakefield, food halls in the US will experience rapid growth, “popping up in new markets and multiplying in cities where they already exist.”
  • Food halls are a beneficial alternative for small and midsize restaurants facing increasing rent and labor costs in US cities such as Los Angeles and New York. They also serve as testbeds for larger operators looking to change their business model or expand their offerings.

4. Self-Service Kiosks

  • Self-service kiosks for food-ordering are expected to be mainstream in the UK QSR market within the next year. About 58% of hospitality operators in the food-sector will adopt self-serve technology by October 2020. However, self-service kiosks will be utilized the most.
  • Even though McDonald’s launched their first self-service kiosk in the UK in 2011, and Tossed received significant customer appreciation for its “100% self-serve cashless offering,” there have not been any rapid deployments of the same to indicate mass adoption.
  • Recently, a poll involving 2,000 UK residents, 41% revealed that they prefer to use a self-serve kiosk over a cashier, with privacy and control of kiosk self-ordering as their primary reasons. Other cited attractions include “queue avoidance, convenience, order customization, and accuracy.” The survey also revealed that UK operators do not fully realize the extent of consumer appreciation of self-serve options.
  • However, a survey involving British operators showed that staff productivity (65%) is the top benefit for kiosk deployment. Other pros include customer waiting-time reduction (62%), revenue (58%), and product sales increase (54%).
  • Challenges identified with self-service kiosk implementation include IT infrastructure (62%), EPoS limitations (52%), installation costs (48%), and cost to redesign existing store layouts (42%).

How the US Compares

  • A similar survey of 2,000 restaurant customers in the US showed that restaurant chains are already adopting self-service kiosks as part of their offering. The kiosks are of also significant value to customers.
  • About 18% of US consumers used self-service kiosks to place orders within the last three months, and 60% would “visit a limited-service concept more often if they were available.”
  • “Digitally-savvy consumers increasingly expecting control, choice, and personalization when ordering,” are driving the interest in and adoption of self-service kiosks among consumers and restaurant chains in the US.
  • Older and tech-savvy consumers both indicated an interest in having digital interactions with restaurants, especially if it promotes a dining experience that is faster and easier.
  • While self-service kiosk adoption and rollout are still in its early stages in the US, about 31% of QSR consumers used one in a restaurant in the past year, and 54% plan to place orders using a kiosk in the next year.

5. Pop-Up Restaurants

  • According to French chef Ludo Lefebvre, pop-up restaurants work very well as quick service. Pop-ups are also the fastest-growing among top food and drink trends analyzed by Eventbrite, with 82% growth.
  • Roughly one-quarter of UK adults cited long wait times as their primary frustration when dining in traditional restaurants. Pop-up restaurants, however, seek to eliminate this annoyance.
  • According to a survey of 2,000 pop-up event attendees, 75% said they would pay more for a unique dining experience. About 50% said they would happily pay more for a meal from a pop-up event’s menu “if they could watch the chef cook, as opposed to one served in a regular restaurant.”
  • For all survey respondents, having a unique dining experience was a significant factor when visiting a pop-up restaurant.

How the US Compares

  • In the US, pop-up restaurants are a significant trend every few years. Restaurant owners in the US are learning to embrace this trend because even though it is challenging to plan, the revenue it generates is usually worth it.
  • One example is the FOMU pop-up vegan ice cream restaurant in Boston that was established in the summer alone, to test a new location. Operators use it as an avenue to experiment and learn, while consumers benefit from the “short-term appeal and array of fun food concepts.”
  • Pop-up restaurants were declared the sixth top restaurant concepts trend in the What’s Hot 2018 chef survey by the National Restaurant Association.
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at Simple Manifestation with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.


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