A reinvigorated restaurant scene in the north of England, crowdfunding, cashless payments, and healthy eating are set to be among the biggest trends in the next year, according to the annual Restaurants and Bars predictions report from business advisory firm BDO.
The findings also predicted that pressure would rise on larger companies to offer the living wage, that pop-ups and barbecue joints would continue to thrive, and that the recent beer tie changes could lead to pubs taking a more food-led managed direction.
BDO's top 10 predictions were:
1. Continued strengthening of the M&A market
We are likely to see a growing number of deals with high-street brands, in the wake of the continuing growth of groups such as Yo! Sushi, TGI Friday's, Las Iguanas, Gordon Ramsay, and Bill's. Each has expanded considerably in the last year, and, with debt becoming "easier to find", says the report, this will only continue.
2. Alternative funding on the up
Crowdfunding websites, which invite members of the public or interested investors, to pledge money for new projects, are set to become even more popular. This year alone has seen a host of high-profile funding campaigns, such as Pizza Rossa in London's Leadenhall Market (which raised over £400,000 in 17 days in 2013, and over £2,000 in subsequent funds in a second campaign in October this year), and 2013 Menu of the Year Catey winner Sticky Walnut, the Gary Usher run Cheshire restaurant that raised over £100,000 in a month via Kickstarter in November, in a bid to open a second site.
3. A big year for the pub
The recent beer tie changes, which saw the Chancellor offer tied pubs the chance to ask for a review into their status, has been predicted to begin impacting the market in 2015. Pub operators will continue to develop their food offer and will see food as key to their growth. This is already the case for many pubs, including this year's Good Pubs Guide Pub of the Year, the Rose & Crown in Snettisham, Norfolk, which was praised for its "very good food" by the guide's co-editor, Fiona Stapely.
4. The rise of the North
The report predicted that the restaurant scene across Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester would continue to grow. 2014 saw a host of new restaurants opening for the first time outside London and the South thanks to new developments such as Liverpool One, Manchester's Spinningfields, Leeds' Trinity, and Glasgow's Silverburn.
5. Healthy eating continues to grow
As the problems associated with the obesity crisis become ever more apparent, sites focussing on juices, soups, sushi and salads will now become ever more important in the grab-and-go market, with the challenge being to bring these ideas outside the M25. Quickly expanding firms aiming for a healthy ethos in recent months have included Leon, Kimchee, and Chopp'd.
6. Cashless payments will finally take a hold
Mobile technology and quick-pay systems such as cashless payments will continue to grow, as smartphone technology accelerates into the mainstream, beyond the early adopters. This will be especially true for the grab-and-go market.
7. Pop-ups and mobile units continue to thrive
There is still energy left in the pop-up culture, says BDO, with mobile units continuing to thrive. This is especially true among the younger generations, who are more au-fait with new technology, social media, and crowdfunding platforms, and can take more risks on ever-more "vibrant" experiences. Street food trends will continue to be an influence in 2015, as they have been for the past year.
8. High-end delivery will become viable for the first time
9. The living wage
The debate on wages will only continue to intensify as some operators - especially larger ones â' will see additional pressure to pay staff the living wage. This would be £7.85 for people over the age of 21, compared with the current national minimum wage of £6.50. The London Living Wage is £9.15. The general consensus in 2014 seemed to be that most operators would be theoretically sympathetic to the move, but feared the viability of their businesses should they be compelled to pay more, and worried about passing on the cost to their customers. In November, GLA Conservative Tony Arbour calculated that the predicted £4b cost to businesses would impact 213,247 jobs across the sector.
10. US smokehouses and barbecues fire on
As burgers continue to dominate the "cool food" market, other US trends continue to impact the UK dining scene, including ribs, low-and-slow barbecues, and hot dogs. A number of new such sites have become prominent in 2014, including the north-west based Red's True Barbecue, London-based Porky's, and the recently-announced Top Dog in London's Soho.