Industry leaders share their thoughts on what lies ahead this year
Owner, Pied à Terre and L'Autre Pied, London
The biggest challenge in 2012 will be the economic uncertainty. No one knows what will happen and we're all crossing fingers that there won't be a double-dip recession.
But in challenging economic times opportunities arise. As some operators struggle, sites might become available, giving young guns the chance to get in.
Dining out has become part of the texture and fabric of our culture, meaning restaurants are more resilient than ever before and quality restaurants will have an easier time. But service still has a long way to go and continues to be shockingly poor in some areas. This needs to improve as good service is a key driver for business during the economic uncertainty.
The industry will also need to start weaning people off vouchers and become cleverer about discounting. With food inflation at an all time high, we can't hike prices to match this, meaning chefs will have to become much more creative with managing their margins.
There will be a continued trend towards informal dining and there's a real thirst for anything New York-like, whether it's the food trucks or the Russell Norman-style operations. I don't think that we have seen the full impact of the Noma revolution in this country yet and Nordic cuisine will have more influence on the restaurant industry.
Chairman, BaxterStorey and chief executive, WSH
I think each market segment will have different challenges and opportunities.
The big worry at the moment is the Eurozone and the UK's relationship with Europe - it is incredibly difficult to make a prediction but at present there is a real apprehension in the air and both businesses and consumers are nervous about committing to major spending.
On the other hand I have spoken recently to several clients whose businesses are storming ahead - it would be good to hear more positives.
The very good news for contract catering is that we all need to eat and we provide meals and snacks that are real value for money. I think we can benefit from customers being more careful with their spending by promoting the fresh seasonal and healthy food we offer - that's a real opportunity. By continuing to increase sales we also help our clients get the maximum return on their catering spaces and I am sure the market will increasingly look at that aspect and demand more of us.
I also passionately believe in investing in training and development and I think our industry has a real role to play in getting young people started in jobs and giving them the help and support in achieving a lifelong career in a great industry. This will be a major focus for us in 2012.
Tracey RogersManaging director, Unilever Food Solutions
In 2012 the industry will have no option but to continue to prioritise and tackle environmental issues; especially when it means so much to savvy consumers. With the Government set to introduce a Responsibility Deal on waste in March, more significant measures will need to be taken by businesses to curb avoidable food waste. We have a free waste audit toolkit available on our website and will continue to build upon this platform to keep the industry moving in the right direction.
Chief executive, Charles Wells
There's no doubt that we'll be bumping along the bottom of the current economic cycle for some time so it's essential to keep close to the mood of the public. By asking for consumer feedback licensees can build up loyalty and we'll also be listening to our licensees to find out what support they need from us. Great pubs will do well whatever the economic conditions but those that fall below standard will find it harder and harder to retain customers. Investment in training and marketing will be essential in improving our services to deliver tailored support that really can make a difference to individual operators.
One of the best opportunities for pubs is to stock a good range of well cared for cask beers, which is the best performing category in the on trade beer market. It's something that's intrinsically associated with British pubs and we saw volumes of our own cask beer brands grow by 5.2% in Charles Wells's pubs last year. We're working on a number of things that help customers try cask beer for the first time or give them a better understanding of the range of flavours available to help develop an offer and atmosphere that creates a fantastic experience for the consumer.
Andrew MckenzieManaging director, Vineyard at Stockcross, Relais & Châteaux, and steering committee for the UK Delegation of Relais & Châteaux
The economy is without doubt going to be the biggest challenge for the hospitality industry in 2012. Businesses with difficult/complex debt structures that had hoped to trade through until things improve will be seriously stretched by the length of this recession, some will not survive. As costs rise for the general population the pressure on salaries will increase despite the lack of employment opportunities. This will put even more stress on struggling businesses.
There may be a backlash on conspicuous consumption, which could have a major impact on the luxury hospitality businesses.
Across the industry as a whole I think maintaining previous year's sales levels will be an achievement and profit levels will reduce as most businesses have already picked the low hanging fruit in terms of cost savings.
Managing director, Chewton Glen, Relais & Châteaux, and steering committee for the UK Delegation of Relais & Châteaux (also Hotelier of the Year 2010)
The first quarter of 2012 will be really tough for the provinces and to a certain extent London especially in terms of corporate activity.
Leisure business in the luxury sector has continued to buck the trend, helped mainly by the weak pound. During the low season, provisional properties with spas will continue to appeal to guests looking to escape and relax for a few days of R&R and those with children's programmes will ‘make hay' during the school breaks. The 2nd quarter will be another matter, with the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics and Chewton Glen is already witnessing unprecedented levels of business from April to September.
Businesses that focus on maximising the benefits of these events will do well and those that continue to be creative in terms of added value and interesting packages will continue to steal market share from less dynamic competitors.
Lindsay WinserCommunications controller, 3663
The challenge for the foodservice industry is to meet and accurately anticipate the growing demand for home-grown produce. No doubt talk of patriotism, in everything from UK athletes to UK-produced party sausages, will be widespread across the industry, but establishments will need to balance the enthusiasm with what's right for their menus.
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