It would be a brave call to predict which contract catering companies will come and go in 2005. Most years see some sort of rationalisation in the sector and the birth of some new companies. The chances are that 2005 will be no different.
Initially, the market will need to get used to a new, sizeable player: BaxterStorey. The fifth-biggest contract caterer, and largest independent, will certainly compete hard with the big corporates when national contracts come up for tender. Compass, Sodexho and Aramark have all had a difficult year in 2004, but expect Compass to remain dominant. Some experts predict that Sodexho has turned the corner and its renaissance will continue in 2005.
On the food front, the use of locally sourced and Fairtrade products is likely to gather pace, particularly in Government contracts, where it is a requirement.
London won't take all the glory in the restaurant and bar world this year as regional restaurants continue to flourish and prohibitive rents combined with public transport troubles take their toll on the West End.
The outlook for the gastropub and neighbourhood restaurant remains rosy, however, with restaurateurs such as Nigel Platts-Martin leading the way - watch out for his fifth restaurant, in London's Notting Hill, in the spring.
Interiors look set to say goodbye to the dark-brown leather banquette and bare wooden table, so you can expect to see more eclectic, individual styles and fashion designers taking the place of interior designers.
On the food front, "back to British" traditional cooking will continue to thrive, although look out for other influences, including the rise of French bistro cuisine. We're also likely to see more Latin American-themed venues on the back of Conran's success with Floridita.
The classical hold on fine dining will continue to relax as chefs take a fresher approach and insert a sense of humour. Watch out for innovators such as Glynn Purnell in Birmingham and Anthony Flinn in Leeds to cement their growing reputation.
One last tip: private members' clubs are back in vogue, so watch out for a spate of openings this year.
Several key factors are likely to affect the hotel market in 2005, the most unpredictable being the economy.
Last year hotel revenue grew about 10% year-on-year, but this seems unlikely to be repeated. This year the growth rate is likely to be a more modest 4-5% for both London and the provinces.
Exchange rates could become an issue, and the strength of the dollar and delayed impact of high oil prices could affect tourism - although it is unlikely to hit business travellers.
Occupancy rates are currently the best since 2001, but the challenge in 2005 will be for hotels to maintain this and continue to improve room rates.
Suppliers and products
The move towards menu transparency is bound to gather pace as meat-origin labelling on menus becomes more widespread and chefs demonstrate confidence and pride in their carefully sourced ingredients. We are likely to see all areas of the supply chain - growers, manufacturers, food service providers - working closer together to deliver the reliable information consumers want.
Health issues, such as salt, fat and sugar, will continue to dominate, and caterers will provide more information highlighting calorific value and low-fat and low-carb options to enable the consumer to make an informed menu choice. Additionally, the increasing number of Fairtrade products being stocked in retail outlets will see the offer grow in food service, as it will strike a chord with the growing number of environmentally aware consumers.
Upcoming changes in the law
Employment Act 2002
Various changes to employment tribunal procedures, including a requirement for employers to respond to a claim in a specific way or face losing the case by default.
Employment Relations Act 2004
Amendments to the provisions relating to trade union recognition and derecognition for collective bargaining purposes.
Gender Recognition Act 2004
Gives protection to individuals who have a reassigned gender.
Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations
Companies with more than 150 employees will need to establish an "information and consultation body" if at least 10% of their employees request it. Employers can negotiate an agreement that suits their business with employee representatives. If no agreement can be reached, then a statutory model agreement must be adopted. There is a maximum penalty of £75,000 if the agreement is breached.
Transfer of Undertakings
Provisions relate to the rights of employees when a business transfers ownership. Current regulations will be amended and extended. Draft regulations are expected in March.
Sex discrimination and harassment
A new definition of harassment will be introduced.
Disability Discrimination Bill
This bill will change the present law and bring employees with progressive conditions such as HIV, multiple sclerosis and certain forms of cancer within the scope of the Disability Discrimination Act. It will also extend the obligation not to publish discriminatory job advertisements to third-party publishers such as newspapers.
It will become unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of age.
A single equality body will be created to cover all forms of discrimination.
Paid maternity leave will be extended to nine months. The aim of the Government is to extend it to one year by 2010.
- Information supplied by Pam Loch, solicitor, Fladgate Fielder (020 7323 4747) and Peter Holden, partner, Kimbells (01908 668555)