With Brexit and sustainability issues at the forefront of everyone's mind, Lynx Purchasing recommends switching to British produce where possible, as soon as possible
Caterers need to look beyond Brexit and focus on the challenges and opportunities that a sustainable approach to business offers, according to Lynx Purchasing.
"In the current market, it can feel like a challenge to try and focus past the potential for supply chain disruption over the coming months and onto the long term," says Lynx managing director Rachel Dobson, "but that's exactly what we believe operators need to do."
The advice comes as Lynx publishes the Spring 2019 edition of its regular Market Forecast, which offers operators an in-depth look at pricing and product trends over the coming months.
With uncertainty over the Brexit process and its implications for the supply chain continuing, Dobson says: "One of the most important issues, and one that is most difficult for operators to address directly, may well be consumer confidence. Consumers need to feel able to commit their disposable income to going out to eat and drink, and a clear message from the industry that, as far as possible, it's business as usual, will help.
"It's now clear that sustainability is a crucial long-term challenge for the catering and hospitality sector. Changes in legislation, including the ban on single-use plastics such as straws and stirrers due to be implemented by next year, and planned changes to packaging regulations affecting mixed use plastics, will have a profound impact.
"Efficient ordering, well-planned delivery schedules and reducing waste all play a part in this. In the short term, they help operators deal with any disruption to supply over the coming months, and over time, these measures will reduce our environmental impact, as well as increasing operators' margins in the long term."
The Market Forecast focuses in detail on the potential supply chain challenges of the months ahead, emphasising that British produce is likely to be the least affected in the event of Brexit hitting supplies, "but with demand a big driver of price, caterers are advised to keep menus flexible and work closely with suppliers," advises Dobson.
The arrival of the barbecue season from Easter onwards will see an increase in the demand for burger cuts from the beef forequarter, as well as continuing demand for steaks. Round cuts such as topsides and silversides are likely to be better value.
Poultry is potentially going to be one of the markets most affected by Brexit, with many suppliers relying on EU producers. Caterers should plan for costs to increase, but with outcomes still fairly uncertain, close liaison with suppliers will be needed.
Wild brill, turbot, monk and hake caught in UK waters should be plentiful, weather and tides permitting. Plaice will also be in good condition after the spawning season from April onwards, while wild bass, skate and mullet should be avoided because of sustainability issues.
With much shellfish from UK waters exported, there's an opportunity to drive both sales and sustainability if customers can be persuaded to try dishes made with British-caught lobsters, scallops and mussels, which are high quality in the spring and summer.
March sees the arrival of Dutch salad crops such as cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, which gradually replace Spanish stocks as they come to the end of their season. The UK market is important to these producers, and any supply or currency issues caused by Brexit will be a challenge on both sides.
The 2018 potato crop was poor due to the weather, and led to a number of quality issues. While supplies are likely to last until the new season, larger potatoes such as bakers will be in shorter supply and so likely to cost more.
Carrots and onions
The smaller size and quality issues caused by last year's unusual weather have also affected carrots and onions, and the market will rely on imports before the new season kicks in the summer.
The UK is one of the world's largest importers of wine, and stocks are vulnerable to any hold-ups in the supply chain. Operators should work closely with suppliers to plan forward with their drinks lists and be prepared to offer customers alternative choices.
Dobson adds: "High-quality British produce coming into season this spring includes rhubarb, asparagus and Jersey Royals. While higher demand may push up prices, we're encouraging our customers to buy British wherever possible, and to make the most of produce when it's at its best in terms of price, quality and availability.
"Flexibility is also important, with operators who can adapt recipes and menus to make the most of seasonal availability best placed to make the most of the produce available. These are simple measures that help operators deal with any short-term disruption, as well as to also support sustainability.
"The most important issue around Brexit may well be consumer confidence. Consumers need to feel able to commit their disposable income to going out to eat and drink, and a clear message from the industry that, as far as possible, it's business as usual, will help."
The headline CPI inflation rate was 1.8% in January 2019, down from 2% in December 2018, with a drop in fuel prices compared to a year earlier cited as the main reason for the fall. The more detailed RPI measure showed that the cost to consumers of meals eaten out of home increased by 3% year-on-year.
About Lynx Purchasing
Lynx Purchasing works with more than 2,200 customers in the hospitality and catering sector, on a no-membership and no-contract basis, that offers like-for-like products at lower prices and often better quality than operators could obtain by negotiating alone.
As purchasing professionals, Lynx works with leading suppliers in the hospitality and catering industry. These include wholesalers, specialist fresh food suppliers, catering equipment providers, utilities, and specialist service providers such as telecom, business rates consultancy and waste management.
A free copy of the spring 2019 Market Forecast can be downloaded from the website at www.lynxpurchasing.co.uk, where details of the Lynx Purchasing sustainability programme are also available.
Keep up to date with Lynx Purchasing on Twitter and Facebook @lynxpurchasing.
For more information, call 01325 710143 or email firstname.lastname@example.orgGet The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!).
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