Where is it going?
During my time in the corporate world, I was privileged enough to head up some amazing national sales teams as Sales Director for very large drinks wholesalers.
As Sales Director I was invited by the main four brewers in the UK being Budweiser Brewing, Molson Coors, Heineken and Carlsberg to their national conferences. I sat in huge auditoriums listening to their marketing experts tell us where the dinks market was heading in terms of consumer behaviour. We were all planning on being healthier and therefore we would be drinking less. We were all looking to “premiumise” which meant that although we were going to drink less when we did drink, we were happy to pay more for each drink as long as that drink delivered in terms of quality and value.
The other big trend that was obviously gaining traction was drinking at home rather than drinking in a pub or a bar. As a nation we were staying home much more. This was being driven by the developments in technology which were providing better and more sophisticated home entertainment channels whether it be gaming or on-screen entertainment like Netflix and Amazon Prime we were simply staying in more.
During the last economic downturn, I watched pub after pub close, a lot of which were my customers. The reason for the closures in the main were two-fold, the pub companies that operated the pubs put a financial structure that rendered the pub unviable. Coupled with that the simple truth was the pubs that were closing were simply not good enough anymore. A lot of them were old fashioned boozers whose customers were all north of 50 and therefore not giving the pubs a sustainable future. These pubs and indeed working men’s clubs just did not hold any appeal for the 20 somethings coming through. The pubs that survived were the ones that upped their game in terms of beers, premium spirits, cocktail wine and especially food. The gastro pub was born and a lot of average eateries became good and great eateries. One could almost say that the economic downturn caused a revolution within the dine in hospitality business which resulted in a mass cull of uneconomic poor pubs. It is now, in my opinion, quite difficult to go out to a pub and get a boil in the bag roast, with frozen potatoes and microwaved veg. Consumers will simply not put up with it.
The same however could not be said of the takeaway market. The market in the main was still dominated by relatively poor operators who were selling frozen pizza bases with tomato sauce and pregrated cheap cheddar on for a £5 and calling it a pizza. Surely this had to change.
The renaissance of the takeaway market has taken a lot longer but it had started in densely populated urban areas driven by the new craving for delivered take away. Companies like Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats provided the glue that joined take away with an effective and efficient home delivery service. The market started to grow and in line with that so did the competition to cook your evening meal for you and get it to your home on time. Slowly and surely quality and choice stated to improve.
Then in early 2020 came COVID 19 with social distancing and something called a lockdown. The lockdown meant you had to stay at home and therefore accelerated many of the trends we had been aware of and discussing. Some people went on Furlough Pay and those that could worked from home. People still had disposable income, but they had no social occasions at which to dispose of this income. Instead, they turned to the takeaway market to gain their culinary treat. As the hospitality venues were forced to close their doors by the government a lot of them turned to the takeaway market as an income stream. Eureka the renaissance of the takeaway market was accelerated as a bi product of the global pandemic. What had been a slow burn in terms of change suddenly became an overnight sensation. Restaurant quality food, delivered to your door, when you want it, using an online facility with the total exclusion of any direct human interaction.
So, to return to the headline question “Where is it going?” What will be the legacy of this bizarre and unique (we hope) situation? Will you ever go to a restaurant again? Will you ever go to a pub again? Will you ever cook dinner at home on a Friday or Saturday evening? How long will it be before you can live without having any face-to-face interactions to buy goods or services? How long will it be before you never need to speak to anyone outside of your social circle? What impact will this have on civilisation going forward ……………Where is it going?
Only time will tell but for now, let’s savour the opportunity to enjoy what this trend has delivered.