The Autumn 2017 Nisbets Pulse Survey has just been released and reveals a strong feeling of business positivity from the 400+ catering professionals surveyed. An impressive 76% claim to be on-track to hit their planned growth in 2017, whilst 80% revealed that they have a slightly, or very, positive outlook for their business in 2018. Driving the positivity was an increase in UK mini breaks and ‘staycations’ with many respondents highlighting diversification into new areas such as street-food as key reasons for their optimism.
Connecting and Engaging Customers
The latest Nisbets Pulse survey also delves into how the industry chooses to promote their business and what they consider to be the most effective methods of marketing. Word of mouth (WOM), social media and a business website are the three most impactful with 34% seeing WOM as the key influencer. This is backed up further by the impact of customer review sites, specifically TripAdvisor, where a staggering 72% of those surveyed felt that the site had had a positive impact on their business. Clearly, a satisfied customer is a very powerful influencer for a business, as a user generated endorsement is seen as authentic and an independent insight. For this to happen it is obviously important for a business to have an online presence where they can positively drive interaction with customers and share their own news and brand messages. Facebook appears to resonate with the industry with 52% of respondents preferring to use this platform to market their business, followed by 20% using Twitter and 18% using Instagram. Facebook’s popularity is further evidenced within the results of The Nisbets Pulse Survey which revealed 81% of respondents feel that it is the most important social media channel for marketing their business. Facebook is still the most widely used social media platform globally and is great for a business that wants to encourage interaction with customers as well as sharing content. Posting competitions and encouraging post shares will build exposure and engagement. With 68% of those surveyed having between 250 and 10,000 in their social media audience, it’s evidently a tried and tested approach for a catering business.
Evolving Food Trends
Given 93% cite that social media has had a positive impact on their business, the content posted online is extremely important and sharing a business’s views with regards to food trends, menu development, sourcing and other topical issues is an ideal way to engage with an audience. The Nisbets Pulse Survey has also identified evolving food trends within the catering industry, with healthy eating continuing to lead the way with 30% (up from 28% in the Spring Pulse Survey) of respondents referring to this trend as still being the most important for them. Vegetarian food is still key with 15% referencing it as the second biggest food trend prompting more operators to increase the number of vegetarian dishes on their menu. 52% of caterers now offer between 1 and 3 vegetarian dishes; however increasing this offering further could be an easy way to drive sales and differentiate from local competition. With small plates/sharing platters (13%), home cooked (11%) and local sourcing (10%) also identified as trending, the biggest concern for a business was identified as the costs associated with catering to these trends.
Changing a menu, for example to reflect food trends requires a business firstly to consider the cost implications. 37% of survey respondents said that they reviewed costs ahead of trends and consumer demand, with over 60% of those surveyed reporting that the number one food trend of healthy eating was actually impacting their costs and/or profits. This suggests a balancing act between reflecting food trends and consumer demands with the costs associated. This follows on from the Spring Pulse Survey whereby 65% of respondents felt that the cost of raw ingredients had risen sharply since the UK voted to leave the EU.
Overall, the catering industry is anticipating a positive 2018 despite some uncertainty around Brexit and the impact of increasing costs. Keeping ahead of evolving food trends and engaging customers via excellent service and experiences as well as interaction via social media, appears to be the way that the industry is