Over the last 30 years, how we view eating out in the UK has changed considerably. Back in the 70s and early 80s, dining at a restaurant was an infrequent affair for most people, perhaps to celebrate a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary.
Nowadays, we’re more likely to enjoy a pub or restaurant meal once or twice a week because it’s a social thing to do. According to the Sun, us Brits are likely to spend on average £288,000 dining out during a lifetime. That works out at around £44 per week.
It’s all good news for the hospitality industry, of course. More people at restaurant tables means a lot more revenue. But it might not all be totally good news.
While more and more of us may be eating out, it causes a problem because restaurants must find chefs and waiting staff to serve us all that excellent food. That hasn’t been too much of an issue in recent years.
Unfortunately, it could become more problematic in light of Brexit. Why? Because many restaurant staff actually come from Europe. We could be staring at a recruitment ‘black hole’ according to a report by KPMG recently.
If Brexit leads to restrictions in movement across EU borders, as it is more than likely to do, that could mean we have to find homegrown chefs for our restaurant and bistro kitchens. There’s a local skills shortage in this respect which means, come March next year, a lot of restaurants could be facing serious staffing problems. It’s not just high-quality chefs and other cooks that are the problem, either. A large number of waiting staff also come from across the Channel.
According to Price Waterhouse, our desire for eating out has brought a good deal of competition and flexibility to the market place. Diners have much higher expectations than they did just a few decades ago. They are more likely to complain and insist on value for money, for a start. And they are a lot more knowledgeable and willing to try new things.
Many restaurants are starting to combine food-to-go with dining in as a way of providing more value for their customers. A lot of them even deliver, especially in areas like London. Others are using technology such as branded apps to allow people to book and interact with their restaurant online. Theme nights are becoming increasingly popular where restaurants will focus on a particular international cuisine.
Hospitality businesses tend to be labour intensive but the costs of running a restaurant have been squeezed in recent years. The price of finding new staff is also on the rise. In addition, those restaurants that import food from outside the UK have found the fall in the rate of the pound has added extra to their running costs.
Whether you’re a restaurant, bar or a hotel that offers dining facilities, the fact that we’re all getting out to dine more often should be a cause for celebration. It does mean, however, that the hospitality industry needs to continue to improve and change its services to cope with that demand.
In the short term, restaurants will need access to properly-trained chefs and waiters who can continue to contribute to the sector. Businesses also need to respond to changes in customer expectations and continue to deliver high quality dining experiences. Finding ways to build customer loyalty is going to be increasingly important over the next few years and is something that restaurant owners will have to be innovative about.
For those looking to working in the restaurant industry, however, there are plenty of positives things to look forward to. If you are keen to develop a career as a chef or a manager, for instance, there should be numerous opportunities to advance over the next few years.
To access the latest hospitality jobs in your area, head over to the Hospitality Post homepage.