Eating out cited as the most missed social activity during the pandemic

It is estimated that the value of the Irish food service industry is to reach €5.15 billion for 2021.
Eating out cited as the most missed social activity during the pandemic

Dining out in restaurants, cafés, and pub was the main social activity people missed during the pandemic, new research shows.

According to Bord Bia’s 2021 Irish Foodservice Market Insights Report, 73 per cent of consumers surveyed said they missed dining out. This makes eating out the most missed social activity compared to shopping for leisure which was cited by 59 per cent of those surveyed.

Some 57 per cent of people said they missed going to events such as concerts and sports matches, while 45 per cent said they missed spending time with colleagues.

However, despite many people missing the opportunity to eat out, consumers still remain cautious.

According to Bord Bia, 61 per cent of diners said there is some degree of nervousness about eating out. This comes despite Covid-19 safety measures being in place.

It is estimated that the value of the Irish food service industry is to reach €5.15 billion for 2021.

Maureen Gahan, foodservice specialist with Bord Bia said: “It is encouraging to see growth in 2021, but we still have a way to go to returning to pre-pandemic levels given that the Irish food service market was severely impacted last year.

“Certain segments of the market such as limited-service restaurants and coffee shops have been less impacted and will recover quicker in 2022,” she added.

“However, others such as restaurants, hotels, pubs and workplace catering will continue to be impacted not only by Covid-19 public health restrictions, but also by other broader sector challenges.”

Changing demands

Due to the significant impact Covid-19 has had on the food service industry, the sector has had to adapt in a number of ways to meet changing demands.

In its report, Bord Bia has cited eight “Critical Factors” now facing the industry moving into the future.

Supply chain challenges, labour and inflation have all been identified as factors that could impact the industry moving into 2022.

Ongoing C0vid-19 restrictions, restricted international travel and an unsettled workforce have all been cited as factors that will continue to hinder the industry until the public health situation returns to normal.

Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia has said suppliers could play an important role in tackling these challenges.

“The Irish food service sector has shown itself to be incredibly resilient in the face of immense pressure and has successfully adapted to meet many of the challenges it has faced in the last 18 months,” Ms McCarthy said.

“There is no doubt that suppliers can play an important role in helping operators to navigate ongoing challenges facing the sector, and we would encourage them to work collaboratively in helping to identify future solutions,” she added

“This could include creating labour saving products, providing transparency around environmental, sustainability and provenance messages, enhancing communications around supply chain issues; and developing new products that meet the needs of hybrid workers or delivery customers

“It is reassuring to see that for consumers, sustainability and supporting local remain important considerations in choosing food service options, trends that are also being reflected in some of our recent global consumer insight studies.”

It is expected that full recovery of the sector will not happen until 2023 at the earliest.

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