The UK entered the first lockdown from COVID-19 in March 2020. Restaurants were forced to close and home cooking became a practical necessity for many. Almost two years on from the start of the pandemic, the UK’s cafes, bars and restaurants are open again. As we re-emerge from our homes and our kitchens, have our ways of cooking, eating and dining changed? Let’s investigate.
We Upskilled Our Cooking During The Pandemic
Within the first 6 months of COVID-19, new research from The Grocer found that ‘one in five people spent time improving their culinary skills‘. Many of those people were also learning to make different cuisines in an effort to replicate the breadth of dining options that had been available in the wider, pre-pandemic world. When you can’t go to the wonderful foods of the world, why not bring them to you! (Or at least have a good try at creating them.)
Additionally, 40% of people surveyed said they were enjoying cooking at home more. There were numerous negative consequences to being stuck inside, so it’s encouraging to learn there were some positives too.
72% Of UK Meals Are Home Cooked, Compared To 60% Before COVID
An increase of 12% may not seem much, but that rise means nearly 75% of all meals consumed in the UK will be home cooked post-pandemic and is equivalent to an estimated 500 million more meals.
Food Delivery Wasn’t Just For Friday Nights
Food delivery rose considerably during lockdowns. Dining in became the new dining out and by the second year of the pandemic, delivery and takeaway sales had more than doubled.
Takeaways & Food Delivery Increased 130% between 2019 and 2021
2021’s combined delivery and takeaway sales were 130% higher than in 2019, and 35% higher than in 2020.
There was some debate about whether ordering hot food from ghost kitchens (aka dark kitchens, aka delivery-only kitchens) might deter customers who prefer to order from the original restaurant rather than from a satellite location. However, the growth in demand, in part due to the pandemic, suggests this has not been an issue. In fact, the growing demand has encouraged bigger brands, not just local ones, to use ghost kitchens. For example, Five Guys accelerated their plans to widen delivery using dark kitchens.
Local & Fine Dining Restaurants Created ‘Finish At Home’ Meal Kits
Meal kits had been around long before COVID struck. These kit boxes include the ingredients in set amounts for simple recipes, making home cooking a bit easier for those without expert culinary skills or the desire to scour the internet for new recipe ideas. When restaurants were forced to close to eat-in customers during the pandemic, a new version of meal kits appeared: ‘finish at home’ meal kits.
Both local restaurants and fine dining establishments started to create easy-to-assemble versions of their popular dishes for the at-home cook. These boxes could be picked up like takeaways, but served chilled so that the final steps, like frying steak or heating sauces, could be done whenever the customer was ready to eat.
Delivery kitchens helped increase the reach of restaurants’ ‘finish at home’ kits
Michelin star chefs, like Simon Rogan, Jason Atherton and Michel Roux Jr, got involved and the success of these ‘finish at home’ kits suggests they aren’t likely to disappear even after the pandemic is over. For many restaurants, this new service offering has been made possible via the use of delivery kitchens.
Often, the key food delivery challenge for restaurants, particularly high-end ones, is being able to get their dishes to a wide enough audience, and in good time. For hot food delivery, locality is a necessity and so those wanting to expand into new areas quickly have found the ready-to-cook and COVID-health-and-safety compliant dark kitchens to be an obvious solution. For ‘finish at home’ meal kit creators, commercial kitchens can function the same way, helping to expand reach under their brand label.
People Plan To Keep Eating At Home More Often
Acosta’s “COVID Dining Journey: Eating at Home and Away From Home” report found that people were planning to eat at home with their families or housemates more often, even when they are able to return to eating out. Acosta’s data was focused on people in the US, but it can be seen as a potential indicator of what we can expect in the UK given our similar dining preferences.
92% of families plan to eat at home “at least as often” as they did during May 2021 of the pandemic
65% of shoppers said they would eat at home far more than they did prior to the pandemic.
25% Of People Plan To Invite People For Dinner More Often
We’re not just planning to eat our meals at home more often, we want to get friends and family over for dinner instead of going out to eat. The Independent reported that 25% of people plan to have more dinner parties than they did pre-pandemic.
This data seems to be reflected in the spending in restaurants in late 2021. With tier restrictions now gone in England and restaurants all open again, Barclaycard reports that October 2021’s restaurant spending was in decline, dropping nearly 10% compared to the previous month. They also noted that takeaway sales continued to stay high.
Will We Eat In Or Eat Out In 2022?
While bricks & mortar food businesses took a big hit during the pandemic, those that were able to transition, or boost existing services, were also able to benefit from the huge increase in food delivery. With restrictions lifted and restaurants and food venues opening up again, it will be interesting to see if the food trends established during the pandemic continue. While a retracement is inevitable, it also seems unlikely food delivery will return to pre-pandemic levels given that so many people have rediscovered the joys of cooking and dining at home. 2022 is set to be an interesting year for food and drinks businesses.
Got A Food Business? Foodstars Can Help You Expand Your Reach
One thing we know for certain, food delivery will remain popular in the years to come. If you want your restaurant, cafe or food business to expand into new areas by licensing a commercial kitchen, we can help.