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Consumers travelling light

The travel and leisure sector has faced a number of challenges over the last few years which include the economic downturn, a perceived reputation for poor service and unpredictable weather to name but a few.

However, according to a variety of industry experts including Mintel and SSP, the situation is slowly improving and there are great opportunities out there for savvy food operators who are willing to innovate.

Data from NPD Crest (YOY change to end February 2013) reveals that consumer spend on food and drink in travel and leisure is down, but the number of visits are up slightly, indicating that the spend per head has declined.

Says Hina Patel, of Nestlé Professional: "Whilst people still want to do the same leisure activities they were doing prior to the recession, they are looking for ways to stretch their money, increasingly choosing where they go based on deals available.

“Once in the leisure site there is an opportunity for operators to increase the value perceptions of the food and drink they offer consumers to encourage spending on site. This can be done by including new products and dishes with quality cues, such as locally sourced or healthier, or by increasing differentation of the food and beverage range versus High Street."

Portion control

Food and drink is a secondary thought when it comes to travel and leisure and convincing people to spend their hard-earned money on purchasing food is the main battle, says Gillian Williamson, category marketing manager for Macphie of Glenbervie:

"Mintel advise that operators should make food and drink an integral part of the whole experience, not just an after-thought. 52% of visitors to zoos and wildlife parks tend to have a quick bite to eat/snack rather than a full meal. Foodservice operators need to be aware of this and ensure they offer the correct size of portion at the right time of the day. This could be as simple as hot fi lled rolls in the morning or portable breakfast pots with yoghurt and granola or porridge."

Gillian advises following the lead of fast operator Subway at lunch-time, by offering fresh, customisable sandwiches.

"Think fresh bread, fresh salad and a good selection of protein options,"

she states.

"In the afternoon when visitors are looking for a pick-me-up after a busy day on their feet, offer a mini portable afternoon tea to share. This could be bite-sized classics such as Victoria Sponges, French Fancies, fresh creamand strawberry pancakes and scones teamed with good quality tea. The price is also a key consideration as consumers need to feel as though they are getting value for money."

Snack attack

Whilst statistics show people are snacking less at home, they do still like to treat themselves when they go out.

Sanjeev Khanna, head of speciality channel at Kellogg's UK, says: "People are more likely to indulge when they go out, or on their holidays, as they feel like they have earned the treat." As a result the channels of sport and leisure, motorway and roadside and accommodation are seeing growth in the number of snacking occasions. The key needs of people within the channel are portability, treat and value. People are also looking for familiar brands they love, claims Sanjeev.

"Savoury snacks is amarket Kellogg's hasn't been a part of before until last year when we acquired Pringles and launched our first crisp under the Special K portfolio, Special K Cracke Crisps," continues Sanjeev. "Pringles is the number one selling sharing snack brand in the UK, worth over £160 million in retail sales, so it presents an excellent sales opportunity for retailers. We also know that more than half the UK population has bought Pringles in the last 12 months alone. The Pringles brand is all about delivering unexpected moments of fun and enhancing the social experiences of its customers. This clearly ties in with many of the reasons people have come to your location."

Street value

Another key trend which fi ts with the demand for on-the-go food is the ever-growing trend of street food.

Says Gillian Williamson: "Street food is still massive and growing not only in London but in cities outside of London as well. This trend could be adapted for theme parks and zoos, offering fresh, portable, easy-to-eat food which is fifilling and delicious. South American and Mexican food is a trend we see growing which is perfect for the street food revolution. Fresh burritos and tacos along with chilli bowls are all great options.

"Italian food such as pizza and pasta are also popular choices for the British public. By having ready-made fl atbreads for bases and plain pasta, customers can choose their toppings or pasta sauces at point of order. Macphie savoury sauces are versatile and easy to adapt and personalise depending on the dish."

Hot topic

The UK hot drinks market is worth approximately £634.3million and is an essential product within the travel and leisure industry, helping customers to stay hydrated, as well as boosting their wellbeing and experience - especially when travelling.

From an operator's perspective, hot drinks offer a fantastic GP on every cup sold, and if you factor in potential food sales such as confectionery or bakery snacks, there's serious profits to be had!

John Sutcliffe, out of home and convenience controller, Taylors of Harrogate, explains: "Above anything else, especially when eating and drinking out-of-home, value for money is the biggest purchasing driver. Considering the premiums travellers can pay for hot drinks or even when drinks are complementary, a quality offering that supports and reflfl ects the operator is essential."

Taylors of Harrogate work closely with all of their customers to ensure they have the right tea and coffee for their operation and customer base, and provide training and tasting workshops with their resident buyers and serving guides to ensure staff are confifident in selling.

Adam Cohen, manager of the Halfway House pub in Shipley, Yorkshire, utilised these services with stunning results. He says: "You might have served customers the best food in the world but if you are let down by the coffee, that can leave a bad taste in people's mouths. "Hot drinks are big business for us, especially during the winter months when customers like to relax on the sofas by the fire. There's a real coffee culture and one of our sister sites had started pushing their coffee offering and we wanted to do the same being a local supplier Taylors of Harrogate was a great fit."

The Halfway House has seen its hot drinks offering grow by 14%, following the introduction of Taylors Speciality teas and coffee, Yorkshire Tea and Yorkshire Gold.

"Aligning ourselves with Taylors and Yorkshire Tea, which are both brands out there on TV and have that national recognition, can only be a good thing for the business. We have branding on the door, outside with A-boards, a large format canvas print and the big display cabinet to promote quality in the business.

The fact is you wouldn't fill your bar with unknown ales and beers, people like to know what they're drinking - the same goes for hot drinks."

The Halfway House now has a separate dessert and coffeemenu, and has plans to introduce an Afternoon Teamenu. "We're not Costa and we never plan to be but afternoon tea provides a real opportunity to profifi t between 2.30pmand 4.30pm which is a dead time for us," adds Adam. "If we can drive sales during that period, especially given the fact we have a strong hot drinks and dessert offering in place, well, it’s not a lot of effort for the teamand it’s good for the pub."

Article taken from August 2013 issue of Stir it up magazine. Get your copy here

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