Younger generations who book a restaurant table or a night out to “destress” helped keep the catering sector running in 2023 and offset the pressure of rising costs.
Analysis by the Dutch food service institute (FSIN) found that total turnover for catering sector grew by 13% over the year to €11.6 million, while the figure for all food services, including deliveries and ready meals, was €21.5 million.
The increase is almost entirely due to higher prices, with demand flatlining over the year as consumers tightened the purse-strings as inflation ate into their spending power.
FSIN also said that the sector was being sustained by the under-45s, with the “convenience generations” spending €2,265 a year on average on eating out, compared to €485 for so-called baby boomers – the over-60s, most of whom are now retired.
“For young people food and drink is an essential part of their lifestyle,” director Inga Blokker said. “In their busy, hectic lives, eating out is strongly associated with emotional reward and de-stressing”.
FSIN said many businesses were feeling the squeeze of rising costs, meaning that the relatively high turnover was not translating into increased profits.
Higher wage bills, energy costs, taxes and the rising cost of meeting food security and sustainability standards were all taking their toll, Blokker said. “It’s increasingly clear that the real problem for the catering industry is not on the customer-facing side but behind the scenes.”
However, there were signs of hope for 2024, when disposable income is expected to rise as inflation continues to fall while the wage increases agreed in many sectors last year take effect.
With younger generations accounting for 79% of spending in restaurants and cafés, the sector could look forward to another two decades of growing demand, Blokker added.
“Unemployment is at a historic low, inflation is falling fast, tourism is continuing to rise and consumer confidence is improving. And we are seeing the growing influence of the convenience generations. That’s a lot of positive signs for the catering sector,” she said.
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