London leads restaurant revolution as pandemic permanently changes our eating habits across UK

New research from the British Takeaway Campaign has found the Covid-19 pandemic has permanently changed our eating habits, with 53% of Brits ordering more takeaway during the pandemic and 32% of consumers saying they will continue to order more takeaway after lockdown eases. 31% of consumers also say that they plan to eat out less than they did before.

Consumers in London are leading the way, with 47% saying they will continue to order more takeaway. Beyond London, most consumers reflect the national average, with a third of Brits in the South East, West Midlands, North West, North East and Scotland all saying they plan to continue ordering more takeaway.

However, in a boost to restaurants preparing to open next week, 29% of consumers say they will eat out more than they did before the pandemic.  41% of Londoners say they will eat out more frequently, while consumers in the West Midlands are almost equally keen to visit restaurants again, with 35% saying they will eat out more frequently. The North East is close behind, with 33% of consumers planning to visit restaurants more than before the pandemic.

Takeaway has provided a vital lifeline for restaurants during lockdowns, with Brits spending £15.1billion on takeaways since the start of the first lockdown.

Many restaurant owners have introduced a takeaway service in the last 12 months and say the benefits they have seen mean they intend to make it a permanent feature of their business.

Jonny Fox, owner of The Blacksmiths Arms in Warwickshire, said: “Takeaway and delivery was all completely new to us a year ago. But after closing for three months at the start of the pandemic, we decided to take matters into our own hands and give takeaway a serious try. Now we’ve gone from a classic pub grub restaurant to a successful pizza and smokehouse takeaway business. This has really opened our eyes to the potential of takeaway and delivery – we’re reaching more customers and selling more food than ever. When lockdown ends we’ll keep doing takeaway for the extra revenue. We’ve reimagined our business to weather this storm and are hopeful we can continue to thrive in the future.”

Matthew Bean, owner of Cantina Carnitas in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, said: “When the pandemic hit, it was daunting as we hadn’t offered delivery before and it took quick thinking to adapt the business to the new reality of successive lockdowns. Getting on delivery apps and opening online ordering channels allowed us to retain our existing customers while finding a new audience of people who were looking for food of the quality that they had been used to when grabbing their lunch in London. We’ve opened two delivery-focused sites in the last year, taking us to three locations overall, which is certainly not something I would have predicted last March. We’ll be in the fortunate position of coming out of the pandemic a much stronger business and are looking forward to further growth in the future.”

Challenges to growth

A new report from the British Takeaway Campaign, published this week, found that technology is key for restaurants if they want to diversify service and revenue in the future. However, strong regional disparities in the ability of restaurants to adopt new technology means there has been a significant variation across the restaurant sector, with the opportunities to capitalise on a switch to takeaway felt most strongly in major cities.

Adapting operations to offer takeaway can also require significant levels of investment, at a time when revenue is a fraction of what it was before the pandemic.

The British Takeaway Campaign is calling for the following:

●        The Government should make changes to the Enterprise Investment Scheme and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme so that established businesses can access equity from investors, rather than more debt through the Recovery Loan Scheme announced in the Budget in March. Access to finance is incredibly important if businesses are to be able to adapt their operations.

●        The Government needs to consider the barriers to technology adoption for small businesses and ways it can encourage owners to adopt technology, which is so vital in building resilient businesses.

●        The Government must bring forward the business rates review to coincide with the new business rates tiers beginning from the end of June. The business rates system is now no longer fit for purpose. Changes to rates relief when hospitality businesses have only just been able to fully reopen and trade as normal will have a huge impact on business viability. We also urge the Government to reconsider its plans to rule out Covid-related business rates appeals.

●        The Government needs to ensure it does not introduce legislation that would inadvertently penalise small businesses as they fight to recover. The proposed ban on online advertising would cripple thousands of small businesses which are fighting to survive. This report has shown how important technology is – these businesses do not have multi-million-pound advertising campaigns. Facebook and Instagram are their shop windows, now more so than ever. Removing their ability to advertise on social media robs them of a crucial way to reach customers.

Ibrahim Dogus, chair of the British Takeaway Campaign, said: “There’s still a long road ahead before the hospitality sector is back to the economic powerhouse it was before the pandemic. If a third of the British public plan on eating out less but ordering in more, the Government must support business owners so they can straddle that divide. There’s no doubt that takeaways have kept the wolf from the door for many hospitality businesses over the last 12 months and this blend of service will be vital as the industry rebuilds.”

Consumer spending

Consumers have spent £15.1billion on takeaways since the start of the first lockdown a year ago. This was an increase of £1.6billion from 2019, as Brits turned to takeaways as one of the few pleasures available during the pandemic.  The growth in spending on takeaways has provided a lifeline to restaurants, becoming their only source of income for much of the last 12 months.

53% of Brits ordered more takeaway food during lockdown than they did before, with households spending £45 a month on average on takeaways, an 11% increase compared to 2019.

44% of households said they have relied more on takeaways since the start of the pandemic, with 38% of households ordering takeaway at least once a week since the start of the pandemic. Just over one in ten families (12%) said it was a weekly family tradition with Fridays and Saturdays the most popular days to order takeaway.

Orders of Japanese food grew by 200% and Greek by over 150% while African followed close behind, seeing a 146% increase in orders from the beginning of lockdown in March to the end of the year. Vegan and vegetarian orders increased by 199%. Orders of takeaway breakfast increased by 1252%, while lunchtime orders increased by 355%.