This report gives an overview of the foodservice industry and its various sectors within the United Kingdom (UK).
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
Required Report - public distribution
GAIN Report Number:
Food Service – Hotel Restaurant Institutional
This report gives an overview of the foodservice industry and its various sectors within the United Kingdom (UK). It
explains how the current economic downturn is affecting the UK foodservice industry and identifies the major players, as
well as giving contact information for all the main groups within the industry. Healthy food options are the hottest trend in
the hotel, restaurant, and institutional (HRI) sector, while the market remains receptive for new U.S. products.
SECTION I – MARKET SUMMARY
The hotel, restaurant and institutional (HRI) market is the United Kingdom’s (UK) fourth largest consumer market following
food retail, motoring, and clothing and footwear. The HRI market provides prepared meals and refreshments for
consumption primarily outside the home.
State of the market:
The UK foodservice sector is estimated to be worth £42.8 billion, with the food element of this total around £10 billion. This
has remained fairly static for the past three years. The food service sector is clearly an enormous market and is one that can
provide many opportunities. The foodservice market in the UK continues to be affected by economic volatility. Even though
the UK is out of recession, the after effects are still being felt. Unemployment is impacting the population and inflationary
food prices and frozen salaries are reducing discretionary spending.
Although eating out is a way of life for many UK consumers, the number of times people eat out and the type of place where
they eat are dictated by how much they want to spend. Takeaway and fast food outlets have continued to do well with
consumers opting for these types of meals rather than more expensive restaurants.
A snapshot of major trends currently seen in the UK follows:
In order to entice consumers into restaurants, many restaurants are offering discounts or voucher promotions which bring the
costs of meals down considerably. Many consumers now search the internet for current promotions and then choose where to
eat based on the current best deal.
Leisure outlets continue to have increasing success. With the weaker pound and the recession, more people are holidaying in
the UK and spending more money at theme parks or cinemas. Also, consumers are continuing to want healthier lifestyles
and, therefore, are spending more money on food and drink in health centers.
Airport dining is experiencing high levels of growth. Following increased security at airports, consumers are at airports
longer and travelers are not allowed to take beverages through security. Therefore, as a result, consumers are more likely to
have a meal at the airport and buy drink products and snacks to take on the plane with them.
Fast food outlets with drive-thru’s have also seen an increase in trade. Due to limited land, the majority of these are found
outside city centers.
In the last few years the UK has built more large enclosed shopping malls. Consumers are increasingly spending a number of
hours there, during which time they are likely to spend money on food and drink.
The largest UK trend in recent years is “Health” and “Healthy Eating”. The UK government has put increased efforts into
healthy eating; one of the reasons being is that the UK’s obesity rates are now the highest in Western Europe. Twenty four
percent of the UK adult population is now technically obese.
In the last few years, there have been many government campaigns focusing on the benefits of healthy eating. As a result
consumers increasingly want healthier products, a trend to which the industry sector as a whole has had to respond.
One Government enforcement change was the smoking ban in public places that came into effect in July 2007 in the UK and
has hit the UK pub trade the hardest. Many pubs have had to offer or increase their food portfolio, as smokers are tending to
stay away from pubs. However, pubs have still seen profits fall.
As always it is the independent pubs that felt the biggest impact. These small establishments have not had the money to
spend on advertising or creating new dining areas as the large chain pubs have done. Some of the big operators, such as
Mitchells and Butlers Plc, Greene King Plc, and JD Wetherspoon, have continued to generate profits.
The pub industry is likely to be hit again in the next year or so, as the UK government focuses on reducing binge drinking
especially amongst teenagers and women. Therefore, it is expected that costs of alcohol will increase and there be stricter
rules in pubs, further driving down opportunities for growth in this segment.
What the future holds:
Smaller/Independent operators are likely to be driven out of the market. High-end restaurants will also suffer with
consumers likely to eat in mid-level restaurants instead.
UK consumers have become accustomed to eating out, especially with the continued increase in single-occupant households;
however, they are likely to eat out less often but buy more ready-to-eat meals.
Consumer demand for new foods is strong in the UK and is continually driven by high numbers of non-UK citizens making
the UK their home, as well as the UK love of travelling.
In the last couple of years, Japanese food has seen a big increase in popularity somewhat due to its healthy image. Food from
every continent is available in the UK. International cuisine is extremely popular.
Many UK consumers cook non-British food at home on a regular basis.
Overview of the foodservice market in the UK in 2011
Number of Outlets and Meals £ Millions at 2011 Prices
Sector Outlets Meals Purchases Purchases Sales
Millions Food Food & Drink Food & Drink
Restaurants 28,074 704 £1,777 £2,473 £9,515
Quick Service 31,450 1,977 £2,371 £2,934 £10,806
Pubs 45,087 871 £1,173 £1,692 £5,477
Hotels 45,763 611 £1,536 £2,044 £8,274
Leisure 19,044 523 £716 £876 £3,589
Staff Catering 20,158 880 £970 £1,176 £2,647
Health Care 32,047 1,047 £696 £754 £934
Education 34,398 1,134 £700 £875 £1,278
Services 3,077 261 £206 £233 £264
Total 2011 258,579 8,008 £10,145 £13,056 £42,785
Advantages & Challenges to U.S. Products in the HRI Sector
Brand name recognition – there are Competition from many other ethnic restaurants all
many American chain restaurants in the popular in the UK, e.g., Indian, Chinese, and
UK wanting to source American food European.
There are a relatively small number of With the exchange rate still being comparatively
specialist foodservice importers, capable low against the dollar – price competition will be
and interested in importing from the US. fierce.
The US has a good brand image in the Strict EU import regulations and labeling/ingredient
The country is English-speaking and is a UK importers don’t pay duty on EU origin goods.
natural gateway into the rest of Europe The importers of U.S. origin products pay 0-25
for US exporters. percent in import duties, depending on the product.
The U.S. is a popular destination for UK Need to change image of American food, which is
tourists and familiarity with US products associated with fast food.
The foodservice market is much more complex than the grocery retail market and is generally divided up into two distinct
sectors: Profit and Cost.
This is the area of the foodservice market in which the potential business gains are the main motivator. Pricing is flexible. In
the profit sector the majority of outlets can be classified as working within the hospitality industry, e.g., restaurants, fast
food, pubs, hotels, and leisure venues.
Caterers within the cost sector traditionally do not derive substantial margins. Meal provision tends to be out of necessity,
rather than as a result of a business opportunity being identified. Provision is governed by contract where pricing is
controlled if not fixed, e.g., schools, hospitals, prisons, and specialist care homes.
Profit Sector Cost Sector
Restaurants Staff Catering
Quick Service Restaurants Education
Pubs Health Care
Hotels Custodial (Prisons)
Leisure Welfare (Long term care facilities)
SECTION II – ROAD MAP FOR MARKET ENTRY
The following diagram shows the most common routes to market. Although there are many varied routes, the most common
way for American products to enter is through an importer, due to their knowledge of the market, well-developed contacts,
and distribution systems.
See attached tables - Importing table and Routes to market.
Over half of all food and beverage products sold to foodservice operators are through wholesalers. Larger operators will
purchase from wholesalers, while smaller outlets are likely to buy from either cash and carries or retail stores. Due to the
large number of companies operating within the food service market, intermediaries skilled in fulfilling small orders
efficiently play a pivotal role in the distribution of products. Aramark, 3663 First for Foodservice, Brakes, Compass Group,
Mitchells & Butler, Sodexho and Whitbread are among the largest operators in the UK.
These companies can be categorized in the following:
Operators - Operating a foodservice outlet includes all the functions associated with both 'front' and 'back' of house,
including kitchen operations and meal preparation. All of the operating functions can be undertaken by the owner.
Foodservice operators include: Compass Group, Sodexho, Whitbread, McDonalds and Burger King.
Delivered Wholesalers - The catering market is predominately supplied in two main ways, either direct from a supplier or
an intermediary or from a wholesaler. Currently, over half of all food sold to food service operators is delivered by
wholesalers. Smaller operators, such as independent pubs, restaurants and hotels, may purchase from national or regional
wholesalers, but given their small size and flexibility, they are more likely to source from regional producers. Examples of
these are 3663 First for Foodservice, Brakes, Sodexho and Compass Group.
Distributors - Unlike the wholesalers, contract distributors do not normally take ownership of goods, but instead, offer a
delivery service function. Operators choosing to contract a distributor for all parts of their estates include McDonalds, Burger
King, Prêt Manger and Compass. 3663 and Brakes provide a contract distribution service, in addition to their delivered
Sub Sector Profiles
Following are institutions within the HRI sector:
The restaurants referred to in this sector, cover establishments where one would sit down to a meal. Eating in a restaurant is
more likely to be a planned event for a specific purpose. In the past 12 months restaurants have battled hard against the
recession by offering discount vouchers or special offers to entice consumers into their establishment. Ethnic food is very
popular in the UK, so restaurants offering food from all over the world are seen throughout the UK.
Key players include: Mitchells and Butler, Gondola Holdings (UK leading casual dining group operating Pizza Express, Ask,
Zizzi, plus a number of smaller brands), Whitbread Restaurants and The Restaurant Group (one of the largest independent
restaurants and pub restaurant groups owning Chiquito, Frankie and Bennies, Garfunkel’s, Home Country, TRG Concessions
and Brunning & Price).
Similar to cafes, quick-service restaurants offer a quick meal on the go, but lack the social element of a café. One in four
consumers eats in a quick-service restaurant, because their children or grandchildren want to eat there. Fast food chains will
continue to develop healthier alternatives to their standard offerings as consumers demand healthier options.
Quick service restaurants have performed well in the last 12 months with many consumers opting for this type of meal rather
than a full service restaurant. Also, some of the fast food operators are opting for menu items outside their normal fare. For
example, McDonalds has made a success of selling coffee, despite strong competition from the numerous specialist coffee
Key players include: McDonald’s, Burger King, Nandos, Eat, Domino’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Pret a Manger, Subway and
Hotels and Resorts
The majority of hotels trading in the UK are small independent businesses, mostly run by families; however, this is slowly
changing as a number of larger chained operators have entered the market. Each hotel is counted as one outlet, even though
there might be several foodservice components within it, e.g., a restaurant, bar, room service, and leisure. A decline in public
spending and the general public’s price consciousness owing to the credit crunch has seen an increased demand for budget
accommodation. Hotels, especially those in London and the South-east, have done well in the last 12 months, as a result of
increased tourism to the UK predominately because of the Olympics.
Key players include: Hilton, Holiday Inn, Marriott, Intercontinental, and The Savoy Group.
Places with good service and a relaxed atmosphere are key expectations when eating in a pub. Low prices and price
promotions are also critical and are one of the main differences between restaurants and pubs. Thirty six percent of
consumers eat in a pub once a month or more. Eating in a pub is primarily a social event with friends. Pubs are seen to offer
a convenient option compared to a restaurant or eating at home.
The increasing number of pub closures is affecting this market with 50 pubs closing every week in the last 12 months.
Independent pubs that do not sell food are most at risk. Pub companies and breweries will increase their market share while
independently owned pubs are expected to decline in number. One of the sector’s main concerns is the government’s goal
to reduce binge drinking in the UK. Some direct outcomes that may affect pubs are a potential increase in the cost of alcohol
and stricter rules that will affect the segment’s growth in the long term.
Key players include: Scottish & Newcastle, JD Wetherspoon, Punch Taverns, Enterprise Inns, Greene King and Admiral
This category includes everything from visitor attractions, such as museums, zoos, and theme parks. A breakdown would
Entertainment Theatres, cinemas, sports stadiums and gambling establishments
Clubs Health clubs and fitness centers, sport and social clubs
Caterers Events caterers, mobile caterers
On Board Travel Airline catering, ferry catering, rail catering, bus and coach catering
Although the UK public is still visiting these establishments especially with the increased holidays in the UK, consumers are
not spending as much money on food. They prefer to take their own snacks to cinemas rather than buying food there. Bingo
halls and Bowling Alleys have seen an increase in food sales as consumers tend to make a night of it and buy food as part of
the evening. Health Clubs are one area where consumers are spending more money on food and drink as the importance of
health is increasingly important.
Key players include: Odeon Cinemas, Living Well Fitness, David Lloyd, Gala and Mecca.
Specialist Coffee Shops
The UK branded coffee shop market has shown huge growth in recent years. There are currently 15,000 coffee outlets in the
UK with chain coffee shops opening at a rate of 10 per week. The growth has defied the economic downturn. Costa Coffee,
the number one specialist coffee chain, plans to open an additional 350 stores by March 2013.
The coffee shop sector consists of outlets that serve hot and cold beverages, but no alcohol. They also serve snack foods,
such as cakes, sandwiches, soups and salads, although serving food is not their main line of business. Thirty eight percent of
consumers eat in a coffee shop once a month or more. Coffee shops are seen to offer quick meals for time pressured
consumers and are also a good place to meet friends. Coffee shops are associated more with daytime dining. Forty eight
percent of consumers choose coffee shops as a place to eat while out shopping. Forty three percent of consumers will drink
specialty coffees such as lattés or cappuccinos when visiting coffee shops, compared to 1 percent of consumers who drink
specialty coffees in the home.
Key players include: Starbucks, Costa, Eat, Pret A Manager, Caffé Nero, and Millies.
These include trolley services, as well as areas where full meals are sold, e.g., self-run canteens, contracted canteens, national
government canteens, off-shore catering.
This includes all food and drinks served in schools of all levels from nurseries to universities. In recent years, guidelines
have been changed so that meals served are more healthy and nutritious. The leading contract school caterers are Compass’s
Scolarest Division, Initial Catering Services, and Sodexho.
Meals counted in the health care sector include those served to patients, staff and visitors and include: hospitals, nursing
homes and care homes. As with the educational sector, nutritional needs are under scrutiny in this area.
This includes police stations, fire stations, the armed forces, and prisons. The vast majority of the catering for the armed
forces is managed by the Ministry of Defense but it hires the defense divisions of Sodexho, Compass Group and Aramark to
run the operations.
This are includes meals on wheels, luncheon clubs and day care centers. Meals on wheels is the delivery of food at
lunchtime to pensioners. With the aging population and more pensioners living on their own, there has been considerable
growth in this area.
The following table shows the number of specific types of restaurants in the UK – figures from 2011.
Type of Restaurant Number of Number of Chained Number of
Outlets Restaurant Groups Independent
British/Cosmopolitan 3,275 504 2,771
Italian / Spanish 1,401 312 1,089
French 851 267 584
Sub Total European 5,528 1,084 4,443
Chinese / Oriental 5,353 225 5,128
Indian / Pakistani 4,655 196 4,460
Mediterranean 805 59 747
Sub Total Ethnic 10,813 479 10,334
In-Store 2,509 2,288 221
Specialist Roadside 454 452 2
Pub Restaurants 4,690 4,137 553
Pizza / Pasta 2,676 1,145 1,531
Mexican / Tex-Mex / 432 166 266
Themed 775 353 422
Specialist Menu / Other 198 64 134
Sub Total Concept 11,734 8,605 3,128
TOTAL Restaurants 28,074 10,169 17,906
SECTION III – COMPANY PROFILES
The following companies are some of the biggest players in the UK foodservice industry:
250 Fowler Avenue
IQ Business Park, Farnborough
Hampshire, GU14 7JP
Tel: +44 (0) 1252 529 000
Fax: +44 (0) 113 393 7200
Aramark is a leader in professional services providing award winning food services and facilities management. They work
with healthcare institutions, universities and schools, stadiums and arenas and businesses around the world. No. of sites:
Enterprise House, Eureka Business Park
Ashford, Kent, TN25 4AG
Tel: +44 (0) 1233 206 000
Brakes is a market leader of delivered wholesale in the UK supplying frozen, chilled and grocery products to sectors across
the foodservice industry.
Compass Group plc
Parkview, 82 Oxford Road
Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 1UX
Tel: +44 (0) 1895 554 554
The Compass Group is a leading foodservice company. They have over 400,000 employees and specialize in providing food,
vending and related services to clients in over 90 countries. They have six main sectors in which they work: Business &
Industry, Fine Dining, Defense, Offshore and Remote Sites, Education, Healthcare and Seniors, and Vending. No. of sites:
Clients include: Café Ritazza, Upper Crust and Harry Ramsdens
3663 First For Foodservice
3663 First for Foodservice
Buckingham Court, Kingsmead Business Park
London Road, High Wycombe, Bucks,
Tel: +44 (0) 370 3663 100
3663 First for Foodservice is the UK’s leading foodservice company with sales of over £1 billion a year. They deliver quality
ingredients, finished products and equipment to the catering industry including restaurants, pubs, cafes and clubs across the
UK, schools, hospitals and Government departments. They have a fleet of 1,100 vehicles and deliver to over 50,000
Clients include: Compass Plc, Prêt A Manager and Burger King.
Mitchells & Butlers
Mitchells & Butlers plc
27 Fleet Street
Birmingham, B3 1JP
Tel: +44 (0)121 498 4000
Fax: +44 (0)121 233 2246
Mitchells & Butlers is the leading operator of managed pubs and pub restaurants in the UK. They have around 2,000
businesses offering food, drink, entertainment and accommodation in prime locations across the country.
Clients include: Alex Gastro, All Bar One, Brown’s Restaurants, Express by Holiday Inn, Flares Bars, Harvester Restaurants,
Hollywood Bowl, Inn Keepers Lodge, Nicholson Pubs, O’ Neills Pubs, Sizzling Pub Co and Toby’s Carvery.
Sodexho UK Ltd
One Southampton Row
London, WC1B 5HA
Tel:+ 44 (0) 20 7404 0110
Sodexho has a good reputation with clients. They have 48,000 employees in the UK and Ireland and have more than 2,300
client locations across all market sectors, including the business and industry, education, healthcare, defense, and leisure
Whitbread Group plc
Houghton Hall Business Park
Porz Avenue, Dunstable, LU5 5XE
Tel: +44 (0) 1582 424200
Whitbread Plc is one of the UK’s leading hospitality companies, managing top brands in hotels, restaurants and health and
fitness clubs. They employ 45,000 people and have over 1,400 outlets across the UK.
Clients include: Premier Travel Inn, Brewers Fayre, Beefeater, Costa Coffee and David Lloyd Leisure.
Top 15 Foodservice Operators in the UK in 2012.
Rank Operator Selected Brands Main Sector
1 McDonald’s McDonald’s Quick Service Restarants
2 Compass Group Upper Crust, Café Ritazza, Harry Contract Catering
3 Mitchells & All Bar One, Toby Carvery. Pubs
4 Sodexho Sodexho Contract Catering
5 Whitbread Beefeater, Brewer’s Fayre, Costa Restaurants
Coffee, TGI Fridays’.
6 JD Wetherspoon JD Wetherspoon Pubs
7 Yum Pizza Hut, KFC QSR
8 Greggs Greggs, Baker’s Oven QSR
9 Starbucks Starbucks QSR
10 Domino’s Domino’s QSR
11 Restaurant Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquitos, Restaurants
12 Subway Subway QSR
13 Gondola Pizza Express, Ask, Zizzi Restaurants
14 Aramark Aramark Contract Catering
15 Nando’s Nando’s Restaurants
Leading Chained Consumer Foodservice Brands by Number of Outlets 2010
Rank Operator Main Sector No. of Outlets
1 Enterprise Inns Pubs 6,800
2 Punch Taverns Pubs 5,967
3 Marstons Pubs 2,150
4 Admiral Taverns Pubs 1,700
5 Greggs QSR 1,487
6 Subway QSR 1,420
7 Scottish & Newcastle Pubs 1,400
8 Costa Coffee Restaurants 1,195
9 JD Wetherspoon Pubs 770
10 McDonald’s QSR 717
11 Starbucks QSR 701
12 Tesco Retail 655
13 Pizza Hut Restaurants 632
14 Domino’s QSR 616
15 KFC QSR 522
SECTION IV – BEST PRODUCT PROSPECTS
US products that do well in the UK foodservice industry are snack foods, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, salmon and seafood,
cooking sauces, salad dressings, confectionery, dips and salsas, frozen foods, wine and beer.
The UK government is increasingly promoting healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. There are opportunities for U.S.
products that are natural, wholesome and healthy.
The table below shows the best high value product prospects for the UK foodservice market:
Product Total UK Average U.S. Key Constraints Market Attractiveness
Category UK Imports Annual Import to Market for USA
Imports From U.S. Tariff Development
2011 U.S. Import Rate
($ 2011 Growth
million) ($ (last 5
Highly fragmented U.S. #1 canned salmon
F market, domestic supplier, developing ish and 2,605 63.7 -28% 0-22%
Sea shortfall. food interest in other
HS: 03 products and species
Chocolate 1,672.1 21.2 +27% 8-27% Domestic & EU British eat more
confectionery competition, low chocolate than any
HS: 1806 acceptance of other nationality.
Vegetables & 137.4 0.3 -55% 0-16% Competition from Food has long shelf life
Fruit prepared Turkey,
in Vinegar Netherlands and
Preserved fruit 554.8 21.8 +13% 7-27% Competition from U.S. nut butters
& nuts EU, Thailand & perceived as high
HS: 2008 South Africa quality, exotic
preserved fruits of
Fruit & 1,092 20.7 +139% 16-23% Competition from High focus on healthy
Vegetable Juice EU and Brazil living in UK. Juices now
HS: 2009 more popular than
Sauces, 861.6 21.6 +10.5% 0-10% Australia starting U.S. #4 supplier, UK
Condiments, to enter the market wants authentic tex-
Seasonings mex, BBQ sauces,
HS: 2103 marinades & salad
Domestic & EU New U.S. concepts in
Soft dr beverages always inks 1,015.0 +6.6% -18.5% 0-10% competition, strong
HS: 2202 brands, market attractive, e.g.,
reaching saturation functional drinks
Domestic & EU U.S. micro-brew beers,
Beer HS: 2203 752.0 4.5 +107% 0% competition, major generally unique beers
brewers located in with a story. They are
EU attractive to a niche
4,781.8 223.6 +3% 18-25% Competition from UK #1 export market
W EU, Austra for U.S. wine, California ine HS: 2204 lia, Latin
America & S. wine has 16% market
Africa. share, other parts of
Figure shows a U.S. should benefit in
minus due to wine future
being shipped to
Italy and then the
SECTION V – POST CONTACT AND FURTHER INFORMATION
If you have any questions or comments regarding this report or need any other assistance exporting to the United Kingdom,
please contact the USDA office in London at the following address:
United States Department of Agriculture
Embassy of the United States of America
24 Grosvenor Square
London, W1K 6AH
Tel: +44 20 7894 0040
Further information on UK foodservice is available from:
2 Dollis Park
London, N3 1HF
Tel: +44 844 800 0456
Leading consultancy who specialize in the foodservice industry.
Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD)
Grange Lane, Letchmore Heath
Watford, Hertfordshire WD2 8DQ
Tel: +44 1923 857141
UK trade association for information about the food and grocery chains.