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With the food and drink industry operating such an integral part in everyday life, both with regards to the ingredients we stock our shelves and fridges with from the grocery store, and the restaurants and outlets where we enjoy complete meals, one of the key ways in which the industry has been able to grow and continue to thrive is in the development of takeaway as a key part of the sector.
Once regarded as an unhealthy way of bringing fast food into the consumer diet, the market around takeaways has changed hugely over the last decade or so – mimicking the shifts in consumer behaviours and demands, while constantly evolving to remain relevant in line with industry trends across the food and drink sector as a whole.
If you ask yourself why you choose to get a takeaway, the likelihood is that the answer will span across one of a few different options; namely the convenience, the link between takeaway and comfort eating or treating yourself, the cost and variety of vouchers available which constantly make takeaways more appealing than eating out, and simple cravings which guide you towards old favourites or new takeaway outlets. But how does the takeaway sector operate within the wider food and drink industry, and which trends are shaping the way that consumers interact with and use takeaway outlets as part of their lives?
Prepared food is no new concept – in fact, it dates all the way back to Ancient Greece and Rome when producers made their living by selling doughs and other products to communities who, it seems, did not cook at home very often at all. Of course, street vendors are hugely popular in today’s market, and are often a big part in outdoor celebrations, festivals and events. Again, however, the idea of street food vendors is still nothing new, with various documents and evidential findings indicating that the streets of medieval Europe were once filled with carts and market stalls selling various products and dining solutions to passers-by.
While these identify and explain some of the earliest examples of takeaway and meal provision, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that takeaway as we know it now started to become more widespread and popular; coinciding with the establishment of fish and chips as a leading part of British culture, and working alongside the invention of the burger in the USA; as workers were found to have bad nutrition and so takeaway meals were provided to them in order to build up their strength against disease and injury.
Today, the takeaway industry oversees a concept which has expanded and is now found across sit-down restaurants, chain eateries and fast food outlets, standalone restaurants and those popular street food vendors – essentially giving the consumer a choice in the way that they eat their food, and using the growing demand for convenience as the driving force behind the development of takeaway services. Some of the most popular forms of takeaway which all operate within the same industry but provide different styles of service include:
As well as these different styles of takeaway, there are also a variety of methods for consumers to actually order their food, utilising the rise in technology while still retaining the same high level of customer service expected through the restaurant outlet.
Once upon a time, takeaway was only available by going to the food outlet and ordering the food in person. Through this most basic ordering system, customer service was always able to remain at the forefront of the consumer experience, giving the food outlet complete control over the entire customer journey – from ordering through to presentation, taste and food quality. However, as more and more methods of ordering takeaway have popped up and been developed, this same level of customer service control has dropped – creating takeaway platforms and online options which all but remove the consumer interaction with the restaurant itself. While this is no doubt a step in the right direction with regards to convenience, when it comes to delivering a complete service, the lack of control means that many restaurants lose their most important customer touch point and are unable to communicate what makes them stand out and unique within the largely saturated restaurant industry. As such, one of the main ways that the takeaway industry is growing and developing in recent years is in the presentation of meals and orders – putting extra emphasis on packaging, on the inclusion of recipe cards and service presentation tips, and even providing customers with little extra treats in order to enhance the takeaway experience and ensure customer loyalty.
When we look at the takeaway industry as a whole, one of the simplest ways of breaking down the top retailers is by establishing the key cuisines which consumers are looking for; identifying trends, which cuisines are the most popular and which are dropping in demand, and ascertaining which areas of the market are saturated and which stand out as being underserved and a little more unique.
We often find that when asked what their favourite takeaway cuisine is, consumers tend to lean towards the standard options: Chinese, Indian, pizza, fish and chips, Thai, and American (i.e. burgers and steaks). What consumers often forget is that the takeaway industry also controls the provision of fast food takeaways across big names like McDonald’s and Nando’s; it also includes the salads, sandwiches and wraps which are ordered from high street deli’s for office meetings and corporate away days; it even includes the delivery of cakes and desserts on someone’s birthday. It is very easy to narrow the takeaway industry down to those cuisines and meals that we would order from the sofa on a Friday night – however by expanding its reach, the takeaway industry has in fact infiltrated into daily life and has succeeded in adjusting to trends which could otherwise have left it losing favour with captive customers.
In looking at and identifying the biggest names in the takeaway industry, it is important to note the rise in central takeaway hubs particularly in the last couple of decades and the last few years; utilising the development in technology and creating central platforms whereby thousands of takeaway outlets can be advertised and sourced by consumers looking for the perfect meal, snack, or drink. These consumers can narrow their search for the perfect takeaway down by location, by cuisine, by price and budget, and even by nutritional values and dietary requirements. The idea of these central hubs is to deliver a reliable and consistent service no matter what takeaway the consumer orders from – it is perfect for the consumer who doesn’t quite know what they want until they see it, and it is inclusive in the way that individuals can each order from different outlets and yet still retain the convenience of ordering from one central site. Top retail names in this specific area of the takeaway industry include Just Eat, Uber Eats, Foodpanda and Deliveroo – which all operate under largely the same model, but each provide different features and different takeaway outlets depending on locality and delivery range.
Moving to the big takeaway names themselves, two of the most prominent names in the sector include Pizza Hut and Domino’s – interestingly, both offering the same style of food, and one which is typically associated with convenience and ease. While other takeaway cuisines including Chinese and Indian are both hugely popular if not more so than pizza, most of the takeaway provisions across these specific cuisines come from local and standalone restaurants – unlike Domino’s and Pizza Hut which are large chain restaurants and thus occupy a large portion of the industry.
The biggest trend, and one which has become a driving force in the growing success of the takeaway industry, is food delivery and consumer demand for takeaway services which fit into their busy lifestyles. The ever-expanding urbanisation of towns and cities means that consumers are more attuned with the idea of getting what they want when they want it, meaning that takeaway outlets are working harder than ever to match the need for quick delivery and high quality.
The rise in takeaway platforms like Just Eat and Deliveroo has played a large part in making these speedy delivery promises possible, becoming a middle man service provider which sits between the consumer and the restaurant / food outlet, driving forward a consistent service while also giving a platform to small local eateries which otherwise would not be able to reach such a wide audience. What takeaway restaurants do beyond these aggregate platforms and central sites is up to them, with many using the platform as an advertising tool alongside their own community presence.
Another trend which has been steadily influencing the takeaway industry in the last few years mimics the way that consumer behaviours are changing – primarily with regards to the food which they put into their bodies. The restaurant and food and drink industry as a whole is seeing an increased shift towards healthy options, with customers becoming more aware and increasingly educated about their health and the benefits and drawbacks of certain food products. And this doesn’t just relate to healthy food in general – it also impacts and stretches to dietary requirements and lifestyle changes, including veganism and vegetarianism. As such, the takeaway industry is seeing a shift in popularity towards healthy takeaway outlets and restaurants, with the operators providing healthy options as a filter for browsing customers who still want to enjoy the convenience and lifestyle benefits of ordering a takeaway – but with healthier options available at their fingertips.
Not only is this a trend that large industry chains and restaurant names can adapt and adjust their offerings in order to match, but it also allows for new independent chains and small businesses to enter the market – with vegan food outlets and restaurants becoming particularly popular as the rise in veganism continues to spread across the world.
In a similar way, the takeaway industry has also seen expansion in another area – the provision of snack foods and drinks as well as the staple meals. While restaurants and food outlets must compete with the fact that takeaway consumers often spend a lot less than those who visit the restaurant for a sit-down meal, creating takeaway drinks and dessert menus is one way that these retailers can make up some of that lost cash flow – be it with a hot dessert straight from the kitchen, a freshly made smoothie, or a healthy on-the-go snack. The creation of meal deals by many takeaway providers is another way that retailers are able to use different food and drink sectors to drive popularity and takeaway success, including drinks and full meals as well as presentation tips for the perfect night in.
When it comes to the takeaway industry as a whole, demand is not going anywhere – in fact, all the stats and figures reported by industry experts show that the takeaway industry is on the rise, with consumers constantly looking for new ways of injecting convenience and ease into their busy schedules. For those takeaway retailers and restaurants who are willing to provide menus that target the healthy eating and dietary requirement needs of specific consumers, the opportunity for growth is huge. Likewise, for those which utilise the big name operators like Just Eat, as well as their own local delivery and collection operation, the marketing and advertising potential is there for the taking.
The fact is technology is changing the way that consumers interact with so many different retail areas and industries – with food being one of the leading areas which has had to adapt in line with increased demand and online ordering. Consumers expect delivery orders to arrive quickly, they expect them to arrive with a good level of presentation, and they expect them to still be hot – all concepts which, a few years ago, would have been nigh on impossible. The industry is becoming more and more technologically advanced, and it is up to the restaurants themselves to ensure that they remain relevant and up to date to entice consumers in.
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