Supply chain and inflation issues should galvanize UK restaurants to start sourcing locally, says GlobalData

The UK restaurant sector suffered heavy losses due to the pandemic, with the market value falling by 43% in 2020 to £18.2bn – a whopping £13.9bn loss*, according to GlobalData. The sector’s recovery will be hampered by problems in the industry for restaurants and pubs relating to labour shortages and price hikes for food. However, the leading data and analytics company notes that restaurants can overcome some of these issues by tapping into the broad appeal of eating local as 77% of UK consumers find local ingredients and flavors somewhat or very appealing, according to its Q2 2021 consumer survey*.

Hannah Cleland, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The inevitable cutbacks that restaurants will have to make in response to rising food prices will likely translate to smaller menus as businesses attempt to streamline their operations and maintain affordability for their customers. As additional issues surrounding supply chains prevail—such as the HGV driver shortages, border disputes following Brexit, and complications of the global pandemic impacting international food supply—businesses in the UK must seek a new strategic approach.”

Local sourcing can provide restaurants with a positive spin to put on these perceived challenges. GlobalData’s consumer survey (Q3 2021) reveals that consumers value companies wanting to make a positive impact in their local area, with almost half (47%) of Brits admitting that they are more loyal to brands that support social matters*.

Cleland continues: “In the run up to Christmas especially, there are marketing opportunities for food outlets to showcase local offerings as the seasonal interest in traditional UK food peaks. The interest in eating local produce also has clear long-term advantages. Cooperation with local suppliers and, more broadly, the local community helps companies to create sustainable partnerships by showing a will to invest in local economies and workforces. When uncertainties over trade persist, it is the safer bet to operate on a local level with suppliers rather than navigating the international supply chains.”

Locally sourced produce has lower ‘food miles’ and thus a lower carbon footprint – a bonus for environmentally mindful consumers. Sustainability will only continue to grow in the public consciousness, with campaigners such as Greta Thunberg drawing media attention. It gives businesses a reason to invest in local products beyond the current market issues. GlobalData’s latest consumer survey (Q3 2021) reveals that 66% of UK consumers agree that environmental matters are quite or very important*.

Cleland adds: “The challenges facing foodservice to maintain affordable menu prices as well as sufficient and varied supply will not be answered by local ingredients alone, but consumer trends indicate sourcing locally is a goal worth focusing on in the long run.”

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