In 2017, the main macroeconomic indicators began to demonstrate positive dynamics, according to the Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat). However, real disposable household incomes continue to decline, even though at a slower rate – the negative trend has been observed for the fourth year in a row. This indicates that Russians are not getting more money available to be spent on everyday goods, eating out, or any other regular items of expenditure.
Despite the above, after three years of a stable decline, the market of public catering has started its gradual recovery since the second quarter of 2017. It is expected that growth of the industry in 2017 will reach 1–2% in monetary terms. The visitor traffic will increase by approximately 3% with the average check not exceeding the level of 2016.
The catering market continues to change in terms of both the channel structure and motivation to visit catering establishments. In 2017, among reasons of catering establishment visits, the one growing the fastest in popularity was the ‘satisfying hunger’ motive. People desire to eat, and to eat ‘tasty and cheap’ at that – the latter is the main slogan in the catering market. This conclusion can be made based on the fact that the most growing factor of restaurant choice is the price level and discounts.
The fastest growing channels in the industry in 2017 were fast food restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries as well as gas station cafeterias.
It is not the first year that the fast food segment has been growing faster than other channels – in 2017 it expanded by 10% in terms of sales volume, mainly through increasing consumer traffic. International chains served as the main driver for growth in the segment, actively opening new restaurants in the Russian Federation. Pizzerias constitute another growing part of the fast food segment – they have been increasing traffic primarily through delivery services. The segment of premium burgers is also gaining momentum: new establishments are being opened, offering a wide range of burgers relatively inexpensive for restaurant standards yet fashionable, in a pleasant democratic ‘fast casual’ atmosphere.
Market experts agree that the new fast casual segment is one of the fastest growing segments of the market. The fast casual concept combines the advantages of both a fast food restaurant and a traditional restaurant business. Its fast food traits include self-service, a limited menu, low prices, and manufacturability; the classic restaurant characteristics it adopted are premium quality, fresh ingredients, an individual approach, stylish interiors, and latest trends such as the open kitchen. The trend of fast casual development came to Russia from Europe and America, where it has been gaining popularity in the last decade. All the most growing US chains belong to said format, whereas the average annual growth of the segment in the stagnating European market is around 15%. It is reasonable to assume that this concept will be actively developing in Russia during the next few years, since Russia currently has the combination of all economic, social and technological preconditions required for growth in the share of inexpensive and trendy establishments. Consumers have stopped perceiving caf? visits as special occasions altogether, and demand for fast but quality food has finally led to the formation of broad supply.
Within the ‘fast, tasty and trendy’ tendency, the segment of bakeries has been changing as well: gradually, these establishments are turning into bakery caf?s, which offer not only fresh takeaway bakery, but also the option to have coffee and a snack. Establishments of this type tend to have short menus, fresh bread and other bakery goods, various types of coffee, including takeaways in convenient packaging. The menu is formed in a way that attracts customers at different times of the day. Around 4% of all visits in Russia fall on bakeries, and they are one of the fastest growing channels of the public catering market. The average check at bakeries is lower than the market average; the main visitors of bakeries are young people between 25 and 35 years of age. The current share of bakeries in Moscow and Saint Petersburg is higher compared with other cities. One may expect the channel to gradually develop in all large cities.
The fastest growing target consumer segments in 2017 were teenagers (+14% in traffic), young people aged 25–35 (+5%), and families with children (+4%).
Generation Z (young people aged 18–25) is becoming an active target audience for most consumer markets, including the public catering market. This age group has been increasingly influencing market dynamics, and in the short term its preferences will be determining development trends in a number of sectors of the global economy. Young people who have grown up in the digital era are aware of various national cuisines and unique restaurants; their main criterion for establishment visits is impressions. They do not chase trends – on the contrary, they strive to be unique. Food is not just a basic need to them, it implies pleasure and discoveries.
Millennials (audience aged 25–35) are a grown-up, employed, active population with a high purchasing power. Time is the critical factor for this age group; these people value convenience, speed, quality and innovations. They are online at all times, which makes them the most omnichannel group in terms of choice and decision-making regarding restaurant visits, which means that all possible communication channels are involved: traditional advertising, recommendations, specialised print and online publications, modern social platforms, ratings and reviews, travel websites, and others.
In addition, millennials follow the principles of rational spending – food has to be worth the price. Both Generation Z and millennials are the base audience for fast casual restaurants; their values include the speed of service, trendy dishes, new impressions, and quality at a reasonable price – success in the food service market is impossible without the combination of these factors today.
Regarding families with kids, according to experts at “NPD”, this segment has great potential for growth in eating outside the home. The importance of this segment in the European restaurant market is much higher than in the Russian market. Today, this group of consumers mainly visits fast food restaurants – the share of family visits to them is two times higher than in the rest of the market. What other restaurant segments may attract this promising audience? It can be assumed that family formats will continue their growth in the restaurant industry, especially if market operators manage to offer an appropriate atmosphere, menus, furniture, and activities for children.
In the public catering market in the USA, Generation Z and millennials are increasing their consumption of snacks, as representatives of these audiences eat ‘snack food’ as their main food products significantly more often than their peers used to in the past. Portion-size snacks are rather successful all around the world, including Russia. Their advantages are affordability, the possibility to take the product away as well as the option to share it with friends. Russia has also been demonstrating growth in snacks at public catering establishments – that is, small snacks between full meals instead of actual lunches or dinners.
Another evident trend, formed by active consumers, is the demand for new technologies in the restaurant business, just like in other consumer areas. A number of technological changes in B2B and B2C have evolved from a pleasant addition to the everyday reality of the domestic industry. Market operators use social media, geolocation, interactive menus, and push notifications to promote themselves and attract customers. Websites, click & collect concepts, and information about the establishment, menus and special offers have to be freely accessible to the rational omnichannel audience. Convenience is the main benefit of technologies, although the element of entertainment and new impressions for customers also make technologically advanced establishments stand out among others.
Delivery is another growing trend of the industry. More actively than other age groups, young people are using the opportunity to order food and receive it at a convenient time and in a preferred place. Nevertheless, the popularity of delivery services has been increasing among all consumer segments rather than only among the young audience. At the moment, Moscow is at the same level as cities of large European countries in terms of penetration of digital technologies into the restaurant business. Around 3% of all orders in the catering industry in Moscow involve delivery via websites or mobile applications.
The click & collect concept, allowing one to order food in advance and pick it up at a restaurant later, is another growing trend in Europe, and consequently in Russia. Growth in this method of purchasing food is most pronounced in large cities at lunchtime.
There is every reason to believe that the public catering industry will be growing in the coming years, provided that there are no significant economic shocks. Fast food establishments, fast casual restaurants, and bakeries will serve as the main drivers for growth for the next few years. The young generation as well as families with children will be determining trends in the industry and ensuring its growth. New technologies and delivery will be an integral part of market operators’ work, and it is said areas where the main changes should be expected to emerge, having a considerable influence on the formation of the new landscape of the restaurant market.