How the taste for takeaways is transforming the dining experience
The popularity of takeaways and food delivery is rising across Europe – and both chain and independent restaurants are taking note.
Whether it’s grabbing sushi at lunchtime or ordering in a speciality curry for dinner, growing demand for takeaway food across Europe is changing how urban restaurants cater for their customers.
Online food delivery platforms, particularly prevalent in Europe’s capitals, have had a significant role in the rapid expansion of the food-to-go market, enabling the delivery of restaurant-quality cuisine rather than the standard burgers or pizzas.
It’s had a real impact on how people view takeaways, says Ian Hanlon, Director, Foodservice Consulting at JLL.
“There’s a cultural shift towards ordering food in, driven in part by busy young professionals living in urban apartments with small kitchens,” he says. “At the same time, people are becoming more conscious about what they eat and where it comes from.”
More competition between delivery platforms has made it easier than ever to source an ever-wider variety of meals. Though Deliveroo recently pulled out of Germany, leaving just Lieferando, the UK’s bustling takeaways market has encouraged the emergence of smaller competitors such as Karma Kitchen.
“The UK is a few years ahead of other European markets, but across the continent, the value of the takeaways market is set to rise,” says Hanlon. “As more aggregators enter the market, they are bringing more foodservice operators into the mix, offering significantly more choice to the consumer.”
In the UK alone, the food-to-go market is set for sales of £23.4 billion by 2024, up from £18.5 billion in 2019, according to IGD, at a time when many restaurants – especially those in the mid-range sector – are struggling with getting sufficient numbers of customers in through their doors.
Feeding takeaway demand
Food-focused real estate is adapting to keep pace with the voracious appetite for takeaway food.
Many restaurants have expanded their delivery operations through so-called dark kitchens – commercial set-ups in low-rent developments such as carparks and industrial estates where foodservice operators cook for delivery only.
“Dark kitchens represent a huge growth area,” says Hanlon. “Anywhere there is a delivery aggregator, you can expect a dark kitchen.”
In the UK, dark kitchens are concentrated in London around areas of high demand, with regional capitals beginning to attract these developments. Though the majority are run by food delivery platforms – most notably Uber Eats and Deliveroo – that cover all bills and collect a commission of food sales, McDonald’s and Wagamama opened their own dark kitchens this year.
“Restaurant operators with significant high street presence realise they have to tap into this demand to maintain market share,” says Hanlon.
Dark kitchens are also becoming a space for new and established brands to test concepts. High street chains such as Pizza Hut and Chiquito have launched virtual brands for delivery-only through dark kitchens. These spaces are also becoming popular for newcomers looking to experiment – much as street food markets offered a space for food start-ups to test the waters.
“Dark kitchens are essentially incubators, offering a low-risk way for brands to bring an idea to market, and if it works, understand where they could open a bricks-and-mortar space,” says Hanlon.
The growth of takeaways is equally providing a bright spot for the UK’s beleaguered high streets. Although the UK lost 768 restaurants in the 12 months to March 2019, according to data analysts CGA, with casual dining chains such as Byron, Jamie’s Italian and Carluccio’s among the well-known casualties, there are hundreds of planning applications in the works to convert shops into takeaways.
The design of eateries in Europe is already being impacted by the delivery boom, with restaurateurs looking for their next space likely to downsize. “We’ll see smaller restaurants that feed fewer dine-in customers because the revenue can be made up in delivery,” says Hanlon.
Many restaurants are introducing separate entrances or waiting areas for queues of delivery couriers in a bid to reduce the impact on the dine-in experience, while shopping centres with food courts designate collection points in carparks or service yards.
Such moves are helping brands manage their online orders alongside their bricks-and-mortar operations; a mix that’s becoming increasingly critical for their success.
Indeed, while bricks-and-mortar space will continue to have a role in showcasing a restaurant brand - and is particularly integral to high-end dining, the appetite for takeaways is becoming too large to ignore.
“Delivery is a rising customer demand, and for operators, it involves fewer costs,” says Hanlon. “In ten years, we simply won’t see restaurants opening hundreds of locations all over the country. Most types of restaurants - but especially mainstream brands - will be shifting focus and investment towards dark kitchen operations.”