'Virtual restaurants' and vegan food tipped as top food trends for next year

"Virtual restaurants" run by companies like Deliveroo are tipped as a top trend in 2019.
"Virtual restaurants" run by companies like Deliveroo are tipped as a top trend in 2019.
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Slimmed down menus, more vegan offerings and "virtual restaurants" run by delivery-only operators such as Deliveroo are among the trends tipped for the food scene in the coming year.

The report by market research firm NPD said that British consumer spend on restaurant food delivery could grow by 10 per cent in 2019 to reach £5 billion, with food made in "dark kitchens" on industrial estates run by the delivery firms likely to take off.

It said a "core appeal" is that virtual restaurants can begin trading quickly, are relatively cheap to run and are flexible, aided by a lack of overheads such as dedicated retail premises and waiting staff.

The report said that driven by technology, the rise in in-home entertainment subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime and a desire to save money, consumers are likely to ‘cocoon’ more and eat more meals at home.

Dominic Allport, insights director with The NPD Group, said: “While Britain’s foodservice industry is grappling with all sorts of cost pressures, it is showing that it can recognize and address a host of new trends. Britain’s delivery market will see a new phase in 2019. As consumers eat more meals at home, they’ll have more complex requirements, and this will strengthen the role of delivery aggregators.

“Consumers are also more aware than ever of key sustainability issues and are asking where products come from and how a foodservice outlet is helping the wider environment. Veganism and vegetarianism are not just passing fads and are working their way onto menus. We’ll see the growth of delivery-only virtual restaurants. Finally, a slimmed-down menu will also bring rewards.”

Deliveroo has around 400 virtual restaurants and Uber Eats aims for a similar number by the end of 2018, while Just Eat is entering this space with ‘digital pop ups’.

The study said it expected restaurant menus to cut down on the number of options available, warning that consumers do not want to waste time searching for food and drinks and may often just opt for their favourite dish without trawling through crowded menus.

In the past three years, visits to eateries which involved vegetarian burgers, wraps or sandwiches rose by 42 per cent, while vegetarian side dishes rose by nine per cent.

Meanwhile, “trust and transparency” in food was also likely to increase, according to NPD, as consumers become more aware of issues such as the environmental impact of raw materials such as palm oil. It said that the availability of information about ingredients in terms of allergies and nutrition was also becoming more important. Earlier this year, a teenager died after eating a baguette which she did not realise contained sesame baked into the bread, sparking calls for clearer labelling on food.

NPD’s report listed five trends that it believe will shape "out of home eating" in the UK in 2019.