The catering market in Russia has been in a state of gradual recovery. During the first half of 2018, the market increased by 5.2% in visits and by 5.6% in expenditures. The average check, however, only grew by 0.5%. In essence, this implies that, as the economic situation in the country is improving, people are more willing to visit catering establishments and are doing so increasingly often, but are not yet prepared to spend more money on them than a year earlier. Within this scenario, consumers either look out for offers favorable in terms of price, or reduce the number of items ordered per check.
It should be noted that trends of the foodservice market observably correlate with consumer confidence, which has been on the increase according to various sources. This suggests that further recovery of the catering industry will continue during the next 2–3 years.
The top 3 largest fast food chains serve as the main driver for growth in the Russian catering market, accelerating their traffic through establishing new outlets all across the country. During the first half of 2018, growth in their traffic equaled 14%, which is three times higher than the growth rate of the industry as a whole. Another expanding channel is coffee shops – these have been developing thanks to growing demand for coffee; increasing numbers of the so-called “monoconcept” coffee shops, caf?s specializing primarily or exclusively on coffee, in both the cheap and premium segments; and growth in the number of establishments offering takeaway coffee. The delivery channel has been expanding through the development of both aggregator services and restaurant chains’ own delivery solutions. Pizza remains the most popular product in food delivery, and thus pizza chains have been growing as a result of geographic expansion and delivery occupying a significant share in their businesses.
The public catering industry is part of the consumer domain, and therefore it largely depends upon consumers’ behavior, expectations and preferences, which tend to change under the influence of various factors. The share of relatively young people among consumer groups has been increasing – the consumer groups aged 16–24 and 24–35 occupy 45% of the catering market. They are the audience who will be determining future trends in the foodservice industry.
The main basic motives for eating outside the home include the desire to eat and communicate as well as convenience. However, tastes differ, and there are a number of niche, small, but actively developing trends related to demands and expectations expressed by consumers in catering. Among them, let us focus on the aspect of entertainment and emotions in relation to eating outside the home.
The younger consumer groups are employed or otherwise busy individuals who value speed and convenience. To consumers like these, quality at a reasonable price is the ideal option. Raised in the era of globalization concerning all spheres of the economy, these people tend to travel a lot, are familiar with various national cuisines, actively use technologies, and have social network accounts; they are rather independent from external opinions, interested in innovations the world has to offer, and rational in terms of decision-making.
Consumer behavior researchers note a decline in interest in purchasing tangible items and brands losing their importance. This is especially relevant among the younger consumer audience. At the same time, the emotional aspect in the use of goods and services is becoming more valued; there has been an increase in interest in new impressions which can be shared among friends and loved ones or on social media. Many choose to visit a new country and explore exhibitions or performances instead of going shopping and purchasing material goods. People are actively following global trends in the entertainment industry and have been shifting their priorities in consumer expenditures accordingly.
Speaking of foodservice, Russia has been moving in the global direction as well – said trend is called Experiential Foodservice and implies an approach to the catering industry as a venue to not only satisfy hunger and engage in communication, but to share new impressions and experience other entertaining aspects. In a number of cases, customers are ready to pay more to visit a restaurant that is unique in its concept, menu, history, interior design, or location. They are open to trying out new dishes, new cuisines, and new movements in the industry.
Gastro markets – or gastro spaces – part of the fast casual segment, are among the catering formats currently developing in capital cities of the world. In essence, under one roof, said format unites several separate operators active within the same theme, having the same owners, or sharing the same inspiration or ideologists. Initially, this format was represented by gastro markets in Moscow, at Danilovsky and Usachevsky markets of fresh goods. At the same locations, visitors had the opportunity to eat at one of the venues, where food was being cooked from fresh products in open kitchens by independent operators offering different cuisines. Later, similar concepts – lacking food marketplaces, though – were launched at “Rumer” shopping mall, on Nikolskaya Street, on Tsvetnoy Boulevard, and at other retail spaces of Russia’s capital. Almost all European capitals have similar multi-cuisine establishments and concepts.
Visiting the gastro space, choosing a restaurant or dish, observing the process of preparation, having the opportunity to try various dishes and to communicate in food zones, listening to live music once in a while or ordering takeaway – all this makes this catering format unusual and unique; it offers new impressions and experiences and allows one to share them with others.
Another similar yet more traditional catering establishment format is gastro festivals. Within this format, various market participants united by a common theme offer their food in parks, on pedestrian streets, in recreation areas, and in other public places. Part of them are street food establishments; another part are fast casual dining operators or theme restaurants.
In addition, activities where a number of separate fine dining restaurants participate in a single event are held several times a year and are part of the gastro festival concept. During these, each restaurant's chef prepares a special set of dishes or additional items in the menu, dedicated to a particular theme. Prices per set are typically the same across all restaurants, which means that guests can visit any restaurant participating in the event they desire and try a special set within a certain budget. Such events provide visitors with an excellent opportunity to explore a new establishment (most often these are restaurants with a high check average and famous chefs) and try the chef’s creations by spending an anticipated, moderate amount of money.
Both the gastro space and gastro festival formats have been attracting more and more visitors, as they make up impressive entertaining events for a whole family or a company of friends.
Another format gaining popularity in Russia, which introduces consumers to famous chefs and their masterpieces, is the practice of indoor dinners, where chefs prepare a pre-designed dish set for several guests; an example would be the local “Chef’s Table” restaurant project. Within this format, guests usually observe the chef and their team working, with an opportunity to freely communicate with them, ask questions and share impressions. Said unique format in the foodservice industry is akin to a performance, granting guests an experience where they can watch, interact and enjoy the creations of the best masters of their field.
One of the trends that have been growing for a rather long time in the industry involves various cooking masterclasses under chefs’ supervision in specially prepared areas. This activity is often chosen for special occasions such as holidays and birthdays – by companies of friends and colleagues, in terms of end consumers. Offered drinks and snacks, a group of visitors prepare a set of dishes guided by chefs, with the ability to eat the dishes cooked afterwards.
These are just a few examples of what the industry has to offer in terms of ways to combine dining with exclusive emotions and impressions. Development and popularity of these formats indicate that there is demand for it among consumers, and restaurateurs and market operators may benefit from taking them into account. Creative formats and offers which constitute additional emotional value to visitors will help acquire competitive advantages and attract new consumer audiences to market players’ restaurants and kitchens.
Head of Foodservice Department