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Foodservice’s Emerging Future 

Cormac Nolan, Market Insight Specialist

Foodservice emerging future source.PNG

The past 16 months have been extremely challenging for foodservice operators and the producers and processors who supply them across the island of Ireland. But business owners are beginning to look to the future with some confidence now as the reopening programme continues. And understanding the changes that consumers expect to stay around will be key to successfully reopening and thriving into the future.  

Bord Bia has completed a unique piece of research – a half year white paper examining both how recovery will be reflected in consumer spending for the rest of 2021 and 2022.The research also examines the overarching trends changing the foodservice environment to understand which will stay around after the pandemic is a thing of the past.  

This is the second year running that Bord Bia has published this half year white paper.  

Key Findings – value of spend  

Last year, following eight years of consecutive growth, the foodservice market fell by a stark 47% (from €8.5 billion to €4.5 billion) (Bord Bia, 2020). Recovery in 2021 has been slower than forecast, exacerbated by the extended lockdowns through the first part of the year.  

As a result, and with recognition of the slow return of international tourism and the continued imposition of restrictions on foodservice operators, our research concludes that the value of spend in foodservice in Ireland in 2021 will be 11% (€492m) more than in 2020. 2022 will see a much more comprehensive and broad-based return to growth, with foodservice spend expected to be +56%, returning the sector to close to 2019 values (Bord Bia, 2020).

Foodservice emerging future graph.PNG

The recovery will not be even across the different segments of the foodservice sector. As you can see above, particularly challenged segments like Business & Industry (B&I) are not forecast to return to growth in 2021 – but are set for a significant return in demand in 2022 reflecting a shift back to office working 

Key findings – changing trends  

The white paper examines in detail the macrotrends that are changing and challenging foodservice operators across the island. The four primary drivers of change are set out below: 

  • Sustained heightened off-premise shift - a significant portion of consumers are going to continue to look to delivery and drive-thru following the pandemic. The rise of ghost kitchens and virtual brands to service their needs will also continue.   


  • Labour Challenges - this existed pre-pandemic in relation to culinary staff. Currently operators are reporting challenges in finding any kind of labour. The full ramifications will include increasing automation in as many processes as possible.  


  • Investment in tech, including online pre-book - Consumers' embrace of pre-booking over the pandemic will allow better management of table availability and customer flow and limit problems of no-show bookings for restaurants. It will also provide for more efficient back and front of house operations.


  • Return of sustainable – having been paused for the majority of the pandemic, the sustainability agenda will be back front of mind for consumers. Packaging concerns, along with food waste and local sourcing are spaces that operators can differentiate themselves.  

Implications for suppliers  

It has been difficult for many suppliers to the foodservice channel, with the majority having to pivot overt the past 16 months. As the sector re-opens, suppliers who can contribute to helping operators deliver in line with the changing trends in the marketplace will be well setup for success.  

This can include providing greater traceability on food, assisting in the journey towards greater automation or innovations in the packaging challenge.  

The full white paper can be read at the Bord Bia website here. A full 2021 Irish Foodservice Market Report will be published in December, with plans to include a section on consumer insights and changing customer behaviours as a result of Covid-19.    



Bord Bia: Outlook on the Irish Foodservice Industry Post Pandemic accessed June 23 from https://www.bordbia.ie/globalassets/bordbia2020/industry/news/press-releases/2021_outlook-for-irelands-fs-industry_white-paper_final.pdf