The food service sector in Ireland will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 at the earliest, according to a new report by Bord Bia.
While the value of the sector increased by 14.6% this year, the Irish food promotion board said it remains 41% lower than pre-pandemic turnover levels.
Bord Bia said it expects the value of the industry for 2021 to reach €5.15 billion.
The report reveals that certain segments of the market, such as limited-service restaurants and coffee shops have been less impacted and will recover quicker next year.
However, others such as restaurants, hotels, pubs and workplace catering will continue to be impacted not only by Covid-19 public health restrictions, but also by other broader sector challenges.
“These barriers to growth include labour shortages, supply chain disruption and rapidly rising inflation – all of which are complex issues being faced at a global level, which will require global solutions,” said Maureen Gahan, Foodservice Specialist with Bord Bia.
While domestic demand helped to sustain many segments of the tourism industry, the report states that it won’t fully recover until public health advice allows the return to full international travel.
The report also looked at consumer attitudes towards dining out.
Of those surveyed, 76% said they missed the experience of eating out, and that the social aspect of dining out is what they most look forward to.
This makes eating out the most missed social activity, compared to shopping for leisure at 59%, concerts, sports and live events at 57% and spending time with colleagues at 45%.
The report also reveals that many people still remain cautious when it comes to eating out, especially older people.
Despite a widespread view that there are adequate Covid-19 safety measures in place, over 60% of diners said they feel some degree of nervousness about eating out.
Sustainability remains important to consumers, with packaging a key influence on food choice – according to the report.
Almost half of those surveyed said post-pandemic they will be more likely to choose options that are kinder to the environment.
Consumers also said their support for local businesses has been bolstered by the pandemic.
Half of all adults surveyed said they are more likely to choose a food service option that supports local business and the community.
“It is reassuring to see that for consumers, sustainability and supporting local remain important considerations in choosing foodservice options, trends that are also being reflected in some of our recent global consumer insight studies,” said Tara McCarthy, CEO, Bord Bia.