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17 July 2019
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Bradford Keen offers a snapshot of the 2018 UK Hospitality Food Service Management market report.

© Shuttetstock
© Shuttetstock

04 December 2018 Bradford Keen 

Emma Potter

The food service market in the UK is a vibrant sector with many opportunities and a significant contributor to the national economy. But decreased consumer spending, inflation of food prices and the threat to employment because of Brexit temper the optimism.

Yet Kate Nicholls, chief executive at UKHospitality, the organisation responsible for the report, is positive. “The food service management [FSM]sector is a crucial element of the UK’s hospitality industry. The sector is buzzing with dynamic and talented leaders and we are very pleased to represent it,” she says.

“FSM businesses, like their high street cousins, innovate and provide much-needed investment around the UK. They are no less important than our pub, bar and hotel sectors, and UKHospitality will be using this report to ensure they are supported by government,” adds Nicholls.

In partnership with Bidfood, the report’s sponsor, UKHospitality surveyed 11 companies – Accent Catering, Bartlett Mitchell, Blue Apple Catering, CH&Co Group, Dine Contract Catering, Elior UK, ISS Facility Services, Mellors Catering Services, OCS Group, Sodexo UK & Ireland, and Vacherin – to find out the state of the market.

The positive news is that ethical sourcing of ingredients and food supply, as well as sustainable business practices remain important topics on the agenda. 


And given the political climate regarding diversity and inclusion in the workforce, the FSM sector is performing admirably with 90 per cent of the firms surveyed reveal that more than half of their employees are women.    

At board level, women’s participation has risen by 5 per cent to 33 per cent compared with last year, while the number of women at director level or in senior positions has dropped by 10 per cent to 37 per cent.


Unfortunately, employment concerns rank highly among respondents. While 56 per cent of the workforce of FSM businesses are full-time employees, the average turnover rate in the past year was 17 per cent. And around half of the respondents report that fewer people are applying for positions compared with last year.

Labour shortages, as well as worries over food price inflation and product availability, caused by Brexit remain a core concern for nearly 75 per cent of companies surveyed. Yet others believe with cautious optimism that UK produce could become more of a focus and there would be less red tape in the country, as well as greater competition and more new market entrants.

Growth opportunities

Over the next three years, respondents predict that the best strategies for growth will to win business from competitors and also to implement more efficient business practices. Additionally, catering to consumer demand for more sustainable and healthy options will be important.


Implementing technology in the FSM sector has been important to reflect consumers’ changing needs for greater speed and flexibility, 

but also to improve business efficiencies and productivity. 

Most valuable to businesses surveyed in the report when it comes to satisfying consumer demand has been mobile payment technology while e-learning for staff has boosted productivity. 

With a tech gaze on the future, 82 per cent of respondents predict in-app payment solutions and online ordering will be most prevalent, while 73 per cent expect to focus on self-service kiosks.


Sustainable sourcing

100% introducing sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic items (e.g. compostable items)

91% training catering staff in waste management

91% reducing use of single-use plastic items (e.g. straws, cutlery)

91% implementing a comprehensive food waste action plan in place to reduce waste

91% using food which is labelled as free range/fair trade/organic/ect

91% using locally sourced food

82% using sustainably sourced palm  oil ingredients/products, or  making progress towards this

73% introducing new suppliers 

55% reducing meat options

36% reducing portion sizes


Competition for growth

Asked to identify the strongest opportunities for growth in the coming three years, leaders mainly pointed to winning share from rivals and more efficient business practices.

73% winning share from competition

45% more efficient business processes

36% m&a activity

36% productivity improvements

36% growth in premiumisation


27% greater new product development benefits


18% economic upswing


18% new market sectors


9% increasing consumption


9% customer markets