MCA's annual Food to Go Conference 2019

Despite continued pressure on eating out operators, food to go has been outperforming the wider market with year-on-year growth in visit frequency of 2.4%, to a total of 4.2bn visits, according to MCA’s Food to Go Tracker Q3 2018.

Time-pressed and budget-stretched consumers’ demand for convenience, speed and a value offering have meant that the sector has become a shining light in a somewhat subdued market overall, and currently accounts for 43.8% of total eating out occasions - up 1.3 percentage points (pp) since 2017.

So where’s the growth coming from? Well, breakfast and dinner visits have increased in frequency by 5.8% over the past 12 months, according to data from the Tracker. However, lunch is still the most popular time for consumers to opt for a grab-and-go offering, accounting for 23% of all visits.

The growth of the sector, changes in consumer behaviour and trends, will be among the subjects discussed at MCA’s annual Food to Go Conference 2019, which takes place on 6 February 2019 at the Ham Yard Hotel in London, in association with HIM.

Delegates will hear from the likes of Andrew Walker, CEO, EAT, who will be discussing the company’s turnaround under his stewardship, incorporating the challenges, opportunities and changes he’s implemented to drive future success. While Richard Hodgson, CEO at YO! Sushi will open up about the group’s dual strategy of growing through retail and eating out.

In addition, the conference will take a look at one of the big topics at the moment – sustainability, with Andrew Stephens, CEO at the Sustainable Restaurant Association speaking about how food-to-go operators can respond to consumer demand for more sustainable practices, including a reduction in single-use plastics and meat.

And let’s not forget innovation when it comes to the offering. The food to go sector has witnessed an explosion of different concepts in recent years – gone at the days when all consumers could choose from was sandwich or salad. Now you can choose grab-and-go options from an array of international cuisines and style of dish, from poke and sushi, to Vietnamese pho. The upcoming conference will shine a spotlight on a selection of up-and-coming concepts that MCA believe will shape the market in years to come, including Polu Poke and Indian wrap company Zabardast.

Food to go also represents growth opportunities for retail and convenience stores, which will be addressed by Jill Livesey, managing director of HIM and MCA Insights. She will also share highlights from MCA’s upcoming, in-depth 2019 Food to Go Report.

To find out more about the MCA Food to Go Conference 2019 and to book your place at the not-to-be-missed event, visit the MCA’s annual Food to Go Conference 2019.