Restaurant kits first surfaced in the UK about five years ago but with no solid driving force growth was lacklustre. Out of the blue lockdown provided that momentum and the concept instantly satisfied the hunger for a quality meal, without risk, in the safety of your own home. The ground was set for expansion and in April 2020 purchase research company, Cardlytics, reported spending on meal kits and grocery boxes in the UK increased by 114% compared with 2019.
Definition of a restaurant kit.
Kits vary enormously in style and business model, but commonly include premeasured and partly prepped ingredients, which may have also been partly cooked. Instructions and diagrams help the cook to prepare the meal, although for the most part this is simply re-heating items in the oven.
Kits are often ordered to be delivered on Friday for the weekend. Cool chain couriers and insulated packaging enable nationwide delivery. Restaurant kit companies often run meal club incentives, providing rotating menus, to tie in repeat custom.
How do the advantages of restaurant kits match today’s diners?
- Diners can experiment with new and diverse styles of cooking and fresh produce. The food is interesting, and tasty and is created without the stress of following a recipe from scratch. 23% of men are more likely to buy meal kits, compared with 15% of women.
- People enjoy the experience of a restaurant kit. It becomes simpler to cook a good meal after a busy day, and they offer enough variety to cook something new. Using a restaurant kit to feed invited guests is much simpler and more relaxing. It gives you the chance to spend more time with your guests.
- As leisure time becomes more and more valuable, so the convenience of a quality kit is worth the expense. Sometimes people feel stressed and don’t want the faff of going out or being bothered with cooking a meal. A date night with a restaurant kit can be more intimate and relaxing.
- Even novice cooks are able quickly prepare a quality meal for friends or loved ones. Single serving kits for 1 person made up 55% of the market in 2020, which were mostly bought by single men, who have found a way to practice their cheffing skills but with dependable results. The meal preparation is simple enough to involve children, making it a family affair.
- Portion-controlled servings help diners maintain a weight loss regime.
- As all ingredients are preprepared in a foodservice environment there is little waste.
- Less to think about at the supermarket shop.
- Nearly all packaging is recyclable.
- They also offer novel experiences as presents.
It is interesting to note that of the advantages listed above the reduction of stress or anxiety is a recurring factor. This isn’t so much linked with effects of the pandemic but more to do with the increasingly stressful lives which most people live and will continue to live for the foreseeable future. So, any activities such as restaurant kits, which help to ease these busy lives are likely to grow in popularity. Not everyone agrees of course, doomsayers, such as Philip Koh, of brand design agency Without, doesn’t believe demand for restaurant kits will continue, as society returns to normal: ‘The growth is purely off the back of lockdown mentality. As things return to normal people’s leisure time will be very important and they won’t want to spend that time making a meal.’
The larger players in the UK market including Gousto, Hello Fresh, and Mindful Chef were quick to react. Hello Fresh is the largest of the three, established in the US, Canada Western Europe and Australia. Mindful Chef, based in Wandsworth, was bought out by Nestlé at the end of 2020 giving a valuation of £1.2bn, while Gousto, the only true Brit company works from Shepherd’s Bush, with a workforce of 900.
The considerable investment by Nestlé in Mindful Chef and US projections for restaurant kit growth suggests the market has found its stride. The Grand View Research Meal Kit Delivery Services Market Share Report 21-28 estimates the global market at $11.6 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13% from 2021 to 2028. There is no reason to believe other countries won’t share similar fortune.
We have reached a time of rapid growth and evolution in what can be offered to diners. Restaurant dining and delivered meals have combined to create the restaurant kit, where preprepared, quality ingredients can be easily assembled to create a rewarding meal. During lockdown deliveries tended to be London-centric but as more and more providers use cool-chain couriers and insulated packaging, so the geographic barriers diminished. This is demonstrated by brands such as D&D London and Hawksmoor, who now distribute 65% of meals kits outside of London.
The supermarkets have been quick to muscle in on the market with M&S and Morrison’s launching their own restaurant kits style boxes. M&S understandably aims higher at £30.00 for one main course for two, while Morrison’s at the same price point, is aimed more at family recipes. Tesco, somewhere in between, starts at £20.00 for chicken or duck confit and £25.00 for ox cheek mains.
The overriding sense of the flourishing restaurant kit market is one of versatility. Well-illustrated when you compare the span of Morrison’s family box to several Michelin starred kits. No longer tied to a single kitchen restaurant kit companies can choose from any number of food styles to add to their menu. These styles can be rotated to keep the offering tempting enough for subscribers. This continual element of new choice is in tune with what customers demand. The logistics of sending out chilled insulated boxes with an overnight courier puts the whole country at their disposal.
The adaptability and versatility of the restaurant kit model is clearly demonstrated with East London based, Dishpatch. Founded by web designer, James Terry, and Peter Butler, a logistics specialist expert from hospitality, who admits: ‘The name is a bit, Sean Connery.’
Their model rotates chosen guest chefs and restaurants monthly to provide the fresh produce for orders.
Dishpatch provides the website platform, as well as publicity, menus, and order logistics. They are similarly involved in packaging the ingredients in insulated boxes to be sent out across the UK.
For restaurant kits, as ever time will tell, however the adaptability of the business model and the sheer versatility of produce that can be offered increased likelihood of survival. Large multinationals buying into the sector as additional weight to this outcome.