This year has been a one of mixed fortunes for the restaurant industry in the UK.
We've seen major events such as the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics come and go.We've seen a number of new restaurant openings and chains expanding and, unfortunately, a few closures, and, despite the tough economy, we've seen the restaurant industry continue to be a vital source of hospitality jobs.
But now, with 2012 drawing to a close, it's time to look ahead to what 2013 might have in store for the UK's restaurants.
Although it's hard to know exactly what's going happen in the next 12 months, one thing seems certain – that the country's economy is set to continue to struggle.
However, the good news for those in the restaurant industry and those looking for hospitality work in the sector is that this doesn’t necessarily meen poor sales figures.
Figures from 2012 suggest that, rather than cutting back on eating out, consumers have reduced spend in other areas in order to make sure they can still regularly dine at restaurants and pubs.
According to Allegra's Eating out in the UK report, published in August, consumer confidence remains fragile with 45 per cent of people stating they do not feel confident about their future income levels.
But despite this, one in three say they make sure they have enough money every month to eat out.
And a report from Deloitte released in December suggests that people are in fact eating out more often and spending more when they do so, a trend that can be expected to continue into 2013.
"The slow return of consumer confidence is reflected in the gentle, yet constant, pace of growth in the eating and drinking out market," said Ben Perkins, head of consumer business research at Deloitte.
So, it can be assumed that consumers will continue to eat out and may even increase the frequency with which they do so next year. But what will they actually be eating?
Well, according to Catherine Hanly, editor of restaurant website Hot-Dinners.com, restaurant owners from across the Atlantic have their sights firmly set on the UK and will be bringing their American cuisine with them in 2013.
"All things American are going to be huge next year," she told the London Evening Standard.
Andrew Balazs of New York restaurant The Standard is due to open a London establishment next year, as is Keith McNally, owner of the Balthazar brasserie.
Seafood restaurant group The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Shake Shack and burger chain Five Guys are all also planning UK launches in 2013.
Meanwhile, healthy eating has become a mainstream dining trend in recent years. But 2013 could see the arrival of the 'stealth health' trend – where chefs replace salt, fat and sugar with healthy, bold flavours without promoting it to consumers – says food industry consultancy Technomic.
"Because consumers now expect healthy options in all restaurant types and segments, chefs need to comply by offering such without sacrificing flavour," it said.
"Next year will bring a surge in stealth-health ingredients, including superfoods like beans, dark-green vegetables, salmon, soya, walnuts, yoghurt, tea and blueberries, as well as standard dishes with a healthier spin."
It also thinks that 2013 will see diners increasingly demand greater customisation of the dishes they are served.
"Restaurant-goers increasingly want more command over nearly everything on the menu, from ingredients and portion size to flavour combinations and healthfulness," claims Techno.mic
"Expect to see operators branching out with more creative approaches to build-your-own dishes, offering mix-and-match combo meals, and even making customisation a cornerstone of their concept."
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