Bord Bia’s food service market insight report, covering the island of Ireland (IOI), reveals that business remains 48% down on pre-pandemic levels of €8.6bn in 2019.
Turnover for 2021 is estimated at €5.15bn, split €3.7bn for Republic of Ireland and €1.4bn for Northern Ireland.
This is a 14.6% increase on 2020, but comes with the qualification that the recent reintroduction of COVID-19 controls may have a negative impact.
Further recovery is forecast for 2022, but it is expected that business will still be 9% to 10% below 2019 levels.
As with the wider food processing and distribution industry, labour shortages are a major issue in all areas of the food service sector
Recovery in international travel and tourist numbers is critical for delivering growth, as well as being able to remove COVID-19 restrictions in 2022.
In addition to the pandemic, the sector faces further challenges.
As with the wider food processing and distribution industry, labour shortages are a major issue in all areas of the food service sector.
Fewer people choosing to travel to Ireland for work, alongside people already here returning to their home countries during the pandemic, is part of the explanation for the scarcity. Pandemic support payments were also suggested as a partial explanation by some of those surveyed for the report.
Supply chain disruption globally, caused by logistics difficulties, has also added to the problems of the food service sector.
On a more positive note, Irish consumers are keen to eat out
Combined with this has been rapidly increasing inflation for ingredients, which in turn has required increased menu prices and the prospect of more to come.
On a more positive note, Irish consumers are keen to eat out, with the report finding this the most missed social activity by 765 of people surveyed.
Bord Bia CEO Tara Mc Carthy noted that the sector was “incredibly resilient in the face of immense pressure and has successfully adapted to meet many of the challenges it has faced in the past 18 months.”