Irish consumers’ expectations in terms of quality and diversity of foodservice options on offer are higher than ever. The unprecedented popularity of food delivery apps, combined with recent advancements in technology, have led to more consumers opting for a night in over a night out. This reinforces the need for Irish foodservice operators to offer a unique dining experience, something consumers would not be able to do at home. Since almost half of consumers in the Republic of Ireland (RoI) and over two in five Northern Ireland (NI) say that it’s worth paying for food specially made in front of them, operators could look to create some kind of spectacle around food preparation.

Social media is increasingly influencing menu options. For example, Belfast-based restaurant Town Square introduced a separate menu in April 2017 in addition to its standard all-day menu, in order to cater for consumers looking to try something new. Part of the new menu includes the option for diners to order a mini campfire to their table where they can toast marshmallows. It’s understood this idea was influenced by a picture that was sent via social media platform, Snapchat, showing S’mores served in a London café. In 2016, Town Square also opened a new gin bar which served a variety of gin types including Shortcross, Copeland and Jawbox that are produced in NI. Tickets to the weekly Gin Club can be purchased through social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram.

Foodservice operators would do well to keep up with social media sites, particularly Instagram and Pinterest, where sharing of food and drink photos is more prevalent. Instagram and Pinterest are among the top media networks used by Irish consumers, but Snapchat is also gaining traction, with one in four Irish consumers using it regularly, according to Mintel’s Social Networking Ireland 2017 Report.

This reinforces social media as a powerful tool for enabling foodservice operators to really promote their menus. Innovative creations such as the mini campfire that Town Square is offering or creating aesthetically pleasing meals will increase likes and shares online and improve visibility on social media channels such as Instagram. One example of a company that really invested in this approach was American restaurant chain Chili’s which spent $750,000 on coating its burger buns with egg glaze so that they shined in photographs.

With Mintel’s Menu and Ingredient Insights Ireland 2017 Report showing that four in 10 consumers in both NI and RoI like to take photos of their food for social media (eg Instagram), this highlights scope for Irish foodservice operators to follow suit and invest in both the presentation of their meals and their social media posts.

Aisling Kearney is a Research Analyst with a MSc (Hons) in Sustainable Development. Upon joining Mintel in 2015 Aisling has been involved in the production of market intelligence reports covering a range of sectors including food and drink, lifestyles and retail.

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