Casual Dining

  • We look at the major trends relevant to the Casual Dining market.


Understanding how to stay relevant is the key to success within the Casual Dining sector. The last year has seen times of uncertainty, but amongst this some brands continue to flourish, strengthen and re-focus. Success stories prevail and consumer expenditure continues to increase.

In our latest LSMInsights, we look at the major trends relevant to the Casual Dining market.

Spending in pubs and restaurants saw a double digit increase of 12.2% and 12.6% respectively in 2017. **

The number of consumers choosing to eat-out in 2018, will grow substantially by 83m visits. *

1. Know and communicate your brand – embrace innovation

Knowing your brand proposition is essential for both start-ups and established brands. The proposition needs to be quick and easy to understand in a competitive world.

Your brand core values need to transcend throughout the food and drink offer, through consumer engagement, into the retail space and potentially beyond into lifestyle.

The whole team need to be fully on board as brand ambassadors offering unprecedented customer service, leaving the consumer with a memorable experience – maximising word of mouth and social share opportunities.

39 Steps Coffee, London, designed by DesignLSM

In Practice

Pret a Manger:
A brand we admire is Pret, their success relies on the pride its staff have in their work, a culture fostered from within.

The brand personality is underpinned by its core values – a passion for food, a passion for people and a commitment to doing the right thing within the communities in which it operates.

Seen through the introduction of schemes such as discounts for reusable cups, free in-house water stations, Veggie Pret and the introduction of a payment app that streamlines the payment process whilst also facilitating customisable menus based on personal dietary requirements – providing a direct connection and intimate insight into their customers and their preferences.

2. Beyond the Plate

Food enjoyment and entertainment is entering an exciting new era, as destination experiences and product innovations cater to rising consumer expectations. Brands are bringing together lifestyle, retail and dining to create an immersive experience that engages consumers for longer.

It is important to consider that the enjoyment we obtain from eating is not just conveyed through our taste buds; all senses are integral alongside our food memories and perceptions.



Anticipation of the taste, visual stimuli to its preparation and its delivery all greatly affects our taste perception and enjoyment.

Visually considered interiors and Instagram-able moments remain crucial. With food and drink trends increasingly shaped by social media, everything from food to interiors to menu design must be visually and physically engaging and shareable.

“The first taste is with the eyes.”


3. Breaking from convention

Traditional meal times and meal formats are rapidly altering to fit into busy, sociable lifestyles. Communal and flexible dining sees the rise in sharing menus and tables, or more eclectic seating that can easily be moulded to the moment.

With no clear trading pattern; day to evening transition becomes integral to ensure that atmosphere is curated and that a venue holds a strong appeal to the differing social and emotional desires of consumers throughout the day.

Menus continue to diversify alongside meal formats and focus continues to be placed on provenance, ingredients and cooking processes. Veganism has seen a 360% rise in the past decade, mainly among 15-34yr olds.

Whilst healthy eating is still prevalent the mood is shifting to intuitive wellness and knowledge – understanding food and the connection that this has with lifestyle choices and emotional wellbeing. This can range from comfort food to meals that enhance and enrich fitness levels and brain power.

International Food Hall, designed by DesignLSM

4. Flexible Formats

As the market evolves and costs continue to be a key consideration, flexibility of space and design become important factors, non- traditional routes to market should be considered. 

Food Halls
The emergence of Food Halls and Foodie Markets is a trend that continues to grow. Between 2015 and 2020, the number of operating major food halls will triple to 300 nationwide. This format provides operators with a ready made environment and audience to launch or trial their concepts to.

avobar, London, designed by DesignLSM

Pop-ups allow retailers a relatively cost effective opportunity to build luminary status through ‘experience’; whilst providing a flexible and mobile method to increase brand awareness and brand affiliations with lifestyle choices by appearing at certain venues or cultural events.

Strong visually designed stands and branding lend themselves to Insta-fame whilst giving customers a taste of what’s to come.

London’s forthcoming avocado restaurant ‘Avobar‘, designed by DesignLSM and due to open this autumn, has created a loyal following through a pop up in Covent Garden which uses interior concepts from the main restaurant.

These formats provide significant opportunity for a wide range of brands – new and existing – to trail new concepts, menu formats, gain customer feedback and garner loyalty without requiring or risking large capital investment in units or causing brand confusion for existing concepts.

The learnings from such ventures can then be carefully applied and evolved into wider store formats or brought back into existing concepts for roll-out.

Success stories from pop up / street food kiosk to restaurant including Pitt Cue, Meat Liquor and Kricket; whilst Wahaca successfully tests and trails new menus at their ‘test kitchen’ in Shoreditch.


Talk to us 

To discuss exciting ways to reposition your brand or to launch your new F&B concept  please contact us or view our full hospitality service offering

Sources: **NPD group, *Barclaycard**Technomic’s Generational Consumer Trend report

Image Credit: Pret a Manger, Platform 1094, Museum of Ice Cream NYC via George Etheridge, SweetgreenMarket Hall Berlin via Hello Jetjag, Avobar, Kricket, Wahaca Test Kitchen by DesignstudioPitt Cue