Casual Dining Market In Europe: What To Expect In 2020

January 15, 2020

Good food and friendly service will always be the cornerstone in the foodservice industry, but it’s just not enough anymore. Ask any restaurateur and they’ll tell you the same thing. The industry is changing – and changing fast. Europe has already demonstrated high potential for casual dining as consumers across the region are as fast-paced as those in the US and are seeking out entirely new dining experiences. In this regard, the European casual dining market is expected to be driven by factors such as changes in dining patterns, effortless ordering, the flexibility of fast-casual dining, cultural influence, and the evolution of digital technology.

The areas of change:

1) Balancing to be sustainable. Customers want healthier and more eco-friendly options.

2020 is the year of balance. Consumers are breaking habits, experimenting with new lifestyles and trying new food options in an attempt to live more happily, responsibly and sustainably. From restaurants offering paper straws and the ban on single-use plastics to more sustainable farming, sourcing, and preparation.

For consumers in 2020, being sustainable requires:

  • A balanced diet.

Due to the onslaught of fad diets, you’ll now see restaurants having to cater to more varied diets. This includes gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, and keto options. For example, vegan orders have increased by 330% over the past two years. Data shows that a significantly larger group of customers are more frequently opting-in for a part-time vegan diet, with around half of their food consumption being meat and the other half is plant-based.

More dairy alternatives are also required. If you walk into any Starbucks or other major coffee shop chain in Europe nowadays, you’ll likely find that they offer, at the very least, almond and soy milk. However, one of the biggest food trends in 2020 to follow is the rise in even more dairy alternatives. In addition to soy and almond milk, you can expect to see more coconut, rice, hemp, and oat milk.

  • A balanced health.

The demand for healthier and more environmentally conscious eating continues to have a great impact on restaurants. Consumers aren’t avoiding burgers and pizzas, but they are enjoying more salads or plant-based alternatives. Customers today not only want fresh and healthy food – they likewise want to know its background story.

It is also worth mentioning that consumers are becoming more consistent with ‘healthy body equals healthy mind’ mindset. For many years, we’ve been dabbling with diets in a bid to be healthier and lose a few pounds, but the rise in alcohol-free drinks is largely down to our mindset, rather than weight loss.

  • A balance in finance.

The main idea is to spend money wisely, so that there is no need to spendthrift on payday and then burn holes in the pockets for the rest of the month.

2) The number of meals per day has changed.

Traditionally the European casual dining market was segmented by dayparts into lunch, dinner, breakfast, and snacks. The lunch segment has been gradually growing, thanks to office workers. While the dinner segment is the second most developed segment of the European casual dining market. It is a witness to high popularity among customers, especially the family segment.

However, let’s not forget that the standard for having three meals per day has already set sail. Customers are breaking the custom more than ever before – eating at up to six different meal times. Customers are also ordering more mid-sized portions and snacks to keep fueled throughout the day. For example, in the winter months, snacking increases by 74%.

3) What about cross-cultural & hyper-regional cuisine?

Consumers seem to have tried everything “normal” that is out there. This means that, in order to appease boredom with traditional dishes, more restaurants are beginning to offer cross-cultural fusions. It is expected to see lots of unique fusion cuisine in 2020. This includes everything from Mexican and Southeast Asian fusion all the way to French-Scandinavian and even Chinese-Peruvian. Along with fusion cuisine, you can also expect restaurants and chefs to try and spice up consumer boredom by offering hyper-regional cuisine.

Kids menu will also become more sophisticated. Forget about chicken nuggets and mini pizzas. In 2020, kids will see a complete menu makeover with more choices and range. It’s no secret that nowadays consumers are more exposed to multi-cultural cuisine and just different cultures in general. This means that parents are more interested in exposing their kids to different kinds of food and diets from a much younger age.

4) Convenience continues to drive purchasing decisions.

Today’s consumers are time-strapped, tech-savvy and value-conscious. They are accustomed to using technology to simplify their lives and they want their dining solutions to be just as fast, flexible and convenient as the rest of their purchasing decisions. And while convenience is something that has traditionally been associated with fast food, the increasing popularity of KateTablet devices makes it clear that this is a revolutionary trend no restaurant can afford to ignore.

5) The restaurant industry must adapt to millennials and gen Z.

Millennials and Generation Z, that is, people currently under 35 years old, will represent six out of ten people on the planet in 2020. Understanding who they are and how they differ from previous generations is absolutely essential to any restaurant that wants to survive in the coming decades.

The younger generations are hyperconnected and see technology not just as a means to simplify their lives, but as an integral part of their existence. Not only will they use technology to find a restaurant online, but they will also expect to be able to place their order via an app or POS system, arrange delivery through a third-party provider, and pay using their phone. The restaurant they choose will also have a strong social media presence, and they will likely contribute to that presence by rating or uploading pictures and descriptions of their own dining experiences.

6) Opt for unique, personalized experiences and innovative food.

In a world largely dominated by digital screens, foodservice is one of the few industries left that can offer unique and memorable real-world experiences. And that is exactly what today’s consumers are looking for in their restaurants. Outstanding staff, innovative food and concepts, DIY options, and a balance between personalized service and technology, will be the factors that make or break restaurants in the future.

Restaurants today are much more than a place where people eat. Enter the age of “restaurantainment” – restaurants with entertainment venues and concepts that promote a certain theme or lifestyle. A restaurant with KateTablet devices that provide great entertainment experience including unlimited access to the best mobile games, a nightclub that is only open during the day, and a secret-agent-themed restaurant, where you need to know a password to get in, are all examples of ways foodservice operators are catering to consumer demands for unique and customized experiences today.

7) Innovation in digital services will continue to grow.

Although restaurants have been historically slow to adopt technologies, the consumers have become largely accustomed to them — to a point where it is even expected that the restaurant will provide them with the luxury convenience that they have gotten used to by now.

The arrival of digital technology is changing the food industry significantly. It helps to customize orders, gather the customer’s data, and create lucrative rewards and discounts. Prominent vendors have integrated applications that allow customers to make self-order and self-payment via debit and credit cards, Apple Pay, or PayPal. Digital advancements are also bolstering the franchise development model. It helps to improve communication by enabling franchisors to monitor everything in real-time.

Although 3D-printed food, augmented reality menus and artificially intelligent equipment are still years away from being introduced to restaurants, technology is here to stay, and the potential and benefits that it offers should no longer be ignored. The role of human workers in the restaurant experience will go through a radical transformation over the next 20 years as robotics and automation technology begin to see widespread use. But that doesn’t mean that staff will become obsolete. Instead, digital innovation will allow restaurants to focus more on design, menu planning and – above all – outstanding service. The operators that can use technology to cut margins while enhancing the customer experience will be the ones that thrive in the increasingly competitive food service industry of the future.


Although the biggest change, that the restaurants adopted from the Third Industrial Revolution was the Point of Sale System, the one we’re living in now is going to impact every functional area of foodservice and will change what we eat, where we eat, how we order our food, how we pay for it, and even more.

Food trends, new ingredients, and ever changing customer dietary wants and needs are reshaping the way restaurants, bars, and even companies will have to operate in the coming years. That’s a pretty important fact, regardless whether you find yourself on the consumer’s or the producer’s side. But, more importantly – no matter what kind of steel-hearted robot we introduce or build, human traits, such as gratitude, generosity, graciousness will continue to be the pillar of the dining industry. That being said, Kate Tablet was born and designed specifically for the following purposes: to serve, enable, nourish, encourage, and enrich others selflessly.

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