Brighter future anticipated for hospitality, catering and retail sectors in 2012

Ahead of the IFEX 2012 exhibition, taking place from 24 to26 April at the Kings’ Hall Belfast, IFEX has teamed up with Ulster Grocer and Hospitality Review NI to survey the retail, hospitality and catering sectors on the current challenges they face, and the opportunities for improvement that lie within the sector.


With value for money more pertinent than ever, the survey uncovered that the other key trends driving the consumer decision-making process are, ‘early bird’ offers and daily online specials.

A total of 54 per cent of the almost 100 industry professionalssurveyed citied these options as the sales generating factors for the remainder of 2012, compared to a total of 25 per cent who claimed  that ‘at home dining’ would play a key factor within the industry.  This response indicates that the success catering and hospitality businesses can expect in 2012 is not entirely dependent on economic trends or dictated by consumer austerity.

“The increase in early bird/special offers and daily online specials over the last number of years would be an indication that people are continuing to be being led by price concerns,” says Louise Murphy, Editor of Ulster Grocer Magazine.  “However, consumers are increasingly more conscious about a product’s ‘local provenance’ and will seek out retailers and restaurants which provide local produce.  IFEX 2012 offers an effective forumfor those in the hospitality and catering sectors to get up to speed on the latest local producers and those who are emerging into the market, as well as source previously undiscovered products that they may not easily find otherwise.”

On a less encouraging note however, the survey discovered that 59 per cent of respondents feel that the Northern Ireland Assembly does not do enough for the local hospitality, catering and retail sectors.  58 per cent of respondentsalso indicated that a reduction in taxes overall, including corporation tax, a reduction in rates and the increased provision of rent breaks, are all changes that need to be implemented by local government in order to help local businesses within the sector, and allow the sectors to flourish once again.  20 per centindicated that some form of governmental funding for struggling businesses should also be made available.

As whole, however, optimism for growth across the sectors remains high for 2012. With hospitality and catering as one of DELNI’s focus areas this year, a total of 51 per cent of respondents answered that they do expect to see some sort of continued growth.  In addition to this, 77 per cent of all those surveyed from across all the sectors are indicating either that their profits will remain steady this year or, for some, they expect to see an increase in profitability.  This is further supported by the fact that 45 per cent of all respondents advised that they had experienced a considerably more profitable festive period in 2011 as opposed to 2010.

Finally, the survey asked respondents whether or not they felt that the people of Northern Ireland provided sufficient support to their own local hospitality, catering and retail sectors.  Almost half of all respondents said that ‘yes’ they did feel that the people of Northern Ireland provided sufficient support.This would be an indication that the emphasis placed on supporting the local Northern Ireland market, and the benefits of doing so are finally being understood.

Matt Benyon, Managing Director of easyFairs, which organises IFEX, comments: “It is encouraging to see a positive attitude being asserted by those who work in a sector that has traditionally been hit hard when consumers are tightening the purse-strings. Business continues to be out there for those who are continuing to innovative, embrace new approaches and most importantly listen to their market. IFEX will be able to offer insight into all of these areas, while also giving access to the vital new products coming onto the market – all of which will enable businesses to grow with the times and respond to customer demand.”

Louise Murphy concludes: “While positive work has been done in terms of addressing issues such as rent costs and the emphasis placed on the importance of sourcing, supplying, distributing and buying local produce, more still needs to be done.  We need to encourage people to support their local sectors, resulting in job security, aiding skills retention in Northern Ireland, and encouraging growth. It’s good to see a celebration of chef skills at IFEX, which can only contribute to the development of the market in Northern Ireland.”

The survey was carried out in advance of IFEX 2012, which takes place from 24-26 April in the King’s Hall, Belfast.  A key event in the hospitality and catering calendars, IFEX 2012 houses all of the right ingredients to help exhibitors and visitors generate new business.

This year, IFEX 2012 will deliver solutions for businesses through a range of learnShops seminars, featuring speakers from The Merchant Hotel, Deanes, Mintel, Mourne Seafood Bar, The Streat, Food Standards Agency, Vital Nutrition and many more.  There is also an exciting line up of exhibitors such as Henderson’s Foodservice, Pallas Food Service, LynasFoodsevice, Suki Tea, Broighter Gold, Kelsius and Stephen’s Catering Equipment who will be showcasing their latest products at the show. Further information on the full list of exhibitors can be found on

Opening hours of IFEX 2012

Tuesday, 24 April 2012, 10:00 – 18:00
Wednesday, 25 April 2012, 10:00 – 19:00
Thursday, 26 April 2012, 10:00 – 17:00