There is so much to bite into within the foodservice pie in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is a growing gastronomic hub with a strong focus on local palettes, as well as an openness to international flavours. Indonesian consumers contributed the highest foodservice sales in Southeast Asia of nearly USD38 billion in 2018. The highest per capita foodservice spend came from Singapore, with the average consumer spending just over USD1,000 a year.

Dining out is seen as valuable bonding time

While eating out was previously considered an activity mainly reserved for special occasions or celebrations, it is now looked at as an opportunity to spend quality time together. Eating out is not considered merely a transactional necessity and instead treated as an enjoyable experience.

As consumers in millennial-abundant Southeast Asia are becoming increasingly time-strapped, eating out of the home is seen as a means to unwind, relax and bond over quality meals with special ones. In the Philippines, there is an inherent family-orientated culture that permeates the dining out aspect. Malaysians are a step ahead in that they enjoy the experience of hunting for food deals together as part of the shopping and dining experience.

Globalisation opens Southeast Asian markets to international flavours

With rising disposable incomes and consumers in Southeast Asia becoming more sophisticated, outbound travel has increased. Exposure to foreign culture and flavours led consumers to expect to see more foreign cuisines in their own countries. To meet this demand, more international food players have been entering foreign markets.

Thai consumers, for instance, crave authentic foreign foods such as Japanese, Indian and Korean cuisine. Not only do international brands like Hard Rock Café and Sake Sushi meet the local demand, they also cater to the influx of tourists, serving as familiar, comfort food to them. Another growing trend on the back of globalisation throughout Southeast Asia is the popularisation of contemporary fusion cuisines. In Malaysia, cuisines like Viet Thai, Malaysian Western and Mexican Indian are scaling in popularity.

Third-party delivery services surge in the foodservice space

Delivery is the fastest growing opportunity in the foodservice realm in Southeast Asia. With the phenomenal growth of technology in these markets acting as an enabler of delivery services, third-party players are rising to the occasion rapidly and offering consumers a convenient option for meal solutions. More importantly, numerous small chains or independent players previously unheard of are now jumping onto third-party delivery platforms to strengthen their visibility.

From the consumer point of view, the increasing accessibility, availability and variety of food provided by these third-party delivery services serve as a solution to time-pressed consumers and frustrating traffic situations in cities like Jakarta and Bangkok.

Grab Food has a dominant presence throughout Southeast Asia amidst the likes of Foodpanda, Deliveroo and Go Food. Apart from the convenience factor, consumers are more enticed by the numerous promotions and discounts provided by these players. These apps were originally meant to encourage the use of cashless payments in countries like Singapore and Indonesia but have now turned into food discovery platforms with attractive deals.

The consumer foodservice industry has great potential in Southeast Asia with eating out becoming an integral part of bonding time. While consumers are exploring their own local food more, they are also actively seeking global cuisines. Foodservice delivery is growing faster than ever as consumers seek convenience and great food deals.