Brits have splashed out an extra £280m on food and drink at airports, motorway services, train stations and forecourts over the past year, according to the latest figures from The NPD Group.

This takes the value of the travel hub foodservice market from £2.47bn to £2.75bn, an increase of 11%, for the year ending June 2019. Visits are also up from 576m to 619m (+7%).

Airports are a key driver of growth, with foodservice visits up 31% over the past three years, followed by motorway service stations, which are up 16%. This, notes the global information company, is in contrast to the fortunes of foodservice operators on Britain’s high streets and shopping centres, which have recorded eight million fewer visit (-0.2%).

Families and young adults are driving growth in travel hub foodservice, especially in the 16 to 24-year-old age group, which registered a 20% increase to the year ending June 2019, while visits by families with kids up to 15 years of age were up 13%.

“A dynamic part of Britain’s £57bn eat-out foodservice market, travel hubs are seeing attractive growth and we predict more success. This is in stark contrast to the British high street, where the performance in terms of visits is flat,” said Guy Fielding, business development director (foodservice), The NPD Group.

“These travel hubs are doing well, not just because more people are travelling but also because the quality of food and beverages, as well as the experience, has improved. Times have changed. Yes, there are still locations and outlets that clearly need to do better, but travelling consumers these days are getting much more than they have ever done before in terms of service, variety and quality.”

Explosive growth on the horizon

Travel hubs are becoming increasingly attractive propositions to bakery operators. Greggs, for example, has opened several sites at London train stations and has more travel hub locations in the pipeline as it looks to move away from the high street.

French bakery brand and patisserie Paul has also entered the arena with an Express offering at St Pancras, opposite the Eurostar departure gates, and a site adjacent to Warren Street tube station.

The NPD Group predicts further growth for the travel hub foodservice market, likening it to the explosive growth seen in the delivery channel. Value could increase by as much as 25% by 2022, hitting £3.44bn.

Getting the offer right at airports, train stations and so on will be a contributing factor to this. Consumers are 30% more likely to try ‘something different/new’ and 20% more likely to satisfy a ‘special taste or craving’, noted The NPD Group.

Notably, the number of deals and promotions in travel hub outlets is 64% higher than for the eat-out industry as a whole, and snacking accounts for most of what is consumed when travelling, followed by lunch. Breakfast is a bigger occasion in travel hub locations too, accounting for around one in five visits, in contrast to one in eight visits seen in the wider foodservice industry.