A new report from Bord Bia reveals that the numbers of people dining out has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, with lunch and early bird dinners replacing late night eating.

It also notes a return in the numbers eating out for breakfast.

Bord Bia's 2022 Irish Foodservice Market Insights Report shows the Irish foodservice, or "out of home", industry saw significant growth of 61% in value to reach over €8.2 billion this year.

It said this represents an almost full recovery to pre-pandemic levels, but it is set against a forecast for modest growth of 11.6% in 2023, due to cost inflation.

Today's report shows that 76% of consumers here said they are enjoying the social aspect of dining out now that Covid-19 public health restrictions have been fully lifted.

But 77% of consumers are concerned about their finances and many are changing their out-of-home consumption to reduce costs.

Maureen Gahan, Foodservice Specialist at Bord Bia, said that for many companies, the boom seen in 2022 has been a welcome return to growth.

But she said most companies acknowledge that projections for next year are perhaps just as challenging as they were at the height of the pandemic.

"Significant economic headwinds remain in place, including higher inflation, rising interest rates, global uncertainty and rising energy prices, all of which are likely to create consumer pull back and add to existing industry challenges," Ms Gahan said.

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She said that today's report identifies a number of trends and key imperatives for Irish food and beverage suppliers to familiarise themselves with in order to ensure that their own businesses remain relevant to industry needs moving into next year.

"There is no doubt that suppliers can play an important role in helping operators to navigate ongoing challenges facing the sector and we would encourage them to work collaboratively in helping to identify future solutions," she said.

"This could include creating labour-saving products, providing transparency around environmental and sustainability messages and enhancing communications around supply chain issues," she suggested.

"The industry is also looking for suppliers to come to them with innovative menu offerings that can create consumer excitement and drive repeat visits," she added.