26 May 2024, 10:00 AM
  • Movie and pizza nights, grazing party platters and wine and crisp pairing – consumers are having more fun than ever before...eating at home
What is the Big Night In trend?

The Covid pandemic had a huge impact not only on the way we view health in the UK, but our attitudes to dining as well. Takeaways and prepped meal pick-ups became the norm. We invested in cocktail bars, barbecues and pizza ovens to entertain ourselves at home. And treat boxes and meal and food gift experiences became a thrilling part of our lives. Essentially, we used food and drink to make ourselves feel good, in spite of what was going on in the wider world around us.

And we haven’t stopped. Consumers have continued to invest in ‘treat moments’ for themselves at home during the cost-of-living crisis, reserving nights out for celebrations. So, what are the trends driving the ‘big night in’?

Ready to drink cocktails

The impact of Covid lockdowns on the RTD market is undeniable. Look up and down any supermarket spirits aisle today, and you’ll find the category has boomed, with an ever-increasing range taking up valuable space. In 2020 RTD cocktails and mixed drink sales grew by 75%, and according to Grand View Research, the market size is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16.2% by 2030.

Consumers, the analyst says, are increasingly looking for lower calorie options in this space, and for cocktails made with real ingredients.

They’re all about “escapism”, says drinks guru Pritesh Mody of World of Zing. “They’re seen as holiday cocktails you’d enjoy on a beach. Cocktails are about indulgence.”

London Cocktail Week 2024 identified trends for this year as martini with a twist (think yuzu and chamomile infusions), the Hugo (prosecco, elderflower, lime and soda), orchard fruit flavours, Asian influences (using sake and umeshu), and tropical hints of banana and pineapple.

Cocktail making ingredients

Hands up if you bought a cocktail cabinet or built a bar in your garden during lockdown. Lots of people did, finding fun and joy in a bit of at-home mixology. Sales of cocktails for home consumption have risen 44% year-on-year, and consumers are more invested than ever before in recreating the bar experience in their own kitchens. Ensure you’re prepared to meet their desires by stocking all the classics, from vodka and gin, to dark and white rum, vermouth and tequila, alongside key ingredients such as bitters, sodas, grenadine, sugar syrup…even foaming drops and dried garnishes, for the ‘wow’ factor. Go all-out this summer, perhaps, with a dedicated cocktail-making section in store, include ice trays and moulds, mixology equipment, recipe cards and tasting days with spirits brands.

Crisp and wine pairing

TikTok food fads can be, let’s face it, truly awful. But something that’s not going anywhere is wine and crisp pairing, which dominated the social media platform in 2023, leading to respected wine schools and wine bars turning the dial up on the ‘high-low’ trend.

Laura Kent, founder of Yorkshire Wine School says the pairing is has huge appeal because it’s so tantalising, while co-founder of Vino Gusto wine shop, Jake Bennett-Day, says, “Are crisps delicious? Tick. Is wine delicious? Double tick!”

Jakes adds that what makes crisps and wine matching such a pleasure is that “you really don’t need to overthink it and get pretentious about it. Crisps are salty and often fatty – they make you reach for a drink which should, in turn, make you want to go back for another bite.”

Jake’s ultimate pairing is Torres Black Truffle Crisps with a glass of Blanc de Blancs Champagne, while Laura reaches for Thai sweet chilli crisps and off-dry Riesling.

Why not do some tastings with your staff and position crisp and wine matches together in store, or on promotion together – the device could work especially well on a Friday when many consumers want to kick their feet up with a glass of something delicious and a few nibbles.


We’ve already thrown a spotlight on the Mexican food trend, but can’t stress enough how this trend is taking off in the UK. Make sure you’re well stocked with everything your customers need for taco and burrito nights in with friends and family – from really good tortilla chips and dips, to proper corn flour tortillas, and an interesting range of sauces and accompaniments. If you have a fresh counter, now’s the time to experiment with guacamole and fresh salsas. Maybe host some tequila tastings too!


Charcoal BBQ sales have exploded in recent years, and there’s been a noticeable shift in the way we’re grilling in the UK say chefs and butchers. American BBQ culture, particularly, is catching up with our penchant for sausages and burgers. “People are cooking with larger cuts like a traditional American smokehouse would do,” says Alistair Angus, owner of Thurston Butchers, who says customers want “Big statement pieces. Rather than going into a butcher just to get a few sausages, people will do a whole brisket, slow smoked, and carved into bits like a sharing platter.” Stay ahead of the trend by offering pre-orders of American-style cuts such as brisket, short ribs and tomahawks, as well as some options in the counter. It’s worth investing in a premium range of rubs, marinades and sauces with an American (or Asian) slant too, according to insiders. 


Home pizza ovens are huge in the UK. Scottish brand Ooni, which makes portable ovens, saw a massive 264% increase in revenue in 2022, and has boosted its staffing by 500% to cope with demand.

Those who’ve invested in Oonis or bigger, Italian-style ovens, are taking their pizza crafting seriously, and are keen to make every pie as authentic as possible. Help them on their way by collating a pizza-making section this summer, bringing together everything they need, from San Marzano tomatoes, to Italian flour, antipasti, and even sustainable kindling, wood and briquettes. Don’t forget to offer buffalo mozzarella and fior di latte cheese, and excellent quality salamis and pepperoni too.

Craft beer

There is huge demand in the UK for craft beer, with Ed Barnes (a beer enthusiast and owner of Hopsters beer shops), saying he doesn’t see that passion going anywhere anytime soon. Unlike the States where “people will just go and grab a six pack of what they like”, Ed says British consumers want to try something different every time they’re in store, so regularly switching up your offering is vital. 

The current ‘big hit’ in craft beer, Ed says, is sours, which he says are rapidly taking the place of cider in popularity. “They are a force to be reckoned with, and Vault City are really leading the way. They make the most deliciously fruity beers, and I don’t think this style is going anywhere.” There’s something for all price points, Ed adds, and for all palates, from the funky, traditional Belgian sours, to modern day brews. “The word sour might turn some people off, but ask them if they like Haribo Tangfastics. If they do, in all likelihood they will like sour beer too. It’s that sweet, lip-pucking flavour.” Sour craft beer, Ed says, pairs especially well with cheese, making it the deli or cheese shop owner’s best friend.

Grazing platters

The grazing and charcuterie board trend just won’t quit, but it plays right into the hands of speciality food store owners and managers. Consumers entertaining at home want to make a big impression on their guests, so dedicate some time to staff training on the topic, maybe coming up with your own curated lists of suggestions to bring together between the cheese and charcuterie counter, and cracker and preserve aisles. Or take the guesswork out for shoppers by curating your own pre-priced grazing hampers or boxes for them to order, pick up and enjoy. Offering something a little bit different is key here. Perhaps fruit cheeses (fig and Port is a winner), candied nuts, or truffled honey, to help elevate their experience.

Ready meals


We all lead busy lives. And having the hard work taken out of cooking (especially for dinner parties and get-togethers) can alleviate a lot of stress…and, crucially, minimise the amount of clearing up to do afterwards.

There has been steady increase in sales of ready meals and prepared food in the UK, but with one key factor – quality. Greater understanding of ingredients decks and ultra processed foods has made consumers wary of what they’re buying when it comes to this sector. Industry has responded in kind, with several new, modern brands, leading the way, delivering dishes and products made only with natural ingredients, just the way customers would make them at home.

Earlier this year Fieldfare partnered with YouGov to look into modern dining habits, finding that “people want to treat themselves with tasty dishes at home, and that’s about the occasion, the pleasure of enjoying great-tasting food together and, for many, about relaxing at home rather than always just cost saving, says Matt Whelan.

Fieldfare’s products “lend themselves perfectly to creating a restaurant-like meal at home,” Matt adds. “Not only do we always deliver on taste, but because our products are sold loose or in Indvidual portions, everyone can choose what they would like, just like in a restaurant.”

Tricky-to-make desserts are real winners for the business, including its award-winning Chocolate Fondant, individual Summer Puddings, Vanilla Panna Cotta, and French Apple Tarts. And nibbles and light bites, perhaps to precede a homemade main course, are a hit too, such as Fieldfare’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bites, Sweetcorn Chilli Fritters, or Crispy Calamari.

Ready meals are not just for the depths of winter, adds Erin Dust of Supper Club, which has become so successful it launched 13 new lines at the end of 2023, across categories of British, Italian and Asian. Its bestsellers are beef stew with dumplings, tarragon chicken, and lasagne, and Erin says the meals are especially popular in stores located in popular tourist destinations, giving visitors quick, easy and affordable meal options they can trust, without the expense of eating out.

The brand’s offering really does have year-round appeal, Erin says. “You think of ready meals as cold weather products, but we’ve launched dishes great for al fresco dining. Two risottos, meatballs al forno, and black truffle chicken pasta.”

Erin says customers are also trading up their takeaways for premium ready meals, which they can stow away in the freezer for nights when they don’t want to, or can’t cook.

Treat boxes

Brownies, flapjacks, cinnamon buns. Treat boxes have been flying out of bakeries and into front rooms across the UK since the lockdowns, and there’s still a huge appetite for them – from afternoon tea boxes, to next-day brownie deliveries. Charlotte Giddings of Brownie and the Bean, says, “We’ve seen a huge spike in people buying our brownies for nights in. They’re making their own platters by using our mixed brownie box (which contains six flavours), cutting each one into four bite-sized pieces, and adding other favourites like strawberries, pretzels and nuts.”

Make the trend work for you by taking orders for treat boxes for collection in store. They have huge visual appeal. Preparing a box filled with cakes, preserves, fresh fruit, cream and sweet nibbles, to display on your counter at the weekend, is a nice way to inspire customers.

Meal kits

Left hanging when their restaurants closed in lockdown, many chefs branched out to offer delivered meal kits. Everything diners need to recreate the restaurant experience at their own dining table. Dedicated ordering platforms, such as Dishpatch, blossomed, giving consumers the chance to try everything from proper butter chicken and dim sum, to elaborate pies, or intricate ‘cheffy’ plates.

If you have an onsite cafe or restaurant and capacity for growth, offering ‘finish at home’ meal kit options could help you to move fresh produce, such as fruit and vegetables, cheese and meat, in a more inspirational way. 

Consumer tastes currently seem to be veered towards the traditional (from pies to stews and lasagnes), or Asian food.

James Chant, founder of Matsudai, which launched at-home ramen meal kits at the peak of Covid, says his business (which runs alongside his restaurant) has flourished. ”We are busier than ever, with significant year-on-year growth, and are about to move into larger premises,” he says. “I believe this is beacuse we are offering a cuisine that people are interested in, and we’re able to get very high quality ramen to parts of the UK that wouldn’t have a phsyical ramen restaurant locally.”

Sam Ward, managing director of Simon Rogan restaurants and Home by Simon Rogan, says the business was fortunate in that it had enough resources to be able to continue providing its at-home service beyond the pandemic.

“In our case, we also incorporated this new side of the business into our overall business plan adding, in effect, another facet to what we do”, he says. “Home by Simon Rogan has developed over time, and now provides its customres with a seasonal monthly menu, which sits alongside a number of special occasions menus such as Mother’s Day, Christmas and New Year. We’ve taken a great deal of care in developing what we do. We provide easy to follow instructions with each menu, supported with a simple video demonstrating out to prepare and plate. All of this gives customers the opportunity to enjoy a little of the Simon Rogan dining experience from start to finish, and have a bit of fun in the process.”

Movie nights

Staying in and renting the latest release, hunkering down on your own sofa for the evening, has become the norm. And consumers are looking for snacks. Snacks that alight their taste buds, and bring a party to their palate. Rising stars in the category to consider include nachos, gourmet crisps, breadsticks and dips, and flavoured broad beans and corn ‘nuts’, as well as chocolate-dipped fruit and nuts, and artisan popcorn.

According to SNACMA, the UK bagged popcorn market is worth £144 million, and although there is innovation in flavour, almost all sales are accounted for by Sweet, Salty, Sweet and Salty, and Toffee varieties, so as well as having a few curveballs in your popcorn offering, it pays to get those classic flavours right, choosing the very best you can.