The lunch market has been the driver behind a surprise increase in the total amount of money UK consumers will spend on eating out in 2011. UK consumers are set to spend £42b on eating out this year, 2.8% more than 2010, according to industry analysts Allegra Strategies. In its Eating Out in the UK 2011report, Allegra attributed the rise to an increase in frequency of visits at the low- to mid-value end of the market, rather than higher spending per head on the same number of visits.
Anya Gascoine Marco, head of food and beverage insight at Allegra Strategies, commented that aside from sandwich chains and fast-food outlets, it was new fast-casual offerings including the likes of Leon and Chilango that allowed customers to sit down and eat within 15 to 30 minutes that were really driving the lunch market.
Meanwhile, the more expensive end of the market (at around £26-£30 per head) appeared to bring customers through the door. Gascoine Marco said Allegra had analysed 110 menus for different branded chains and found that the more expensive French-style brasseries had increased their prices the most. Somewhat unpredictably, though, the fine-dining end of the market – where prices are typically around £50 a head – is still faring well, according to the report. “There is a 5% like-for-like increase across the board in fine dining,” she said and has also predicted that 2012 would be a tougher year for eating out, with slightly more consumers indicating that they would cut their spend. But 2013 is expected to be better, with a predicted fall in inflation and rise in average earnings as the economy strengthens.
Highlights from the Allegra Strategies Eating out in the UK report
● One in nine meals are being consumed away from home in 2011, increasing from 2010 levels of one in 10
● Lunchtime visits are increasing, from 3.4 per month in 2010 to 4.1 per month in 2011
● Lunch is the most popular meal eaten out of home, with 34% of consumers having at least one lunch meal out per week. This compares with 23% for dinner and 15% for breakfast
● One in 2 adults regularly uses vouchers, compared with one in 3 in 2010
● Coffee shops have the highest visit frequencies, with 23% of customers making at least one meal purchase per week
● Previous experience continues to be the main driver of venue choice for consumers
● Health consciousness has become more important to consumers, as 92% state they have or would like to have a healthier lifestyle, compared with 88% in 2010
● Local and regional sourcing remains the most important ethical initiative for operators to engage in, according to 43% of consumers
● Over half of consumers stated that they prefer to eat out at establishments where ingredients are locally or regionally sourced.