A newly released report by Allegra Strategies predicts that the UK informal eating-out market will expand by 1 percent to £40.5bn by the end of the year. In the medium term, it predicted that the market would grow to £49bn in the next five years.
Based on interviews with 2,000 consumers and about 200 industry executives, the annual Eating Out Report covers informal restaurants, pubs, fast-casual eateries, takeaway outlets as well as coffee and sandwich chains.
Key trends impacting the market include "recession legacies" such as: lower visit frequency; continued "trading down" to lower-priced venues; and a high reliance on previous experiences when deciding what venue to visit.
The report also said that customer service was 'business critical', with 78 percent of consumers saying it was as important as the quality of the food.
Lunch remains the most popular eating-out occasion with 27 percent of consumers having at least one lunch meal out of the home per week, compared to 18 percent for dinner and 8 percent for breakfast.
Healthier eating and local sourcing would be the greatest driver of menu development over the next three years, showed the report, with 51 percent of consumers claiming that healthier eating played a part in their overall approach to eating out and half of consumers saying that local sourcing was the most important sustainability initiative for foodservice operators to engage in.
One of the most obvious hurdles to growth in the eating-out market was the vat rise to 20 percent in January 2011, said Allegra, which would serve to widen the gap between eating in and going out.
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