As the London Olympic Games prepare to open, new research finds the UK’s restaurant scene surprisingly healthy. The latest QuickBite survey conducted for London-based researcher Horizons by YouGov finds the British are dining out more with the highest frequency since December 2010.
The average British adult dined away from home 2.77 times on average during the previous to weeks, compared with a 2.02 average in the July 2011 survey.
What make that upswing surprising are the economic woes that are dampening dining-out behavior in several Continental Europe countries. During this week’s McDonald’s Corp. analyst conference call, CFO Peter Bensen noted that the chain’s UK sales remain strong but said economic challenges are beginning to take a toll in several markets.
“It is really starting to constrain consumer behavior,” Bensen said. “[In] several of the markets there, the Eating Out market is just simply declining. People are staying at home, they aren’t going out, and the magnitude of the issues in Europe is having ripple effects around the world. And, most significantly, it is impacting the consumer’s behavior, whether that means they are saving more or they’re just going out less. All in all it means more flattish to declining eating out generally around the world.”
While frequency is up, restaurant spending has significantly declined, Horizons reports. The average per-person spend at restaurants and pubs was £15.46 in June (roughly US$23.97) down from £17.00 in January. The average check at quick-service outlets was down as well, dropping to £7.29 (US$11.30) from £9.60.
“The fact average spend has fallen is evidence of continued cost cutting—forgoing a course, ordering a glass of wine instead of a bottle, or opting for a sharing dish,” notes Paul Backman, Horizons director of services. “The amount of discounting in the sector has also driven down average spend. Pub restaurants, and the large chains in particular, have also been very successful in reducing their prices to improve footfall. Average spend in pub restaurants has fallen from £15.80 in January 2012 to £13.28 [US$20.59] in June 2012.”
The most popular destination for Brits continues to be the local pub, the dining-out choice for 19% of adults. That is followed by takeaway/delivery spots (17%), restaurants featuring Italian (9%) or other Continental cuisine (9%).
As research finds to also be true of American consumers, British diners rank food quality as the most important determinant (78%) when choosing a destination. Price ranks second (72%). Convenience (29%) and meeting friends (26%) were the most often cited reasons for dining away from home.