By Angela Frewin
Dining out has overtaken shopping for pleasure as the most popular leisure activity outside the home, claims a new study by market researcher Mintel.
The number eating out for at least one hour a week has climbed by 22 percentage points, from 16% in 1988 to 38% in 1997. Consumers spent £13.6b on restaurant and pub food last year, says the report.
Driving the growth has been the expansion of restaurant chains and the creation of "a credible catering offer" in pubs, which now claim 53% of eating-out revenue.
The most enthusiastic diners-out continue to be 25- to 34-year-olds, with 48% of this sector eating out at least once a week in 1997. While Mintel warns that numbers in this age group will shrink by the year 2000, the good news is that the numbers of people aged 45 to 54 will grow - and they are the core customers at the more expensive end of the market.
Fast-food outlets are also forecast to do well in 2000, when the numbers of 15- to 24-year-olds will have staged a comeback.
While higher-earning white-collar groups (ABC1s) still top the dining-out table, there has also been some increase among lower-earning groups (C2DEs), particularly blue-collar workers (Ds), of whom 28% ate out each week in 1997 compared with just 19% in 1990. Mintel attributes this surge at the lower end to fierce competition leading to the introduction of value meals and daily set menus for under £10.
- Leisure Trends is available for £225 from Mintel on 0171-606 6000.