Pub sales are falling during weekdays but weekend visits are increasing. That's according to a new survey by market research firm NPD Group.
It found that weekday visits fell by 3.7% between 2011 and 2012, while weekend visits increased by 5.9% in the same period.
As a result there was an overall decrease in weekday sales of 3.9% and an overall increase in weekend sales of 6.1%. In 2012, weekend sales accounted for 39.3% of sales and 37.5% of visits.
Lunch has continued to decline, falling 3.9% annually since 2009. But despite that, pubs are becoming more popular as breakfast venues, with 23.4% more breakfast visits in 2012 as compared with 2011. The annual average increase in sales from pub breakfasts from end 2009 to end 2012 of more than 30%, according to NPD.
But the impact of breakfast is greater at some businesses than others. At pub giant JD Wetherspoon, it accounts for 14% of visits, whereas overall it made up 6.5% of pub visits in 2012. Lunch attracted 35.4% of visitors and dinner brought in 38.5%.
Dinner is still the major source of pub sales, accounting for more than 48% of sales in 2012. For 2012 vs 2011, lunch was the only other eating occasion to see an increase in sales, although this was a modest 0.7%. Sales from dinner were down -0.8% and from snacks -7.9%.
Guy Fielding, director of business development for the NPD Group, said: "The slight recovery at lunchtime seen in 2012 provides a glimmer of hope. Lunch is now in recovery across the quick service and food service retail sectors so there's a real opportunity to use the lunchtime occasion to build weekday business in pubs too. A streamlined weekday lunch offer enables pubs to cash in on this growing market - it's more about pies than pints.
"Publicans will know that dinner is the major revenue driver and will be looking at tactics to bring back weekday trade. For those who run branded pubs, the growing ABC1 traffic presents the perfect opportunity to drive growth in evening meals.
"Publicans generally would benefit from looking at their foodservice offering across breakfast, lunch and dinner. Another good target for weekday lunchtimes would be the 50-to-64 age group and the over 65s. Sales to these segments declined in 2012 vs 2011 and in the case of the 50-64 age group there was a sharp sales drop of -5.8% for the same period. Whatever route they decide on, the enduring popularity of deals and promotions makes for an excellent overlay on any initiatives they take for building weekday business. Publicans should strive for ‘meal value' rather than ‘value meals', which means promotions must drive loyalty and repeat purchases so they can build a base for their business."
According to these latest figures, when Britons do visit the pub, it's increasingly a family affair. Adult-only visits have posted consecutive year-on-year declines of -1.2% on average since 2009, a trend that was accelerated last year when the decline jumped to -2.7%. In contrast, parties with kids of all ages have enjoyed increases. The desire to eat as a family or spend time as a family is increasingly being cited as a primary motivation for visiting the pub. Visits for this reason accounted for 14.2% of all visits in 2012, up 2.3% on 2011.