British consumers ate nearly 100 million fewer meals in pubs, hotels, cafés and restaurants last year than in 2005, as rising bills reduced disposable income, according to new research.
In the first Pork in Foodservice market report by the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) for the British Pig Executive, the sector was found to have had a tough 2006.
Although British adults consumed more than two billion pub and restaurant meals last year, with more than half eating out at least once a week, actual meals served fell from 2.34 billion in 2005 to 2.24 billion in 2006.
Tony Goodger, trade sector manager for food service at the MLC, said: "Consumers had to contend with utility price rises and interest rate increases, which meant many had less to spend on going out."
However, the value of meals served by the sector increased 1.7% year-on-year to £22.38b as operators hiked menu prices.
The report also found that quick-service restaurants (QSR), such as take-aways, fish and chip shops and burger bars continued to decline in popularity, with the number of meals served down 6.6% to 1.09 billion last year. Sandwich bars, however, saw volumes increase by a quarter to 32.2 million.
In the non-QSR sector, pub restaurants continued to dominate, accounting for more than one-third of meals sold (2006: 401 million) and providing the most innovative menus. Nearly half (46.5%) of all new dishes introduced into the market last year were created in pubs.
More than half (55%) of 10,000 people surveyed for the report choose what they are going to eat based on enjoyment, with the leading reasons for choosing where to eat being: location (38%), value for money (17%) and quality of food (15%).
By Chris Druce
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