Food sales at managed pubs are outperforming the UK's eating out sector through keen pricing, effective marketing and broad appeal, a new report has revealed.
Managed pub restaurants now account for 22% of the market, which includes pubs, restaurants and quick service operators, according to a new report by foodservice consultancy Horizons.
This is up from 18% in 2008 and Horizons said it expects this share to rise to 26% by 2016.
The managed pub restaurant sector consists of almost 17,000 pubs and had combined food and associated beverage sales worth £4.8b in 2012, representing 39% of their total sales. Leading operators include Mitchells & Butlers, JD Wetherspoon, Whitbread, Greene King, Spirit and Marston's.
The sector has been able to increase its share of food sales by adjusting to changing consumer demand. Breakfast, for example, has become a growing revenue stream, accounting for 6% of all managed pub meals, with sales now worth £280m a year.
"Consumers are choosing to eat in pub restaurants over other types of restaurant and this trend is likely to continue over the next few years. Managed pubs are doing a brilliant job at appealing to today's consumer by being flexible in their offer and price sensitive," commented Horizons' managing director Peter Backman.
"In June 2011 our own QuickBite survey of 2,000 consumers showed that pub restaurants accounted for 17% of all meals eaten out. By December 2012 this had risen to 20%.
"Managed pubs are certainly getting something right in terms of their food, which is successfully filling the gap left by retreating alcohol sales. With growth at the current rate likely to continue, we expect food to account for 50% of managed pub sales by 2023."
Multiple income streams allows pub operators to adjust their business model by shifting between lower margin and higher margin lines, reported Horiszons, which said they also provide operational flexibility to cope with short-term changes in demand prompted by the likes of the weather and sporting events.
This flexibility has also seen managed pub operators change in the longer term, adjusting to growing demand for new areas of business such as breakfast and coffee.
"The managed pub restaurant market is dynamic - it leads the way in giving old favourites a new twist and capitalising on the latest trends. This sector has become a significant eating out market that is distinct from other sectors by offering consumers a product, service and atmosphere that they can't get elsewhere," added Backman.
Managed pub sector: facts & figures
•Managed pubs served 453 million meals in 2012
•The average price for a main course in the managed pub sector is £5.48, £3.61 for a starter, and £3.01 for a dessert
•The price of an average meal is £9.41
•In 2012 the top eight operators had food and associated beverage sales of £2.5bn
•Mitchells & Butlers, the largest managed pub operator, sells more food in total than the biggest restaurant operators, with 48% of its total sales accounted for by food
•Food sales at Marston's represents 44% of its total sales, with food sales at Greene King reaching 38% of its total sales.