High street pubs, restaurants and hotels are seeing the price of food dishes reduced thanks to extra market competition, but are compensating by introducing side dishes and extra sauces.
That's according to the latest Menu Trends report from foodservice trend analysts Horizons.
The report, which tracks menu and price changes across high street restaurant, hotels, quick-service restaurants and pubs, showed that it is on average becoming cheaper to eat out in some high street chains. Almost two thirds (61%) of brands also offered meal deals.
The report found that the average cost of an adult, three-course meal in a pub was £18.74 this summer, compared with £19.19 last year, while this year a restaurant meal cost £21.55 compared to £21.69 last year. A hotel meal this year cost £27.09 (versus £26.20 last year), while a two-course quick service meal was at £8.55 this summer, compared with £9.85 last year.
This decrease was accompanied by extra side dishes being added to menus in an attempt to boost sales, including upgrades, extras, toppings and sauces. Typically costing anything from 75p to £1.50 each, these extras boost spend without guests feeling that they are spending significantly more.
Horizons analyst Nicola Knight explained: "These add-ons are ways the operator can boost average spend without appearing more expensive on the menu."
Overall, price decreases have mainly been seen on starters and desserts, which dropped on average by 2.2% and 4.2% respectively. Main courses, however, have risen 1.1% on average this year.
Knight added: "The fact these price changes vary according to the type of outlet, and even the brand, show that there is a degree of price engineering going on as the price increases don't relate to changing food costs or increases in overheads.
"What we are seeing is operators ensuring their offer is competitive compared to other outlets, and that they are perceived as being cheaper."