The British public ate out more over Christmas 2015 than the year before, but spent less, according to the latest Horizons Eating Out-Look.
The report by Horizons and polling agency YouGov found that 72% of people had eaten out in the previous two weeks (the Christmas 2015 period), marking a rise from 71% the previous year. There was also a rise in the frequency of eating out, which was at 2.04 times in December 2015, up from 1.94 times in December 2014.
However, average spend was down, dropping to £14.07 in December 2015 compared to £14.48 in December 2014. This downward trend true of all age groups except the over 55s, whose spend per outing rose to £15.61, up from £13.84 the previous year.
Young people aged 18-24 were the most common diners out, with 80% eating out over Christmas 2015. Despite this, they spent the least, at an average of £12.15 per outing including drinks.
A "special occasion" was no longer the main reason for eating out (named by 27% of people), and was overtaken by meeting friends (30%), convenience (28%), and people who said they just didn't want to cook (22%). Most people ate out in the evenings.
Those who did not eat out over the period said they were at home with friends instead (29%), and found the expense too much (27%). Almost one in 10 (9%) said they felt they could eat better and more healthily at home.
Liz Land, Horizons' analyst, said: "Typically, people spend more money eating out over Christmas than at other times of the year. With snacking and lunching mentioned by more respondents, it seems that spend is being spread over a greater number of dining out occasions."
The quarterly Eating Out-Look survey seeks to give a rounded view of the eating out market, and is one of Horizons' regular reports, which also includes the twice-yearly Menu Trends and the Ones to Watch report, which surveys the fastest-growing groups.