The average cost of ordering a three-course meal has risen by 6% in the past year despite the stability of main course prices, according to research by food service analyst Horizons.
According to its biannual Menurama study, the cost of starters and desserts in UK pubs, restaurants and hotels increased year on year, with pubs showing the largest rise in price.
Data from more than 400 menus from the UK's top 100 leading chain and independent pubs, restaurants and hotels was examined. It revealed that the average cost of a three-course meal across all eating-out establishments, excluding drink, has risen from £17.40 to £18.45 over the past year.
An average starter now costs £5.24 - up 11% from £4.70 last year, while a dessert now costs £4.36, nearly 10% up from £3.97 in 2008. However, a main course costs an average of £8.86 - just 1.4% up from £8.73.
Paul Backman, Horizons' development executive, said that the discounts and meal deals currently available in the market have kept the prices charged for main courses fairly stable and that in many cases they are lower than they were last year.
"But some operators, particularly in the pub sector, have made up for discounting on main courses by increasing the price of other dishes," he continued.
Backman pointed out that operators can improve their margins with starters and desserts as they are relatively cheap to produce. "However, customers are very observant when it comes to price increases and could opt for just a main course if the price of starters and desserts rises too high compared to the cost of a main course," he added.
He said Horizons would expect these pricing changes to level out if promotional activity lessens as the economy picks up, but suggested that it could take at least 18 months for price promotions to be phased out altogether.
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