The casual dining sector is continuing to grow despite concerns about the health of the sector prompted by high profile closures, according to data from the NPD market research group.
The data shows a 7% increase in visits to casual dining restaurants in the year to June 2018 - equivalent to an extra 35 million meals served on the previous year.
Casual dining restaurants represent 5% of the out of home (OOH) dining market, according to the group's research, and saw growth despite an overall drop of 43 million visits across the OOH market as a whole over the same period.
The shift was particularly pronounced outside of London. In the capital the number of casual dining visits grew by 3 million, while outside the city the sector saw 23 million visits.
The results come as many operators continue to find opportunities in the sector despite the crunch. Last month The Caterer revealed some groups were taking advantage of closures to get better deals on sites outside the M25.
Dominic Allport, insights director with the NPD Group, said: "Casual dining restaurants remain one of the key growth stories in Britain's OOH foodservice market, despite the high-profile closures, rescues and restructuring seen in this sector in recent months.
"But while the market is expanding, success is not guaranteed. One of the problems has been the tendency for some operators to scale up too quickly, with quantity of sites outweighing quality of sites.
"Some of the newer brands are also failing to set themselves apart from competitors, leaving consumers with the sense they are getting similar menus, similar venues and similar customer experiences.
"But the biggest issue is the pressure on profit margins with business rates, rent, food and labour all costing more in an over-supplied market."