Prospects for a bumper Christmas have taken a hit after a 20% dip in sales during the second weekend in December, according to a new survey.
The sobering news from Friary Marketing and Consulting Group (FMCG) came after consultants Deloitte, and market analysts Horizons FD, both predicted storming December trade for restaurants and pubs.
FMCG's poll of 1,050 adults in Great Britain, conducted between Friday 9 and Sunday 11 December, found 77% were cutting back on eating out as money was getting tight.
David Humphreys, director at FMCG, told Caterersearch: "AB customers those in professional occupations] saw their share of spend rise to 40% and that end of the market is buoyant. The same goes for the fast-food sector with meals of £5 or less.
"But the market is polarising between the top and the bottom, while mainstream casual dining has gone down.
Humphreys said that while average salaries had grown by 4% year-on-year pub menu prices had increased by 6.6% on average.
FMCG's research found average spend per head on eating out had fallen from £11.50 in 2005 to £10.50 in December 2007.
By Christopher Walton