Eating out levels are at their highest in two years but cash-conscious consumers are spending less on each restaurant visit, research has found.
The QuickBite survey from food service consultancy Horizons found that on average British consumers have eaten out 2.77 times in the past two weeks, compared with 2.02 times a year ago.
However, despite going out more, they are spending less, with the average spend per meal including drinks now at £12.30, down from £12.69 last year. Average spend in restaurants and pub-restaurants dropped to £15.46 in June 2012 from £17 in January, while average spend on quick-service dining fell from £9.60 to £7.29.
Commenting on the findings, Horizons director of services Paul Backman said: "It is surprising, given the difficult economy and the fact that retail spending remains low, that the respondents to our survey are still eating out on a regular basis, and in fact more regularly. Pub-restaurants and take-aways are the most popular choices, perhaps as diners downgrade from more expensive establishments."
Backman added: "The fact average spend has fallen is evidence of continued cost cutting - forgoing a course, ordering a glass of wine instead of a bottle, or opting for a sharing dish. The amount of discounting in the sector has also driven down average spend. Pub-restaurants, and the large chains in particular, have also been very successful in reducing their prices to improve footfall."
According to the QuickBite survey, which questioned more than 2,000 consumers across the UK, quality of food is the most important factor influencing diners' choice of venue, with price in second place and force of habit in third. Convenience and meeting friends were cited as the most common reasons why people ate out.
By Kerstin Kühn
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