Food service in pubs is tempting customers to eat out again, bucking a trend which has seen traditional full-service restaurants struggle.
That's the finding from food service market research firm NPD Group as it reports on year-on-year growth in food service pubs, particularly branded pubs such as Wetherspoon's and Harvester, for the past two quarters.
NPD found that customer traffic in branded pubs had increased by 4% in the first quarter of 2011, compared with the same period in 2010. Unbranded pubs have not experienced such strong performance.
At the same time, the pub channel has shown a 2.2% increase in traffic and a 1.4% increase in average individual spend, while full-service restaurants have experienced a 4.4% decline in visits for the first quarter of 2011.
The company said value appeared to be the key driver in the recovery of food service in pubs, with breakfast offers and deals for early evening meals attracting customers trading up from fast-food chains.
The average individual spend in a pub for the year ending March 2011 was £7.98, compared with £9.44 for a full-service restaurant. There were also signs that eating out in pubs primarily appealed to middle-income families, with 28% of their customer base in this same period falling in the £19,000-£29,999 household income bracket and 28% in the £30,000-£49,999 bracket.
Commenting upon the revival of food service in pubs, Guy Fielding, NPD's business development director for food service, said: "When the recession hit, people stopped eating out and either ate at home or traded down to fast food. Now, full-service restaurants are still too expensive and they are out-pricing themselves, particularly with alcohol. But the value-for-money food on offer from pubs, at all points throughout the day, is enticing customers to return. The good news is that pubs are also attracting consumers back to the higher-spend occasions, such as dinner and at weekends, when they can bring their children and the meal becomes a social occasion."
By Neil Gerrard
E-mail your comments to Neil Gerrard here.
If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk
Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with Caterersearch.com jobs