Eating out spend is to fall after hitting a record high last year, according to analyst firm Horizons.
The amount spent on a meal in a restaurant has risen 20% in the past five years from £10.09 in 2004 to £11.98 in 2008, its research revealed.
Spend has risen the most in pubs, which were 30% more expensive last year than they were in 2004 as ingredient costs rose and customers increasingly chose costlier items from the menus.
The average price paid for a pub meal rose from £10.61 to £13.76 in the period.
Spend in European-style restaurants (those with Italian, Spanish, British and French menus) rose 19%, with the average price paid rising from £17.20 in 2004 to £20.51 in 2008.
However, Horizons warned that menu prices were now starting to fall, due in part to the number of special deals and offers currently in the market, and would likely continue to do so throughout 2009, with restaurant meals possibly at risk of dropping back to 2006 levels.
Peter Backman, managing director of Horizons, said: "Spend has risen this much over the four year-period largely because customers have been willing to spend more and because restaurant operators have put up prices as a result of the hikes they have seen in food and overheads such as rent, staffing and fuel.
"But in this recession higher prices cannot be sustained so in order to maintain sales restaurants need to reconsider their pricing strategies."
Food and beverage sales at current prices
- European restaurants up 19% to £20.51
- Ethnic restaurants up 16% to £12.66
- Pub restaurants up 30% to £13.76
- Pizza/pasta up 16% to £11.88
- Concept restaurants up 21% to £10.18
By Chris Druce
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