Branded restaurants are continuing to steal a march on their independent counterparts, as customers increasingly demand better quality at reasonable prices, according to new research.
Figures from the NPD Group show that sales at independent outlets have dropped by 22.8% since 2008, while business in chain restaurants has increased by 15.5% during the same period. As a result, independents accounted for 43% of the eating-out traffic by the end of 2014, compared with 53% in 2008.
The total out-of-home foodservice market at the end of last year was worth £50.7b, with chains accounting for a £27.5b slice of the cake.
Cyril Lavenant, NPD group director of foodservice UK for NPD, said that the trend of struggling independent restaurants and food outlets is likely to continue.
"Most of them are not meeting expectations on price and quality or offering the full experience for which chains are known," he explained. "The high street is more and more competitive and offers clear value for money while independent foodservice operators face more pressure than ever in this respect. Many of us know a restaurant or café or sandwich bar that has closed recently. To survive, independent outlets will need to offer good food and good service at a good price, bring more excitement and keep up with the current trends."
The key reason Britons select somewhere to eat is increasingly based on value with 25% saying they choose an outlet for its food price (2008: 9%), with the demand for good quality food also rising too - 21% of consumers say this is why they choose a restaurant, compared to 17% six years ago.
The decline in independent operators is evident across all age groups except for those over 65 years of age. Independents appear to rely on their customers making a choice for eating out based on convenient location (42%) and the habit of visiting a favourite restaurant (27%). As a result, they are vulnerable to their chain competitors who are expanding operations based on a formula of value for money, quality and variety of food.
The NPD research shows that casual dining brands, which includes the likes of PizzaExpress, T.G.I. Friday's, Wagamama, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, are doing particularly well, scoring 77% for overall experience in terms of customer satisfaction.
Data in the research covers fast-food restaurants, casual dining brands, independent and branded pubs, full-service restaurants and hotels.