The UK's lunch market looks set to outperform the rest of the eating-out sector over the next 12 months, as consumers increasingly eat out wherever they are.
That's the finding from food service analyst Horizons, which said customers now expected a wide choice of eating-out options at lunch but often wanted something quick, cheap and easy-to-eat.
Emma Read, director of marketing and business development at Horizons, predicted the lunch market, already worth £14.9b, would occupy a growing share of overall food service sales.
Speaking at the lunch! trade show at London's Business Design Centre, Read said: "Britain's lunch market is worth £14.9b - that's 35% of the total food service market. Growth over the past few years has outperformed what is essentially a flat market overall. Lunch business has risen by 3.3% on 2009 figures. We expect this growth to continue and expect the lunch market to account for closer to 36% of the total food service sector by 2014."
Previous Horizons research has shown that the eating out habit is here to stay, with the average British adult eating out 1.4 times per week in 2012, a rise from once a week in 2011.
Horizons said consumers had continued to eat out, despite the onset of the economic downturn in 2008, but opted to spend less and order differently. Average spend dropped in 2012 to £12.30 (including drinks) from £12.69 in 2011.
However, while many top-end restaurants have seen lunchtime trade suffer, business through quick-service and casual-dining restaurants has remained relatively strong as consumers down-trade.
"Driving the lunch market is the fact that time-pressed consumers no longer make their own lunch, preferring quick options wherever they are. They are also prompted to eat out by money-off vouchers and meal deals, many of which are predominantly lunch-based. Work pressure also means that consumers are more likely to opt for a take-away to eat at their desk," Read added.
By Neil Gerrard
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