Snacking outside the home is on the rise, and more people are eating out at weekends, especially in pubs and bars, according to foodservice consultancy Horizons.
The latest Eating Out-Look report, which surveyed nearly 300 foodservice professionals, also found that consumers are eating out more but spending less per meal, with the average spend at £16 per transaction, a finding echoed in recent surveys such as the Barclaycard consumer spending report from earlier this month.
The figures showed that 66% of foodservice operators have seen an increase in food sales in the 12 months to April 2015, with 21% reporting a "large" increase. Nearly half (48%) of operators said that sales of snacks had increased year-on-year, with 40% having said the same last year.
Horizons commented that this was likely due to operators successfully changing their offer to match consumer eating out trends.
Eating out at weekends was also on the up: 42% of operators said that they were serving more meals from Friday to Sunday, with 61% of pubs and bars especially noting that Sundays were offering the biggest hike in sales.
Similarly, the majority of operators were positive about the future, with 78% expecting to see an increase in sales over the next 12 months.
However, operators also said that average spend had dropped considerably, with more people spending less than £12 per head, and fewer people spending above £16. Average spend was at £11.03 in spring 2015, with 62% of consumers spending an average of under £12; a clear drop from the overall average of £13.10 in spring 2014.
Emma Read, Horizons' director of marketing & business development, explained that average spend had likely fallen due to people snacking more, or having just one course at a given meal out, rather than opting for three or more.
She added that foodservice operators had successfully changed their offer to adapt to how consumers eat today, saying: "Typically, this means several small meals during the day, whether it be coffee and porridge bought to eat at our desks in the morning, a muffin with a coffee mid-morning or light snack in the afternoon."
The report, carried out in collaboration with JRA Research, surveyed 281 foodservice professionals from 6 March to 13 April 2015, including restaurants, pubs, hotels, cafes and leisure outlets.