Restaurateurs are seeing growth in bar-side dining, with almost one fifth (19%) of restaurants that do not currently have a bar looking to invest in one.
That's according to research from booking website OpenTable, which found that 55% of diners would go to a restaurant specifically for its bar menu.
The survey of more than 1,300 UK diners and restaurateurs also found that a quarter of diners would dine in a high-priced restaurant's bar area before deciding to invest in a meal in the restaurant, while 81% of consumers enjoy bar dining and 61% of diners are more likely to visit a restaurant if it has a welcoming bar area.
The key incentives for restaurants planning to invest in a bar area were the ability to offer a varied price point menu, provide a different experience for customers and host private parties, OpenTable said.
A further reason restaurants are investing in their bar area is to try and keep guests in their restaurant for a longer period. This idea was justified by the research, which showed that 68% of diners admitted they would be more likely to spend the entire evening in one location if the restaurant offered a great bar area.
Of those restaurants surveyed that currently have a bar, 65% either have, or are planning to invest in the area in the next 12 months and almost half (49%) of restaurateurs with a bar are planning on increasing their marketing to promote bar dining in the next 12 months.
As well as investing in the area itself, it appears the majority (67%) of restaurateurs are also investing in the bar menu. The main motivations for this are to test menu concepts, offer a varied price point, offer a different menu, stay ahead of trends and remain competitive.
Mike Xenakis, managing director at OpenTable, said: "The trend for bar dining is something we have seen coming through in our discussions with our restaurant partners over the past few months, and it's interesting to see that the wider dining community is tapping into this too. A great bar area not only acts as the gateway to a restaurant but is an area where chefs can test menu concepts and stay ahead of the trends."