Young diners are bolstering the restaurant sector in the UK, after the frequency with which older diners eat out fell slightly.
That's according to the new consumer QuickBite survey from Horizons, which showed that 75% of 18-24-year-olds and 76% of 25-34-years-olds having eaten out in the past two weeks. That was compared to a lower proportion of all adults, 67% of whom have eaten out in the past two weeks.
The survey, of 2,000 consumers, conducted on behalf of Horizons by YouGov in June 2013, also showed that average spend per meal for those who had eaten out across all age groups had increased year-on-year to £13.30 from £12.30, including drinks.
The 35-44 year olds, also in the "squeezed middle", have cut back on the number of times they eat out with 68% of respondents in this age group having
eaten out in the previous two weeks, down from 70% in 2012.
"Diners continue to spend more when they do eat out but the squeezed middle - 35 to 54 year olds - are most likely to be watching their spending and are eating out less frequently than they did although they spend the most when they do dine out," commented Horizons' director of services Nicola Knight.
The most frequent users of eating out establishments are younger diners (18-24 and 25-34 year olds). On average, people in this age group have eaten out 2.06 and 2.32 times in the past (respectively) two weeks, compared with a survey average of 1.77 times.
While 46% of people ate out in restaurants (including pub restaurants) for their most recent meal out, the proportion eating out in quick service restaurants has risen 3% year-on-year to 35% of the total (32% in 2012).
Snacking (meals eaten outside the main meal times, which Horizons identify as often comprising of low value "grab and go" products that appeal to younger consumers) has also increased. Some 10% of respondents had eaten a snack out of home in the past two weeks, compared with 7% during this time last year.
"What we are seeing is that people are still eating out and spend per meal is up, but consumer confidence may have not yet returned to any significant degree, particularly amongst middle-aged respondents. Outlets still need to work hard to attract diners and be mindful of catering for the demands of their target audience. The 18-24 year olds are the higher spending diners of the future, so it is good they have an established eating out habit which is likely to continue as they get older," added Knight.