Casual dining projects poised to rise

Catering equipment distributors that have nailed their colours to the casual dining mast are poised to remain busy in the coming years, new figures reveal.

The NPD today said that casual dining is drawing an extra 47 million visits each year compared to five years ago, leading to increased investment from operators.

As a result, casual dining restaurants are expected to continue taking business from full service restaurants.

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In a report entitled, ‘Goodbye full service, casual dining is good enough thank you’, NPD revealed that as of the year ending March 2014, annual traffic is up 12% compared to five years ago.

This is a strong performance given that the overall market in Britain for eating out of home has lost 4.8% of its traffic in the same five-year period.

The success of casual dining compares to quick-service restaurants serving fast food, which recorded only 4% traffic growth over the same five-year period.

Casual dining is taking business from full service restaurants, which have seen traffic decline by 11% since year end March 2009.

The NPD Group says consumers like the combination of the ambiance and quality of food of a full service restaurant and the speed and delivery of a fast-food/quick service restaurant. Britons also see casual dining as a good family option when eating out.

Around 11% of the visits in casual dining are because “Kids like it there”; this motivation only applies 6.5% of the time for restaurants in general.

“People are telling us that casual dining is the best of both worlds — speed combined with a good ambiance,” said Cyril Lavenant, director of foodservice UK at NPD.

“The new casual dining restaurants are proving popular with people who want good food in a pleasant environment but who are also keeping an eye on what they spend. In difficult economic times, consumers need to save money. That helps to explain why full service restaurants have suffered.

“But casual dining is successful because it offers a good experience when eating out and a good option for when people want a ‘treat’ for themselves or their kids. The food is also priced at the level that makes it easy for younger people to dine out.”

The casual dining sector remains small, accounting for only 4% in traffic terms of Britain’s total foodservice market that generates 11 billion visits annually. But The NPD Group says further growth is likely.

Casual dining visits in Britain grew 1.5% in the year ending March 2014 while fast food restaurants grew 0.6%.

“The success of casual dining in Britain is the beginning of a new way of eating out; this is definitely not a blip,” said Lavenant. “We believe that casual dining restaurants will continue to take business from full service restaurants.”

Among some 30 brands that NPD Group says are contributing to the growth of casual dining are Café Uno, Nandos, Wagamama, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Strada, Yo Sushi, Zizzi, Carluccio’s and Giraffe.

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