The Horizons quarterly eating out survey provides a good bellwether for seeing how the restaurant sector is doing, and in turn whether dealers will be seeing more demand for kitchen schemes and equipment.

Therefore the distributor community can probably now breathe a sigh of relief following the news that the research firm’s latest survey suggests that the sector is back into a period of gradual growth, following a stall in its recovery last summer.

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A modest climb in the number of people eating out was recorded over Christmas 2015, while last June, respondents to the same YouGov/Horizons survey showed a year-on-year decline of two percentage points in eating out, with 69% of respondents saying they had done so in the previous 2 weeks of the survey, compared with 71% in June 2014.

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The latest poll shows that nearly three quarters of respondents (72%) to the survey said they had eaten out in the 2 weeks over Christmas, a rise of 1% from December 2014.

The frequency that respondents were eating out over the 2-week Christmas period was also up, from 1.94 times in December 2014 to 2.04 times in December 2015.

However, average spend amongst respondents was down, dropping to £14.07 in December 2015 from £14.48 in December 2014.

This decrease was evident across all age groups, except over 55s, who spend the most at £15.61, up from £13.84 last year.

“The number of respondents eating out has risen marginally, but the frequency figure shows that people who do dine out are doing so more often, spending less when they do – even over the festive period,” commented Horizons’ analyst Liz Land.