Eating out sector faces ‘low and slow’ recovery

Research house The NPD Group has predicted that the UK’s eating out sector will experience a “low and slow” recovery over the next three years of 1% to 2% per annum.

The company says that trend for consumers to ‘trade back’ to eating out will be welcome news for a sector that lost 90 million visits in 2011, and recovered only 14 million last year.

One of the biggest behaviour changes has been the rise of deals and promotions. Last year, just over 25% of all meals and snacks eaten out of the home were on a promotion.

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However, as operators and manufacturers take price increases in response to the expected food inflation, the focus will clearly need to shift away from price to value.

Eating breakfast out of home was also a key trend last year, growing 8% in 2012 and biting into lunchtime sales. “The away-from-home morning meal is seen as more acceptable, and a necessity, and with our increasingly busy lives, starting the day with a takeaway porridge or toasted Panini is more desirable — and affordable — than buying lunch out,” said Guy Fielding, director of business development for The NPD Group.

NPD also said that premium quick service restaurants would continue to grab their fair share of the market. With an existing 6% share, the premium quick service or fast casual restaurant sector in the UK is bigger than its US counterpart, which accounts for 4%.

“This sector of the foodservice market is poised for rapid growth as new concepts open up rapidly and consumers respond favourably to the offering,” said Fielding.

He said that while eating out habits continue to charge dramatically, the British consumer eats out more than any other in Europe — 142 times per person in 2012.

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