Last year consumers spend £6.5bn on pub catering compared with total eating out spend of £31bn. Mintel predicts the total will reach £32bn this year.
Pub restaurant and bars were also the most visited restaurants in the UK, favoured by more than half (57%) of diners. The next most popular eating out choices were ethnic restaurants – such as Chinese, Indian and Thai – visited by 52%.
Pizza, pasta and Italian restaurants were preferred by 45% of dinners, while burger and chicken restaurants were favoured by 32%. British restaurants – excluding pubs – were chosen by a quarter of those surveyed.
Just over half (54%) of consumers reported that their eating out habits had not changed in the past year. But, at the same time, over a third (34%) said they had cut the number of times they had eaten out in restaurants compared with a year ago.
A quarter (24%) said they had cut the amount they spend when they do. Nearly a third (30% ) of restaurant-goers also admitted to cutting their spending when dining out.
Helena Spicer, Mintel’s foodservice analyst, said the latest research revealed the need for more innovative meal solutions. “Menu innovation is now rife in an increasingly competitive and mature marketplace, with current food fashions, including gourmet junk food and artisan pastries, designed to reignite consumers’ enthusiasm for spending on eating out,” she said.
In preference to burger and chips, British consumers wanted a something posher from their junk food, the research revealed. More than one-in-10 (13%) British diners have tried gourmet junk food – such as hot dogs with better quality ingredients.
Nearly half (46%) of those who have not ordered such food said they would like to try it.
Asked to rate a list of innovative foods, the most popular was chip flights (a selection of chips and dips), favoured by 13% of diners. A further 61% said they would like to try them.
Build-your-own options – such as sandwiches, burgers or ice cream sundaes – were then next most popular. More than 20% of diners had tried them and 49% said they would like to.
Gourmet doughnuts and eclairs had been sampled by 12%, while 43% would be interested in ordering them.
“Restaurants are looking to appeal to those risk-averse diners who seek to indulge their craving for flavour innovation through side dishes rather than main meals,” said Spicer.
Revealing the trend to combat ‘menu fatigue’, sweet potato fries grew in popularity last year, while courgette fries have become more popular this year.
Diners were more likely to cut spending on areas with no obvious added value, such as ordering tap water in preference to bottled water.
Meanwhile, almost a third (33%) of restaurant diners planned to cooking at home more instead of eating out. More than one-in-ten (11%) consumers said they preferred to recreate restaurant meals at home rather than eating out.