Industry stats show diners are ‘spreading their spend’

STRATFORD, ENGLAND - JULY 31:  Members of the public dine in the food court of the giant Westfield Stratford shopping mall adjacent to the Olympic Park on July 31, 2012 in London, England. Trading in the huge 1.9 million sq ft mall has been boosted by the footfall of spectators, volunteers and competitors from the Olympic Park; whilst shops and restaurants in London's West End are reporting up to 70% declines in revenue.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

A modest climb in the number of people eating out over Christmas 2015 suggests that the sector is now back into a period of gradual growth following a stall in its recovery last summer.

In June 2015 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 two weeks of the survey, compared with 71% in June 2014.

According to Horizons’ latest Eating Out-Look, conducted online by YouGov, nearly three-quarters of respondents (72%) to the survey said they had eaten out in the previous two weeks, [Christmas 2015] a rise of one percentage point on December 2014 when 71% of people had done so.

The frequency that respondents were eating out over the two-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.

“This is unusual as typically people spend more money eating out over Christmas than at other times of the year. With snacking and lunching mentioned by more respondents, it seems that spend is being spread over a greater number of dining out occasions.”

This year for the first time special occasion was not mentioned by respondents as being the most common reason for eating out (27%), with the most frequently mentioned reason being meeting friends (30%), convenience (28%), and simply because they didn’t want to cook (22%).

While dinner remains the predominant eating out mealtime, slightly more respondents said they were having snacks, breakfast or lunch out, than they did six months previously (11% vs 10% respectively), while those eating dinner out had decreased slightly over the past six months (62% vs 63% respectively).

Younger people showed particularly healthy levels of eating out over the Christmas period 2015, when some 80% of the 18-24 year old respondents to the survey had done so. However while they had eaten out an average of 3.05 times over the previous two weeks, younger people were amongst the lowest spenders at an average of £12.15 (including drinks).

Of the 27% of respondents who said they had not eaten out over the previous two weeks, many (29%) cited their reason as being they were at home with family and friends, as well as expense being a common factor (27%), Another 9% said they hadn’t eaten out because they believed they could eat better and more healthily at home.

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