Operators increase trade but reveal spending confession

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Foodservice operators are continuing to see the number of visitors to their outlets increase, but say that customers are spending less per head than they did this time last year.

A new report published today by foodservice consultancy Horizons and JRA reveals that 66% of the foodservice operators that took part in its survey saw an increase in food sales in the 12 months to April 2015, with 21% reporting a ‘large’ increase.

However, the research, involving nearly 300 operators, revealed a drop in spend with operators reporting that more people were spending less than £12 per head, while fewer people were spending above £16.

Average spend had dropped from £13.10 in Spring 2014 to £11.03 in Spring 2015, with 62% of consumers spending an average per head of under £12, compared with 51% last year.

Nearly half (48%) of operators surveyed reported that sales of snacks had increased year-on-year. Last year 40% of operators reported a rise in snack sales.

“People are now snacking more, or having one, or maybe two courses instead of three, which explains why average spend appears to have fallen,” said Emma Read, Horizons’ director of marketing and business development. “This backs up our previous consumer research that shows that while spend has fallen back slightly, frequency of eating out is rising.”

She added: “Foodservice operators have done a great job at changing their offer and adapting to the way consumers eat out today, providing more foods that satisfy the snacking opportunity throughout the day. This, typically, means several small meals during the day, whether it be coffee and porridge bought to eat at our desks in the morning, a muffin with a coffee mid-morning or light snack in the afternoon.”

The research also shows that more people are eating out at the weekends. Some 42% of operators said they were serving more meals from Friday to Sunday. Just over a third say they are serving more on Sundays, with pubs and bars (61%) reporting the biggest hike in weekend sales.

And operators remain positive about the future for eating out with 78% of businesses surveyed, including restaurants, pubs, hotels, cafes and leisure outlets, expecting to see an increase in sales over the next 12 months — with 58% expecting a small increase and 20% expecting a large increase. This optimism has dropped slightly as operators realise growth is likely to be more modest in the future.

Last year 87% of operators expected to see an increase in sales in the forthcoming 12 months, with 25% anticipating a large increase.

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