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A survey of British diners has revealed that the number of respondents using more formal venues such as restaurants and pub restaurants increased during the Christmas period.

Some 51% of eating out was accounted for by these venues, compared with 47% six months ago, according to Horizons’ latest Eating Out-Look, conducted online by YouGov.

The results revealed that JD Wetherspoon was the most commonly cited venue of respondents who had eaten in a pub restaurant (14%), with Brewers Fayre (8%) and Harvester (7%) second and third respectively from a given list.

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Britain’s eating out sector continues to move into more positive territory with 71% of respondents to a recent consumer survey having eaten out in the past two weeks, up from 69% over the same period last year.

The poll of more than 2,000 consumers, found that recovery in the frequency of eating out was, for the first time, noticeable outside London with strong growth in Wales, the North and the East of the country.

The YouGov survey quizzed consumers on their eating out habits in the previous two weeks over the Christmas period. It showed that on average respondents had eaten out 1.94 times, up from 1.8 times a year ago.

Respondents who had eaten out spent an average of £14.48, including drinks, up from £14.41 last year.

Consistent with previous surveys consumers spent more when they dined out over the Christmas period than they did during the summer months, when the average spend was £12.72 [June 2014].

Emma Read, Horizons’ director of marketing & business development, said: “What’s encouraging is that the eating out figures were stronger in the regions than they were in London. Also, given it was Christmas when many people prefer to eat and entertain at home, more respondents said they were tempted to eat out.”

With the survey covering Christmas, some 31% of respondents cited a special occasion as a reason for eating out, compared with 21% who gave this as their reason for eating out in June 2014. Meeting friends was the second most commonly mentioned reason for eating out at 26%, a similar figure to that of six months ago (26%). Convenience was mentioned by 23%, down from 27% six months ago.

Average spend on eating out increased across all age groups, apart from those aged over 55 years (£13.84 this year, compared to £15.78 last year), but was particularly noticeable in 35-54 year-olds (35-44 year olds increased from £15.19 to £15.94, and 45-54 year olds increased from £14.11 to £15.28).

While 25-34 year olds were the age group most likely to have eaten out in the previous two weeks (80%), 75% of respondents aged 35-44 had done so compared with 68% last year. Amongst young people aged 18-24 the percentage dining out had dropped year-on-year from 81% to 73%.

The survey results suggest that any increase in eating out is being driven by those on higher incomes (ABC1s) of whom 76% reported eating out in the previous two weeks, compared with 73% last year.

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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