The Eating Out in the UK 2009 report, published by Allegra Strategies and McDonalds, found the value of eating out to be £40.3bn in 2009, a 0.5 per cent drop on last year and the first decline since the 1960s.
The drop has been attributed to changing consumer trends as the British public cut back their discretionary spending. The report found that just over a third of consumers had scaled back their restaurant visits over the last 12 months, and 20 per cent planned to cut back more in the next year. With the average consumer’s weekly spend on eating out at £12.75, the report shows that the demand for ‘better service and value’ is still going strong.
Steve Easterbrook, chief executive of McDonald’s UK, said only business that can ‘deliver value and a great experience’ to consumers will be equipped to survive the recession.
“The British public is becoming ever more discerning about the way they spend their money, and this is starting to affect the performance of the sector,” he said. “For the first time in 40 years, the recession is taking a bite out of a market which is traditionally resilient to downturns.”
While the report shows a current decline in value of the eating out market, it shows positive signs of recovery within the next 12-18 months, particularly with the arrival of the 2012 Olympics, which is expected to create up to 57,000 jobs and help boost the market value to £47.5bn by 2014.
Steve Gotham, project director at Allegra Strategies, said that as the economy recovers, restaurateurs will have to become more consumer focused as ‘customers won’t forget what they are learning in the recession’.
“There is a myth that the informal eating out sector is recession proof, but this report shows that, while some companies continue to do well, many are suffering,” he said. “Eating out may have become an everyday experience, but when the economy picks up, people won’t go back to paying over the odds for a meal.”
The report predicts healthy eating, quality and British sourced food to be the more popular ongoing trends over the next few months.