Longer opening hours, all-day food sales, value-for money food, and welcoming families are all contributing to the growing popularity of pub meals, found the report by NPD Group.
The research found that although pubs have not returned to their pre-recession performance, they have reported year on year growth in their foodservice operations over the last two quarters.
“Pubs are recovering and outpacing the rest of the industry in terms of sales and traffic gains for food in Q1 2011, but the pub channel is not back to previous, pre-recession performance levels,” said NPD. “For the year ended March 2011, the pub channel for foodservice was worth a projected £9.8bn, compared to £10.4bn for the year ended March 2008.”
The recovery, says the new report, is being led by branded operators in the market, such as Wetherspoons and Harvester.
Value drives sales
Overall, the level of customer traffic in branded pubs has increased by 4 per cent in the first quarter of 2011, compared to the same period on 2010, while unbranded pubs have not experienced such a strong performance.
At the same time, the pub channel has shown a 2.2 per cent increase in traffic and a 1.4 per cent increase in average individual spend, while full service restaurants have experienced a 4.4 per cent decline in visits for the first quarter 2011, said NPD.
The average individual spend in a pub for the year ending March 2011 was £7.98, compared to £9.44 for a full service restaurant.
“There are signs that value is the key to the recovery of foodservice in pubs, while more expensive restaurants are still in decline,” said the researcher.
“With their value for money approach such as breakfast offers and deals for early evening meals, NPD found that consumers regard pubs as good value and worth trading up to from fast food chains.”
The boost to business is also helped by the pub appeal to middle-income families, with 28 per cent of pub customers said to be earning between £19,000 and £29,999, while another 28 per cent earn between £30,000 and £49,999.
“When the recession hit, people stopped eating out and either ate at home or traded down to fast food, said Guy Fielding, NPD’s business development director for foodservice.
“Now, full service restaurants are still too expensive and they are out-pricing themselves, particularly with alcohol. But the value for money food on offer from pubs, at all points throughout the day, is enticing customers to return.
“The good news is that pubs are also attracting consumers back to the higher spend occasions, such as dinner and at weekends, when they can bring their children and the meal becomes a social occasion.”