These are the key findings of the latest Menurama survey, conducted by foodservice analyst Horizons. They follow a similar survey conducted last year by Harden’s London Restaurants 2012 Guide, which found that the cost of a meal for two in the capital has rocketed to over £90.
The cost of a main course has risen fastest in quick-service and restaurant establishments; in the quick-service sector, an average meal has risen by 17.4 per cent to £9.59 - up from £8.17 in 2010.
The Menurama survey, which looks at the menus of 115 high street operators across the UK, also found that regional price disparities, which have traditionally meant that eating out tends to be more expensive in the south and cheaper in the north, are narrowing.
“These price disparities are disappearing, largely because many of the chain restaurants now operate a single pricing structure across their whole estate. Operational costs are also levelling out across the country,” explained Horizons’ director of services Paul Backman.
Meanwhile, Britain’s high street restaurants are working harder than ever to appeal to a growing number of discerning diners, with 39 per cent of outlets now including calorie information on their menus and websites, and details of food provenance and local sourcing also becoming more evident on menus.
Examples of the latter can be found at Wayside Inns, which list Croxton Manor Cheddar & Ruddles Ale Tart; Smith & Jones has a Tuxford & Tebbutt stilton burger, Little Chef has a ‘rich steak and Abbot’s ale pie’ on its menu, as well as ‘outdoor reared British pork sausage’, while one independent gastropub lists a ‘Herefordshire snail, chicken and smoked bacon pie’.
“Our chain restaurants are becoming much more innovative in terms of dishes and ingredients, partly to keep people interested, but also because consumers expect them as they now have more exposure to unusual foods through the supermarkets and TV cookery programmes,” added Backman.
“While consumers like to think they will try something new when they eat out, often they opt for their old favourites, so the top 10 most commonly listed dishes don’t change much from year to year. However, the descriptions of them do - a burger, for instance, is more likely to be listed by weight and provenance and fish and chips are often described as being from a sustainable source. In addition, dome 39 per cent of establishments now include calorie information on their menus or websites.
Another recent study by Fourth Hospitality revealed that 67 per cent of customers want extra information in restaurants, while 80 per cent said they would find calorie listings useful.