Horzions' latest QuickBite consumer eating out survey, conducted by YouGov, revealed that 41 per cent of diners are influenced by health and lifestyle factors when choosing where to eat.
Of the 2,058 respondents to the survey, 15 per cent said they would be influenced by vegetarian options, while 14 per cent wanted calorie information, nine per cent were looking for reduced fat choices and four per cent wanted low carb dishes.
Health and lifestyle demands were highest amongst diners aged 35-44 and 18-24, with women more likely to be influenced by these factors than men.
Horizons director of services Nicola Knight said research suggested that eating-out venues are not doing enough to meet this demand.
“Our last Menurama survey [Summer 2013], which analyses menu trends in restaurants, pubs, hotels and quick service sectors, showed that typically only 12 per cent of main course dishes on menus are vegetarian, with only two per cent being gluten-free,” she said.
“We will track this trend in forthcoming surveys, but we have to ask whether eating out establishments are currently doing enough to cater for these lifestyle concerns, particularly the apparent demand for vegetarian dishes and free-from dishes. Our survey indicates that these issues are likely to become more important, rather than less, as the eating out market improves.”
Provenance was also a big concern for diners, influencing just over half of respondents (56 per cent) in their choice of venue.
On a positive note, the QuickBite survey indicated that the market is stabilising, with eating-out frequency now at the same level as it was in 2010.
The number of people eating out has increased by one per cent to 69 per cent year-on-year, and the 68 per cent of respondents that had eaten out in the past two weeks did so an average of 1.8 times.
Average spend including drinks hit £14.41 this month, up from £13.30 in July, although still below last year’s average spend of £14.55
“This is good news for the UK’s foodservice sector,” said Knight.
“We should now start to see an increase in the frequency with which consumers are eating out as the economy picks up, along with a gradual increase in average spend. Real growth will be slow, but is likely to be steady over the next 18 months.”
Pub restaurants continue to lead the popularity stakes, with cafés also growing in popularity as eating-out destinations. In contrast, pizza and pasta establishments and fast-food outlets lost out year-on-year.
According to the Horizon’s survey, the majority (54 per cent) of diners are supportive of new allergen legislation due to come into force at the end of 2014, which will force eating out establishments to provide more information about the ingredients they use in their food.
Earlier this year, chief executive of hospitality software provider Fourth said the new rules would be ‘one of the key hurdles’ facing hospitality businesses this year.
He urged operators to act early to ‘minimise any business risk’ and ensure that the new rules were implemented with ‘as little complication and expenses as possible’.
For more information on the new rules, see our series of allergen-related articles, guides and multimedia content.