The biannual survey of hotels, restaurants, quick service outlets and pubs revealed that 76 per cent of operators used meal deal promotions last winter, compared to 59 per cent in summer 2013 and 70 per cent the previous winter.
Horizons said that rather than stepping away from discountingpubs and restaurants used meal deals as a ‘fundamental part’ of their promotion packages to encourage consumers to dine out during the winter.
The survey also showed that the price gap between pubs and restaurants continues to close, with pub food prices up for the fourth consecutive year this winter, and restaurant prices down for the second year in a row.
According to Horizons, the average price of a three course meal in a restaurant fell 4.6 per cent year-on-year, from £21.65 to £20.66, while the price of three courses in a pub rose 7.4 per cent, from £17.38 to £18.67.
Main courses saw the biggest price hikes in pubs, up 10.7 per cent year-on-year to £9.39, from £8.48 in winter 2012. In contrast, restaurants cut average main course prices by 3 per cent to £10.95, down from £11.29 last year.
Pub dessert prices also saw a significant year-on-year price rise of 6.1 per cent, hitting an average of £4.35, compared to £4.12 in 2012. Average dessert prices in restaurants fell 2.8 per cent from £4.68 to £4.55.
Average pub starter prices rose by a more modest 2.7 per cent, from £4.80 to £4.93, while they dropped 9.2% to £5.16 in restaurants.
Commenting on the survey, Horizons’ director of services Nicola Knight said: “These results indicate that restaurants, in particular, are still feeling the squeeze going into the New Year and have taken fairly drastic action to keep customers coming in.
“Overall operators have returned to the price points of winter 2012 from higher levels set over the summer and have also used record levels of meal deal promotions to attract customers in.
“It is clear from our data that the pub sector is starting to feel more confident, evident in the fact their prices have risen as they feel able to pass on rising costs to their customers.”