Casual dining restaurants see continued growth

By Lauren Houghton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Casual dining, Restaurant, Fast food restaurant, Food

Establishments such as Nandos are contributing to the growth in casual dining
Establishments such as Nandos are contributing to the growth in casual dining
Foodservice industry figures from global information company The NPD Group show that casual dining establishments have attracted an extra 47m visits each year in comparison to five years ago.

The new figures show that annual traffic for casual dining has increased by just over 11 per cent in comparison to 2009, as of the year ending March 2014, which is an increase of 47m visits to casual dining restaurants. Considering that the market for eating out in the UK has actually fallen by 4.8 per cent in the last five years, casual dining has done well.

The NPD Group has named 30 brands that are contributing to the growth in casual dining, such as Nandos, Wagamama, Yo Sushi, Zizzi, and Giraffe. Casual dining restaurants have outstripped the market growth of fast food restaurants which serve things like burgers, chicken, fish and chips and sandwiches, which recorded 4.2 percent growth.

However, full service restaurants have seen an 11.4 per cent decline in traffic since 2009, suggesting casual dining venues are taking their business.

Price, Family, Convenience

The study looked into why casual dining has become so popular among consumers, with price, appropriateness for families and the convenience explored as factors. The average bill per visit for one person at a casual dining establishment came out as £11.90, which is a little more affordable than a full service venue, where the average bill worked out at £15.17. However the average bill for a fast food establishment was only £5.06, which suggests price isn’t the main issue.

The NPD Group claims that with casual dining restaurants, diners enjoy a combination of the atmosphere and quality found in a full service restaurant mixed with the speed of a quick service restaurant. UK residents also view casual dining as a great option for family visits, which account for 36 per cent of visits to casual dining restaurants at dinner time. The study also showed that 11 per cent of visits to casual dining places are because the ‘kids like it there’.

Foodservice UK’s director Cyril Lavenant said: “People are telling us that casual dining is the best of both worlds, speed combined with a good ambiance. The new casual dining restaurants are proving popular with people who want good food in a pleasant environment but who are also keeping an eye on what they spend. In difficult economic times, consumers need to save money. That helps to explain why full service restaurants have suffered.

“Casual dining is successful because it offers a good experience when eating out and a good option for when people want a ‘treat’ for themselves or their kids. The food is also priced at the level that makes it easy for younger people to dine out.”

Continued growth

The casual dining market isn’t large, accounting for only 4 per cent of the UK’s total foodservice market. However, The NPD Group forecasts further growth, pointing out that casual dining visits grew 1.5 per cent in the last economic year alone.

BigHospitality has reported on a number of new casual dining restaurants opening in the UK in the past few months, including The Noodle House,Tiger Bills​ and Busaba Eathai.

“The success of casual dining in Britain is the beginning of a new way of eating out; this is definitely not a blip,” added Lavenant. “At The NPD Group we believe that casual dining restaurants will continue to take business from full service restaurants.”

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