Almost three quarters (71 per cent) of 2,366 respondents said they had eaten out in the past two weeks, up from 67 per cent in June last year.
However, over the same period spend dropped from £13.30 to £12.72.
“Although frequency of eating out is still below pre-recession levels, the increase in penetration and frequency of eating out indicates that the sector is no longer in decline,” said Horizons’ director of services Nicola Knight.
“The fact average spend has dropped slightly suggests that there is a greater willingness amongst consumers to intersperse special occasion meals with more everyday purchases.”
Respondents had eaten out an average of 2.21 times in the previous two weeks, up from last year’s average frequency of 1.77 times.
Takeaway and home delivered food are rising in popularity, representing 19 per cent of meals out (up from16 per cent), suggesting that more and more consumers mix formal occasions with casual meals out.
The survey also revealed that convenience (27 per cent) and conviviality (26 per cent) are the most frequently cited reasons for eating out, but consumers also eat out because they don’t want to cook themselves (25 per cent), are hungry (20 per cent) or because meals out represent good value for money (17 per cent).
While most diners eat out in the evening (63 per cent), 47 per cent have lunch out and an increasing number eat breakfast out of the home (12 per cent) compared to 10 per cent this time last year.
Some 12 per cent of respondents said they looked for vegetarian options when choosing where or what to eat, while 12 per cent said calorie information affects their choices of venues and dishes, and 9 per cent look for low-fat options.
Over half of diners (53 per cent) say that provenance is important to them.
The quality of food is the most frequently cited factor when choosing a venue at 76 per cent, with price second (65 per cent) and cleanliness third (60 per cent).
For the 27 per cent of respondents who hadn’t eaten out in the past two weeks, money was the most commonly cited reason, followed by quality and healthiness.
Younger diners (18-24 and 25-34) are most likely to eat out at 78 and 79 per cent, but spend less (£10.40) than those over 55 (£13.78).
Cities leading growth
In terms of outlets, cities are leading the growth, with the number of licensed venues up 8 per cent in the last ten years, according to CGA Peach.
The CGA Outlet Index showed the total number of outlets, including pubs and restaurants, has fallen by 9 per cent in town centres and 20 per cent in the suburbs in the same period.
Growth in new openings over the last ten years has been nearly as strong in Manchester (17 per cent), Liverpool (15 per cent), Leeds (14 per cent) and Cardiff (13 per cent) as it has been in London (19 per cent).
Food-led managed pubs and restaurants saw numbers rise by 39 per cent, compared to an 18 per cent fall in the number of leased pubs. Last year alone saw 9 per cent growth in restaurant openings.
All-day, ‘hybrid’ concepts that give customers the flexibility to eat or drink what they wish at any time of the day or night grew by 80 per cent in the last ten years, confirming a trend noticed in Allegra Foodservice’s 2014 Menu Trends report.