Dining out in UK rises, but still below pre-recession level

In the United Kingdom, eating out rose 4 percent since last year. However, the average amount spent dining out has dipped, and the UK's dining out figure is below pre-recession level.

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP/File
Backdropped by St. Paul's Cathedral in central London, people enjoy a drink at a shopping centre's rooftop restaurant, June 5, 2014. In the United Kingdom, eating out rose 4 percent since last year.

As in the US, the British eating-out market remains behind its pre-recession level of dining frequency, but there are positive indicators in the new Eating Out-Look Survey conducted for UK researcher Horizons by YouGov.

In the new study, 71 percent of respondents (from among 2,366 surveyed online) reported having dined away from home in the previous two weeks, compared with 67 percent in June 2013. Although the average spend declined from £13.30 ($22.49) last year to £12.72 ($21.51) now, Horizons Director of Services Nicola Knight says the decline is not necessarily a bad sign. Instead it may indicate the increased dining frequency is including everyday meals and snacks as well as special-occasion dining.

Respondents in June 2014 reported eating out an average 2.21 in the previous two weeks, up from last year’s frequency of 1.77 times. By contrast, a recent study finds Americans averaging 2 eating out occasions each week for lunch alone.

Numbers suggest takeaway and home-delivery food (19 percent of occasions) accounted for a good share of the frequency growth. These categories were 16 percent of occasions a year ago.

Among other findings:

  • Most (63 percent) of those who dine out do so in the evening, but 47 percent are buying lunches. Away-from-home breakfast occasions are not nearly as popular in the UK and in the US, but they are rising (12 percent, compared with 10 percent last year).
  • As in the US (and elsewhere, I’d wager), convenience is the most-often-mentioned driver (27 percent) of food-away-from-home purchases. But “conviviality” (a lovely word) was checked by 26 percent. A close third was “don’t want to cook,” echoing the notion that people today are more interested in food than in cooking.
  • What determines where to eat or order? Food quality is tops (76 percent), followed by price considerations (65 percent) and cleanliness (60 percent).
  • In the UK, 12 percent of diners say they seek vegetarian options. The same percentage says their choices are influenced by calorie-count information. And the whole world loves local sourcing: 53 percent of Horizons’ survey respondents say that it’s important they know the origins of the main ingredient they’re going to eat.
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