Informal dining sector defies recession to grow to £52bn

The UK informal eating out market – which encompasses everything from Subway to Pizza Express – is set to outperform the rest of the retail and hospitality sectors, with 3% annual growth to reach £52bn by the end of 2012.

According to foodservice analyst Allegra Strategies’ Eating Out in the UK 2012 report, the informal eating out market is being driven by consumers dining out more frequently as well as continued expansion and price inflation.

Allegra said that long-term growth prospects for the informal sector remained positive with increased spend, supported by a drop in inflation forecasting the sector to grow to £65bn by 2017 at a compound annual growth rate (CGAR) of 4.9%.

The report found that the 226,350 outlet-strong sector is dominated by fast food brands, with Subway leading expansion at 134 new stores, followed by Dominos with 102 new sites. McDonald’s is the biggest group in terms of turnover, followed by Yum! Brands (KFC and Pizza Hut) while at an average of £50,000 per week, Jamie Oliver’s high street restaurant chain Jamie’s Italian is the brand with the highest sales per outlet.

According to the report, consumers are eating out more frequently than they were a year ago, with the average number of lunchtime restaurants visits per month up from 4.1 in 2011 to 4.2 in 2012, and dinner visits up to 2.7 per month from 2.4 last year. While lunchtime spend is down from £7.34 in 2011 to £7.07 in 2012, dinner spend is up from £13.11 to £14.37.

This growth is largely being fuelled by a shift in consumer habits, with the public becoming more price conscious when it comes to their dining choices, but at the same time increasing the frequency at which they choose to eat out.

Consumer confidence remains fragile with 45% of people stating they do not feel confident about their future income levels and as a result 62% look to spend cautiously when eating out.

But despite this, one in three say they make sure they have enough money every month to eat out, with many trading down for this affordable discretionary spend. Nearly two-thirds of consumers (62%) regularly use discounting vouchers when eating out, with a third using them “most of the time”.

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