Burgers Drive Growth in Eating Out
In the second quarter of this year, eating out at restaurants and other food outlets grew for the third quarter running, but does this really mean the end of cautious consumer spending?
In the second quarter of this year, eating out at restaurants and other food outlets grew for the third quarter running, but does this really mean the end of cautious consumer spending? Visits to restaurants have increased 1% while spending has gone up 2% compared with last year, according to data from NPD Crest. This is equivalent to an additional 130 million visits and £1 billion spend. An increase in consumer confidence and a pleasant and long summer have contributed to this growth.
Growth has been driven by quick service restaurants, which hold a 50% share of overall traffic. It appears consumers still want to treat themselves but financial constraints are pushing them towards cheaper fast food options. While the good weather encouraged more consumers to eat out through all outlets, fast food restaurants have benefited the most.
The largest growth in eating out has been by families with children, who made 4% more visits compared with last year. This has been driven, in part, by increased promotions, with offers like ‘kids eat free/half price’ being taken up in almost a third of outings. While the number of adult only visits has also increased, they still remain below those in 2010.
Looking at the different proteins, beef has seen the largest growth in meals, being up 4%, primarily through growth in beef burger purchases. This is unsurprising, given the popularity of burgers at fast-food outlets. However, the recent fashion for ‘gourmet burgers’ has resulted in them increasing their significance on pub and restaurant menus. Although pig meat is chosen in a large number of restaurant visits, the majority involve bacon or ham. The 2% drop in pig meat meals comes on the back of reductions in pork as a main meal or roast. Lamb continues to suffer at food service outlets, due to a poor perception of quality and value for money. However, lamb may gain from the popularity of ‘gourmet burgers’, which could bring it back to menus in an affordable and attractive way.
Growth in the food service sector is a sign that consumers are relaxing their budgeting. However, good weather is known to encourage eating out and is likely to have contributed to the growth that has occurred so far this year. The true test will be whether growth continues into the next two quarters; recovery to pre-recession levels of eating out still remains far off.