New government statistics have wildiy exaggerated the size of the eating out market in the UK by including spend on drink and hotel accommodation.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this month put the total spend on food and drink outside the home at £87.5bn in 2004. An ONS press release said that spending on eating out has overtaken meals at home in the UK.
However, foodservice consultant Horizons FS has pointed out that the figures include all drink served in pubs, whether or not it was consumed with food, and also include overnight hotel accommodation.
Peter Backman of Horizons FS said: "If you have spent £20 on a night in a pub and then slept it off in a hotel charging £80 for the overnight stay, the ONS says that you have spent £100 on eating out. That is not our view of what eating out consists of."
Horizons estimates the actual value of the UK eating out market at £35.8 billion, including drink bought with food, in 2005. This is less than a third, 31 per cent, of total spend on food and drink across retail and foodservice.
Mr Backman said: "No doubt the figures are well researched - it's just that they don't measure what they claim to measure. The ONS uses a definition of eating out that is, at best, quirky and, at worst, misleading."