Venue choices for Christmas meals out will be decided by spend per head, according to research by The Mystery Dining Company (TMDC).
Despite rising food costs and the increase of VAT to 20%, most consumers do not intend to raise their average budget for their Christmas meal out with 80% planning to spend the same as last year — between £16 and £35 a head.
However, the 300-people survey found that only 16% intended to cut down on eating out, with the majority planning instead to scrutinise prices more carefully to keep a lid on spending. A minority said they would swap meals for drinks (11%), go out more than 2010 (11%) and do as they pleased regardless of cost (21%).
TMDC director Sally Whelan warned operators that consumers will be comparing venues before picking one and the only way to secure their custom was to reassure customers that they will get value for money.
Having the right information on websites is also crucial, with 70% of those surveyed admitting that would be their first port of call. Just one in five said they would request menu details from a venue, meaning operators have little opportunity to promote themselves without an informative website.
Other factors to focus on include ease of booking, warmth of welcome and efficiency of service.
"It can be easy to forget just how important the actual reservation process is when it comes to group bookings," said Whelan. "Many people will use it as an opportunity to test the staff member on the other end of the phone to ensure they are knowledgeable, efficient and, most importantly, welcoming.
"Winning over customers during this exchange is important and you want to leave them feeling confident in the choice they have made."
Around 33% of participants revealed plans to book in December, offering venues with spaces the opportunity to market themselves throughout the run-up to Christmas.