The latest QuickBite consumer survey, conducted by YouGov, shows that recovery of the UK eating out market is being affected by concerns over food quality, the sourcing and provenance of ingredients and health and lifestyle factors.
Almost half of respondents (41%) said they were influenced by healthy eating factors, such as the availability of vegetarian options (15%), calorie information (14%), reduced fat choices (9%) and low-carb dishes (4%). People aged 35 to 44 and 18 to 24 were most likely to look for these options (44%) with women (47%) more concerned than men (43%).
Knowing the origin and provenance of main ingredients was important to 56% of respondents, while 42% didn’t care. More than half (54%) welcomed allergen legislation coming in this December, which will see pubs and other eating establishments required to provide allergen information for the dishes they serve.
Lack of vegetarian choice
"We were surprised that so many respondents cited these lifestyle factors as influencing their choice of venue, particularly as our research shows that restaurants tend to only have one or two vegetarian choices," said director of services Nicola Knight.
"Our last Menurama survey [summer 2013], which analyses menu trends in restaurants, pubs, hotels and quick service sectors, showed that typically only 12% of main course dishes on menus are vegetarian, with only 2% being gluten-free.
"We will track this trend in forthcoming surveys, but we have to ask whether eating out establishments are currently doing enough to cater for these lifestyle concerns, particularly the apparent demand for vegetarian dishes and free-from dishes. Our survey indicates that these issues are likely to become more important, rather than less, as the eating out market improves."
Market is stabilising
The survey confirms that people are eating out more and the market is stabilising with 69% of respondents having eaten out an average of 1.8 times in the previous two weeks, up from 68% year-on-year.
Average spend across all outlets (including drinks) now stands at £14.41, up from £13.30 in July, but less than last year’s average spend of £14.55.