UK diners more flexible than ever about meal times, report finds

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Meal alternatives: mealtimes are becoming ever-more flexible
Meal alternatives: mealtimes are becoming ever-more flexible

Related tags: Restaurant, Food

UK diners are becoming increasingly flexible in the way they approach mealtimes, according to a new study.

The changing nature of work and the flexibility and freedom this brings is having an impact on daily routines, eating and spending habits, the Eating Out – Today and Tomorrow​ report has found.

Commissioned by Sacla, the report surveyed the attitudes of more than 2,000 pub and restaurant customers.

It revealed that more than 30% of all respondents report regularly skipping breakfast, rising to 40% of 18 to 24-year-olds. In contrast, one in five people now eat out mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

Meanwhile, 56% of Londoners and 52% of non-Londoners described their working hours as ‘irregular, changing or unpredictable’.

Marrying in these trends with the growth of the eating-out market, the report concluded that almost a third of the £283bn spent on food in the UK goes to the out-of-home market, such as pubs, restaurants and cafés.

Adventurous tastes

The report also highlighted the willingness of British consumers to try new foods – 66% described themselves as passionate about food and drink and 62% said they were ‘totally adventurous’ in terms of cuisine. The over-65s were shown to be particularly keen to try new food with three in five ‘totally adventurous’ with new cuisine.

Technological advancements were a point of consternation in the poll, with 41% having said they wanted to see recent visitor reviews online before visiting an outlet. However, 37% said they would prefer to eat in a tech free environment, with the figure only dropping to 32% for Generation Y.

Service times remain a bug-bear for consumers, with 70% of adults frustrated by some aspects of waiting, rising to 75% of Generation Y.

Other trends

  • 29% of families eat out together on a weekly basis.
  • 31% of all respondents say they eat out at least once a week.
  • An even higher number of Londoners (44%), the self-employed (45%) and 18 to 34-year-olds (41%) eat out at least once a week.
  • 94% of respondents expressed an international cuisines repertoire of five.

Clare Blampied, managing director at Sacla UK, said: “We are extremely excited to have produced this brand new trends-driven report.  It delivers an in-depth look into the foodservice industry, and provides strategic insight for operators looking to improve their offering.”

Paul Flatters, managing director at Trajectory, which produced the report, said: “This provides a fresh perspective on UK consumer attitudes, behaviours and expectations. Consumers feel less constricted in their behaviour by traditional norms of time, place and social status, a core theme throughout the report and a concept we labelled the ‘deregulation of life’.

Flatters added: “The four fundamental elements of ‘deregulation of life’ – time, place, individualism and mobile devices – demand that foodservice operators consider how they could or should offer the flexibility and choice to match today’s deregulated lifestyles.”

Related topics: Food trends, News

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