British foodservice consumers are creatures of habit when eating out

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Telltale information: habit is the fastest growing reason for consumers visiting foodservice outlets, according to The NPD Group
Telltale information: habit is the fastest growing reason for consumers visiting foodservice outlets, according to The NPD Group

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One in four diners are happy to go on to ‘autopilot’ when choosing where to eat out if they get good pricing, convenience and the right experience, according to new research.

Findings from global information company The NPD Group continuous research, which typically includes upwards of 10,000 respondents, for the year ending November 2017 found that the reason for choosing a particular foodservice operator in nearly one in four (24%) of eating out or out-of-home visits was because consumers ‘always or regularly go there’.

This amounts to more than 2.8bn visits per year in Britain that can be described as ‘habitual’ and habit is the fastest growing reason for visiting a foodservice outlet.

Over the past two years to November 2017, habitual visits have risen by 10.6% (an additional 263m visits), which is seven times faster than visit growth in the overall foodservice market (which is up by 1.5%).

Habitual visits account for £12.6bn of out-of-home consumer spending per year, a figure that has risen by 13.4% in the two years to November 2017, while overall out-of-home spending has grown by less than half this rate (6.6%).

Spoilt for choice

NPD Group UK foodservice director Cyril Lavenant said: “We are all spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out, thanks to innovative foodservice chains opening all the time.

“The conventional wisdom is that with so many options we are promiscuous consumers, choosing one brand and then another – always experimenting and never settling for a ‘favourite’.

“But our latest data shows that is not the case. Nearly one in four of us are happy to go on ‘autopilot’ as long as we get good pricing, convenience and the right customer experience.

“The value of that ‘autopilot’ business is close to £13bn or nearly one quarter of the sales value of the entire British foodservice industry so it is something Britain’s operators should fight for.”

While ‘autopilot’ can benefit operators, this doesn’t mean they should get complacent with their offers, according to Lavenant.

Standing out

He added: “Consumers pick a foodservice brand because they know it will offer a good experience.

“Operators know that it is more important than ever to stand out from the competition, especially as the frequency at which British adults eat out has declined by nearly 4% over the past decade.

“Competition is fierce and anybody in the foodservice industry is under significant pressure constantly to improve.

“Even the most habitual of customers can suddenly switch allegiance, so operators cannot afford to be complacent or confuse consumer habit with consumer loyalty.

“When consumers have a good experience they come back for more, but when that experience disappoints, there are plenty of other choices out there.”

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