Food delivery: disaster or opportunity for pubs?

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

To deliver or not to deliver?: Is delivery an opportunity or a threat to pubs?
To deliver or not to deliver?: Is delivery an opportunity or a threat to pubs?

Related tags Deliveroo delivery

Pubs are failing to tap into the rising food delivery trend, with only a few pub companies adopting it, despite it cannibalising the eating-out market and growing by 13% to a value of £8.1bn, new analysis has claimed.

In contrast, the total eating and drinking-out market grew by 2% in 2018, said MCA insight director Gareth Nash at MA500 Manchester.

Just one fifth of the major pub chains use food delivery as part of their business model, compared with two thirds of the top 100 restaurant brands, he said.

There are now 32m food delivery users in the UK, which has increased by 9% on previous figures, with each person using a delivery service claiming to order food in at least every two months, equating to 851m ordered meals in 2018.

Spend on delivered food is also growing by 4% to an average of £9.50 per order, 80% of which are for evening meals, said Nash.

Treat time

“Frequency is flat, but for consumers are low on incomes, it’s a treat they will have,” he said.

A rise in frequency has occurred rapidly, considering one in five of those questioned hadn’t used a delivery service before 2017. More than a third (34%) of non-users would, however, consider using it.

“Recruitment is rising rapidly in this market as more people get involved and more operators expand into it,” explained Nash.


Nash said: “There are operational challenges and a lot of kitchens in small tenanted and leased sites don’t have the space to run a normal service alongside delivery.

“If there’s an upsurge in delivery orders it is going to be stuffed. There are challenges to consider.

“The other thing is product, in terms of the food and drink is it suitable; a classic pub roast isn’t going to be suitable. Restaurant chains are making use of products they can deliver – burgers, burritos…”

“It’s part of the on-demand economy,” he continued. “Consumers’ lifestyles are changing and people are getting busier.

“Convenience is becoming more important and tech needs to ensure this can happen. They now expect to have what they want, when they want it.”

Consumers more likely to order food from venues are 18 to 34-year-olds, with 50% of total spend coming from the younger generation, a considerable chunk considering they make up just 28% of the population.

Less likely to eat out

More than a quarter (26%) of those asked said it would make them less likely to eat out, while a third said it would stop them from cooking at home.

Some 20% of those asked said they order a delivery more than they go out for a meal, which rose to 35% for those aged between 18 and 34.

Fewer consumers were eating out, in general, according to the research with visits for breakfast down 5%, lunch by 8%, dinner 10% and snacks down 9%.

The data also showed that more consumers were ordering food in for social occasions, instead of going out. “Social occasions for ordering delivery are 28% of all delivery occasions, so social is growing and these are the ones you would usually expect to see in the pub but they’re happening more and more in the home,” said Nash.

“Some 55% of delivery orders are for a treat and that has increased substantially. They’re treating themselves on a night in. You have to think about how to encourage consumers to get out their houses from these delivery-focused occasions.”

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