>> More and more people are buying meals and snacks to eat outside the home as the number of foodservice outlets in the UK continues to grow and the choice of foods broadens.

As food operators offer dishes, menus and snacks designed to appeal to people at any time of day, wherever they happen to be, the temptation to consume meals out of the home has never been greater.

A new report by foodservice consultancy Horizons and JRA reveals that 66% of the foodservice operators that took part in the survey saw an increase in food sales in the 12 months to April 2015, with 21% reporting a ‘large’ increase.

However, the research that involved nearly 300 operators, revealed a drop in spend with operators reporting that more people were spending less than £12 per head, while fewer people were spending above £16. Average spend had dropped from £13.10 in spring 2014 to £11.03 in spring 2015.


>> Nearly half of operators reported that sales of snacks had increased year-on-year.

“People are now snacking more, or having one, or maybe two courses instead of three, which explains why average spend appears to have fallen. This backs up our previous consumer research that shows that while spend has fallen back slightly, frequency of eating out is rising,” said Emma Read, Horizons’ director of marketing and business development.

“Foodservice operators have done a great job at changing their offer and adapting to the way consumers eat out today, providing more foods that satisfy the snacking opportunity throughout the day. This, typically, means several small meals during the day, whether it be coffee and porridge bought to eat at our desks in the morning, a muffin with a coffee mid-morning or light snack in the afternoon.”

The research also shows that more people are eating out at the weekends. Some 42% of operators said they were serving more meals from Friday to Sunday. Just over a third say they are serving more on Sundays with pubs and bars (61%) reporting the biggest hike in weekend sales.

And operators remain positive about the future for eating out with 78% of businesses surveyed, including restaurants, pubs, hotels, cafes and leisure outlets, expecting to see an increase in sales over the next 12 months. This optimism has dropped slightly as operators realise growth is likely to be more modest in the future.