WHILE Britons continue to tighten their belts in hard economic times, one luxury that few of us seem to be prepared to give up is eating out.
A new report by Allegra Strategies and Barclays forecasts that sales across the UK’s branded restaurants are set to grow by 22 per cent to £13.6bn by 2015 as dining out becomes increasingly ingrained in consumer behaviour.
The research consultancy, which quizzed 300 industry leaders and over 12,000 consumers for its Project Restaurant 2012 report, forecasts that sales in the sector will grow by 5.6 per cent this year to a total of £11.1bn.
Anya Marco, director of Insight at Allegra Strategies, added: “Although industry sentiment is guarded, understandably dampened by a cautious economic outlook, it is clear that UK consumers are refusing to give up on affordable eating out.”
In the next 12 months, 70 per cent of consumers expect to dine out at the same rate as they have done in the past year, the report showed.
But hard-pressed consumers are still hunting out affordable treats, with more than half of those surveyed saying they regularly use discount vouchers.
Some 17 per cent of consumers said they would stop going to a restaurant regularly if discounting stopped being offered there.
“As discretionary spend continues to come under pressure, consumers are taking active steps to switch their spending towards more affordable restaurants,” Mike Saul, head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays, said.
“As a result there has been a clear shift by operators to meet these price sensitive needs,” he added.
Around 45 per cent of restaurant operators expect discounting to become more widespread in future. Almost half of those businesses attributed a boost of up to five per cent in sales to these offers.
The report forecasts that fast food operators will outperform the dining out sector as a whole, with growth of 6.7 per cent this year as chains such as McDonalds, Nandos and Domino’s continue to press ahead with expansion plans.