Whilst traditional restaurants continue to struggle to attract customers in today’s difficult economic climate, new figures suggest that pubs are bucking this trend and are experiencing in increase in the number of customers that eat out.
The study, by market research firm, The NPD Group, is based on year on year growth figures from the last six months. The figures suggest that the recovery has been led by leading branded operators such as Harvester and Weatherspoons.
The research established that pubs that serve food are able to capitalise on longer opening times by serving food throughout the day. Many now offer breakfast and morning coffee in addition to the more traditional lunch and dinner.
The study also found that value is a key factor in the popularity of food service in pubs. With early evening and breakfast offers pubs are generally perceived to offer a value for money service which is valued by customers.
Branded pubs have seen a 4% increase in customer numbers in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same point last year. Unbranded pubs have been unable to match such strong performance.
During the same period the pub industry has seen a 2.2% growth in numbers with a 1.4% increase in average spend, whist the restaurant industry has experienced a 4.4% fall in its customer numbers.
The average spend per person in a pub during the last year was almost £8, compared to £9.50 for a full restaurant.
The figures also suggest that eating out at pubs is particularly appealing to families on a middle income, with over 55% of their customers falling in the household income range £19,000 – £49,999.
A spokesman for NPD explained that when the latest recession hit, many people gave up eating out and choose instead to either visit a fast food outlet or concentrate on cooking their own food. This view is supported by a grow in the number of people attending cookery courses.
There is a perception that restaurants are still very expensive and that they are in danger of pricing themselves out of the market.
The good news for the pub industry is that it is attracting consumers back for occasions when they are likely to spend more money, such as weekends and at dinner, when they are able bring along their children with the meal becoming more of a social occasions.