Consumers’ frequency of eating out is stubbornly static, the latest round of CGA’s BrandTrack research reveals—but with loyalty increasingly fickle, there are opportunities for smart brands to pull in new customers.
British consumers averaged 5.0 eating out occasions a month at the time of the BrandTrack survey in April 2017—only a small increase on the average of 4.8 four years ago. There is little prospect of that increase in the short term either. Only 16% of respondents intend to increase their frequency of visits to mainstream restaurants over the next year, against 15% who expect it to decrease and 62% who expect it to stay the same.
The BrandTrack research also spotlights the challenge of securing loyalty. 18 to 34 year-olds have visited an average of 3.6 new brands in the last six months—an indication of the flood of new concepts in the market and the disruption they are causing to established brands. The same age group also has an average of 6.8 ‘lapsed’ brands—concepts they have visited before, but not recently. The data also highlights the crucial difference between perceived and behavioural loyalty, whereby people who think they are loyal to a brand are actually far less so in practice.
But while the research reveals that more and more consumers are now shopping around for eating and drinking out brands, it also flags up the opportunities that are emerging to convert first-time visitors into regular and satisfied guests. Making an immediate impact on first visits is crucial to this success, while at the same time staying relevant to existing customers and staying engaged with their needs.
The BrandTrack survey also uncovers bright prospects among younger age groups. Among 25 to 34 year-olds, two thirds (66%) now eat out at least weekly, against little more than a half (54%) three years ago. For those aged 35 to 44, the three-year increase—from 42% to 52%—is nearly as sharp.
People in these age groups have entered adulthood amid a boom in casual dining restaurants and out-of-home eating, and these figures suggest they are taking their propensity to eat out into later life. Younger generations have become much more accustomed to eating out than their parents, and seem likely to maintain their habits as they get older.
What’s more, BrandTrack data suggests younger adults are increasing their spend. Among 25 to 34 year-olds, the average spend on an eating-out occasion in April 2014 was £18.16, but three years later it has jumped to £23.47. In the youngest adult age group of all, 18 to 24 year-olds, the increase is even more striking—from £15.90 to £21.33. Increases among older age groups are much more modest.
CGA’s BrandTrack survey also provides a comprehensive analysis of brands’ performance, including overall satisfaction and usage ratings and consumers’ perceptions against criteria including trust, value, quality, authenticity, service and atmosphere. Put together, the data delivers an exceptionally detailed picture of brand perception and the competitive landscape in eating and drinking out.
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