"The research is valuable insight into consumer behaviour and will help operators pull together business and marketing plans to support their growth aspirations."
Research commissioned by buying group Fairway Foodservice has identified that menus offering healthy alternatives is a key priority for consumers when making decisions on eating out – with vegan and vegetarian options on the rise and enticing meat eaters.
While online channels have become a decision-making aid for consumers, the study identified that the quality of food, customer service and value for money remain key factors around choosing a venue.
Toby Jordan, marketing strategist at Fairway, said: “The research is valuable insight into consumer behaviour and will help operators pull together business and marketing plans to support their growth aspirations.
“For example, 50 per cent of the 35-44 age group said they are actively trying to increase the number of healthy options they choose. With this in mind, caterers should ensure such meals are clearly visible on menus, as well as prominent in their marketing campaigns.
“In addition, British cuisines remain the most popular with consumers while budget eateries and fast food continue to reign supreme. Vegan and vegetarian-friendly fast food options are now enticing meat eaters, with their appetite for meatless burgers helping drive sales.
“In total, 16 per cent of all diners said they are eating less meat than a year ago and for many diners, this is as much about environmental impact and health as it is about animal welfare.
“However, 29 per cent of all age groups say they are trying to cut down the amount they eat out – which suggests healthy options are less available in restaurants. With this in mind, as well as the increase in people choosing to go vegetarian, plant-friendly menus can give restaurants a welcome boost.”
The study also found that an eatery’s website is the main channel that consumers will look-up prior to a visit with a large proportion (40 per cent) of 18 to 24 year-olds checking a caterer’s Instagram page before visiting.
Toby added: “As the influence of social media and an effective web presence grows, creating a quality dining experience remains at the heart of customer attraction and retention.”
The research also identified that half of all consumers say their choice of where to eat was driven by a recommendation by a close friend or family member, with diners who have negative experiences unlikely to return as eating out “has become as much about enjoying the whole experience as it is about eating delicious food.”
In addition, quality of food remains especially important to older eaters, with those aged over 35 rating the importance of food quality at 90 per cent, a factor less important among those aged 18 to 25.
To view the full research, visit: fw.link/report