Brits choosing pubs over restaurants

British diners are opting to spend more time and money in pubs compared to traditional, full-service restaurants given their longer opening hours, all-day menus, value-priced food and family-friendly environments, says a new market report.

According to the latest report from market research firm NPD Group, though pubs haven't returned to their pre-recession performance, the latest numbers show that Brits have been choosing to spend more of their time and money in pubs in the first quarter of the year, compared to full-service restaurants, reports industry publication Big Hospitality.

By the end of March, sales across British pubs were worth a projected £9.8 billion (€11 billion) compared to £10.4 billion (€11.7 billion) in the same period in 2008.

And driving the growth are branded pub chains like Wetherspoons and Harvester, the report said.

JD Wetherspoon, for instance, is ubiquitous across the UK. According to its latest annual report, there were 775 pubs across the UK last year. Since the start of the financial year, the company opened 29 new locations and plans to open 50 new pubs in total by the end of 2011.

The chain's sales numbers also seem to corroborate the NPD report as total sales up to April 24 increased by 7.4 percent over the same period last year.

Menus range from traditional pub fare like hand-battered fish and chips with peas with tartar sauce, steak and kidney pie, jacket potatoes (stuffed, baked potatoes), to the country's unofficially traditional British grub like Chicken Tikka Masala.

Aside from their pub fare, the chain is also known for boasting the best retail loos or bathrooms in the country. For five years running, the company won the title of Loo of the Year, by the British Toilet Association. Last year, four of the chain's pubs across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were recognized for their water closets.

Harvester, meanwhile, also has 160 locations across the UK, and is known for its spit roast chicken and grilled menu items.

According to the NPD report, the overall level of customer traffic in branded pubs increased by four percent in the first quarter of 2011, compared to the same period last year.

Traffic at full-service restaurants, meanwhile, experienced a 4.4 percent in the same period.

The difference between spending in restaurants and pubs is also comparable: in the first quarter, the average pub diner spent £7.98 (€9) compared to £9.44 (€10.64) for full service restaurants.

"When the recession hit, people stopped eating out and either ate at home or traded down to fast food," NPD spokesman Guy Fielding told Big Hospitality.

"Now, full service restaurants are still too expensive and they are out-pricing themselves, particularly with alcohol. But the value for money food on offer from pubs, at all points throughout the day, is enticing customers to return."

Patron profiles also show that 28 percent of pub customers earn between £19,000 (€21,410) to £29,000 (€32,680), and another 28 percent earn between £30,000 (€33,800)and £49,000 (€55,202).

 

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