Pub fayre driving UK on-trade growth

The increasing popularity of pub food in the UK has seen a growth of 14% in food sales in the on-trade between 2012 and 2016 at a time when UK alcohol sales rose by just 6%.

According to new research from Mintel, sales of pub meals grew to £7.4 billion from 2012 and 2016. In the same time period sales of alcoholic drinks grew by 6% while soft drink sales rose by 7%.

In 2016 23% of consumers said they had visited a pub in the past month because of the high quality of food on offer while in 2017 this had risen to 30%*. Currently, 69% of pub-goers say that one of the most important factors that would make them choose one pub over another is high-quality food while one in six (16%) who visit pubs or bars to eat say they would go especially to try a new menu.

Further highlighting the importance of food to pub visits, nine in 10 (89%) say they typically visit a pub or bar to eat, compared to eight in 10 (79%) who go to drink in these venues.

Overall turnover in the UK pub industry grew by an estimated 8% between 2012 and 2016 to reach £23.5 billion. In 2016 alcoholic drinks made up half (50%) of pub industry turnover compared to 31% brought in by catering.

“Pubs that generate a higher proportion of sales from food and as a result attract a wider audience have generally performed more strongly than drink-led pubs,” observed Richard Caines, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, “This was reflected in sales of meals through pubs recording stronger growth than alcoholic drinks in 2016. Sales of meals in pubs have benefited from an ongoing move in the pubs market towards more food-led venues and efforts to improve quality and to expand and update menus across price points. The pub catering market has also benefited from an increase in the average spend per visit. The trend towards all-day dining, including the development of breakfasts in pubs, is another contributor to increased sales.”

And it seems that many pub-goers aren’t afraid to splash the cash on pub fayre. Over three in five (63%) are prepared to pay over £10 for dinner at a pub (excluding drinks) with 18% happy to spend between £15-£19.99, 10% are comfortable paying between £20 and £24.99 and 8% are prepared to splash out over £25 according to the report.

While pub grub has not held the reputation of a fine dining destination in the past, today, consumers there have high estimations of what they expect from public house cuisine. Almost half (45%) of pub-goers say that they would be put off ordering a particular dish at a pub or bar that wasn’t freshly made and one in 10 (10%) say that they wouldn’t like to order a dish that does not fit the image of a pub or bar. Looking to the future, over two thirds (69%) would be interested in seeing pub or bar dishes made with premium ingredients.

“When it comes to food, it’s not just about venues using premium ingredients, but also creating standout menu options that customers have come to expect such as build-your-own dishes, set menus and a wider range of healthy options,” said Trish Caddy, Foodservice Analyst at Mintel, “Value-for-money gastropubs are currently fuelling the pub sector but looking to the future there’s a growing appetite among pub-goers for more premium offerings.”

Finally, it seems that pubs might be going back to their old-school ways. Two in three (65%) pub-goers say they would like more pubs to have quiet areas free from music and TV. Meanwhile, many still value table service; 61% of pub-goers say that table service makes an evening more special while 75% say it’s important for waiting staff to be able to explain the menu.

*January 2016/February 2017

For more on this survey look for the Main Story in our June issue.




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