Younger consumer fuelling demand for breakfast & brunch in UK pubs

A third of UK consumers who claim to visit pubs more regularly now than they did a year ago attribute this increase to the higher-quality food available, indicating that high-quality ingredients and premium positioning can drive traffic and sales.

Market researchers Technomic surveyed 1,000 consumers in the UK last August to find that the seven out of 10 who now visit pubs more often than they did last year are trading restaurant visits for pub visits indicating that pubs are taking share from restaurants.

Only 26 per cent of UK pub chains offer breakfast, according to Technomic’s exclusive online trend-tracking resource MenuMonitor. Nearly one in six consumers surveyed want more pubs to serve breakfast and brunch. About twice as many younger consumers than older ones indicate this preference. Considering the high level of brand loyalty within the pub sector, attracting young consumers through a strong breakfast offering complete with high-quality coffee may help create a loyal customer base, suggests Technomic.

Main Dishes
The most notable growth in demand was seen for Asian bowls (183 per cent), vegetable dishes (74 per cent), pizza (61 per cent), combo plates (21 per cent) and burgers (nine per cent). This shows the versatility with which pub operators have developed lunch and dinner menus to give guests more variety.


New breads include artisanal ciabatta and focaccia breads as well as new grilled flatbread offerings, observes Technomic.

Kids’ Menus
As part of making their concepts more family-friendly, UK pubs have created more menu items to draw in dining parties that include children. In 2009, just 48 per cent of pubs offered kids’ menus; by 2011 that percentage had increased to 62 per cent. Further, kids’ items have increased 15 per cent over the past two years with kids’ favourites like pasta, burgers and ice-cream now appearing on more pub menus.

The sizable increases seen for baked goods and ice-cream reveal a consumer preference for classic desserts and sweet comfort foods. Many of the newest desserts listed on pub menus also feature preparations that include both baked goods and ice-cream such as brownies with vanilla ice-cream or pies and tarts featuring a scoop of ice-cream as a topping.
Additionally, rising wine consumption — and the emergence of food-led pubs — signals growth avenues for wine and food/wine pairings on the menu.
IWSR found that wine-drinking in Britain grew from 12 to 17 per cent between 2003 and 2007 and that consumption is forecast to continue expanding through 2014.

Table service
Although full table service is rare at pubs, more than half the consumers polled prefer partial table service while three in 10 prefer full table service for pub food. Operators who don’t currently offer even modified table service may want to consider whether it would be feasible and whether it would appeal to their clientele, suggests Technomic.

Attitudes & Purchasing Decisions
Four in five consumers say they planned on ordering food at the pub. Fewer younger consumers (pubs’ core customer base) visited a pub specifically for food, suggesting opportunities to boost check averages by encouraging younger consumers to add food to their order.
While adult beverages remain top-of-mind for pub visits, more than half of consumers also visit for lunch and dinner at least once a month. More than two-fifths of the sample strongly agree they’d be more likely to visit a pub offering food than a pub only offering adult beverages. Older consumers are more likely than their younger counterparts to report that food offerings are a driver for pub patronage. This indicates that offering food may help operators drive traffic among older visitors who typically visit less often, creating a new customer base.
Over nine in 10 consumers expect pub food to be high in quality with half strongly expecting high-quality fare. Now that higher-quality options are accepted at pubs, operators have room to menu unique items. More than two in five consumers – and nearly half of females – seek new or unique menu items or flavours at pubs. Operators may be able to boost incremental traffic sales and appeal to women by offering new or unique foods and flavours.
Four-fifths of consumers place high importance on overall value when visiting a pub and roughly seven in 10 say the cost of food and drinks is important.
Technomic observed a larger-than-normal discrepancy between the importance of perceived overall value and the importance of absolute cost, signalling that in a pub setting consumers are willing to pay more for attributes beyond price such as quality, variety or health.
Roughly four in five consumers report that the quality, freshness and taste of the food is important when visiting a pub. More place importance on quality than on overall value, supporting the idea that quality and taste are driving the importance of overall value at pubs.
A near majority of consumers place high importance on the availability of healthy food.
The use of seasonal and natural ingredients is most likely to resonate with consumers in a pub setting, particularly females. Operators can use these types of ingredients to convey ‘better for you’ positioning and boost their appeal to women, suggests Technomic.

Menu mix
Nearly two-thirds of consumers prefer pub menus to feature a mix of traditional dishes and contemporary options. Operators who offer food will want to go beyond the traditional pub fare to offer more sophisticated dishes in order to compete effectively with other pubs and restaurants, states the report.
Technomic summarises: “As consumer needs and lifestyles shift, pubs are capitalising on new opportunities within the breakfast day-part. Expanded menu offerings and a focus on speciality coffee are driving interest in the morning. The use of locally-sourced food ingredients can help pub operators create a positive narrative around quality and health for menu offerings”.

Sign Up for Drinks Industry Ireland

Get a free weekly update on Drinks Industry trade news, direct to your inbox. Sign up now, it's free