Consumers clearly define different parts of foodservice sector

According to new IGD consumer research, when eating out, consumers identify four broad types of places to eat - restaurants, pubs, cafés and fast food outlets. Their expectations differ according to where they are going and why they are going there.

Consumers clearly distinguish between specific parts of the foodservice sector and expect a different offer from each. Eating out is considered to be a meal in a pub or restaurant, rather than in a café or fast food outlet. The latter are seen as often-unplanned occasions where a speedy meal is needed rather than a relaxing social experience.


44% of consumers eat in a restaurant once a month or more. Eating in a restaurant is more likely to be a planned event for a specific purpose such as a special occasion (60% of consumers) for example a birthday, socialising with friends (58%) or a nice meal with a partner (34%).


36% of consumers eat in a pub once a month or more. Eating in a pub is primarily a social event with friends - 61% of consumers cite this as the main reason for eating there. Pubs are seen as offering a convenient option when compared to a restaurant or eating at home, but not as a special or romantic venue. Pubs also have an advantage in that they are often perceived to offer more favourable pricing than the cost of preparing a meal at home, and they also offer incentives for example two meals for £5.


38% of consumers eat in a café once a month or more. Cafés are seen to offer quick meals for time-pressured consumers, and are also a good place to meet friends. Cafés are associated more with daytime dining than as places to have an evening out, as 23% of consumers find eating there quicker than preparing a meal at home and 48% choose them as a place for a quick meal while out shopping.

Fast food outlets

38% of consumers eat in a fast food outlet once a month or more. In common with cafés, they offer a quick meal on the go (for 64% of consumers) but they lack the social element of a café. One in four consumers eats in this type of place because their children or grandchildren want to eat there.

When asked what they expect of the places where they eat out, consumers cite good service as the top expectation of a restaurant or pub, while quick service was most important in a café or fast food outlet. IGD suggests that the 'people element', i.e. what the staff can bring to the experience of eating out, is a key ingredient which a retail environment is less able to provide and which may lead to competition in the future.

Joanne Denney-Finch OBE, Chief Executive IGD said "It is clear that consumers are now segmenting the foodservice market according to their own needs and reasons for eating out. They see eating out as an 'experience' which means a restaurant or pub, while a café or fast food outlet is seen more as a convenient option. IGD's research suggests that when eating out offers a quicker alternative to home cooking, one in four consumers will choose to eat out. Retailers therefore face two challenges in competing with both the experience and convenience of the foodservice offer. Does the future lie in completely merging foodservice and food retail, for example with retailers offering more hot food to go or to consume on the premises? Or will the growth in town-centre stores help retailers counteract this trend?

"Competition between foodservice and food retail looks set to become more intense as the boundaries blur yet further. And as consumers segment the foodservice offer, these segments will compete for 'share of stomach' against specific retail formats and product ranges as well as against each other."

Sarah Harper, Tel: +44 (0) 1923 851922, mobile 07785 257974, email

Catherine Ellwood, Tel: +44 (0) 1923 851916, mobile 07718 580103, email

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