Once a basic burger and chips was sufficient to satisfy the appetite of British diners, but new research from Mintel finds that today, British consumers are looking for something a little posher from their junk food. Indeed, latest research from Mintel finds over one in ten (13%) British diners* have tried gourmet junk food – with nearly half (46%) who have not ordered saying they would be interested in trying posher junk food such as hot dogs with better quality ingredients.

Mintel’s research offered consumers a list of innovative foods and asked whether they had eaten them or would consider eating them in the future. Chip flights (a selection of different chips and dips) proved the most popular menu innovation, some 13% of diners having tried them and a further 61% saying they would be interested in ordering them in the future. Build your own (such as sandwiches, burgers or ice cream sundaes) have the next most popular appeal with 22% having tried this menu enticement and 49% interested in doing so, followed by gourmet doughnuts and eclairs with 12% having tried these and 43% interested in doing so.

But while the prospect of taking part in an oversized eating contest (eating extra large dishes in a set amount of time) might turn the stomachs of many Brits, nearly one in ten (8%) of all diners admit they have taken part in one of these competitions in the past and  over one in five (22%) saying they would be interested in doing so in the future

Helena Spicer, Food Service Analyst at Mintel, said:

Menu innovation is now rife in an increasingly competitive and mature marketplace, with current food fashions, including gourmet junk food and artisan pastries, designed to reignite consumers’ enthusiasm for spending on eating out. Restaurants are looking to appeal to those risk-averse diners who seek to indulge their craving for flavour innovation through side dishes rather than main meals.”

“As such, a number of flavour trends have grown around this area of the menu, as operators look to balance consumers’ low confidence with their increasing ‘menu/recession fatigue’. For example, sweet potato fries were a notable trend in 2012, whilst courgette fries have been gaining traction on menus in 2013 at leading venues. offering these options as a price bundle in the format of a ‘chip flight’ encourages diners to be more spontaneous without taking them too far out of their price comfort zone.”

Today, 47% of Brits who have eaten in a restaurant in the last three months say that when choosing a dish in a restaurant they would choose something that they could not usually make at home. But it seems it is not all about innovation and some consumers* are harbouring a nostalgia for British dining experiences of the past. Indeed, some 34% of Brits claim to be interested in historical or traditional ingredients (e.g. faggots), compared to 21% who claim to be interested in ordering offal.

“Diners need to be romanced into ordering these particular types of dishes, such as offal. Given that many historical dishes such as faggots are essentially made up of offal, it would suggest that the marketing message is as important as the ingredients.” Helena explains.

Overall, in 2012 alone British consumers spent an appetising £31 billion on eating out, and Mintel estimates this will grow to a mouth-watering £32 billion in 2013.

Traditional pub grub is also a firm leader in terms of market value, with pub catering remaining the largest segment of the eating out market with consumers spending £6.5 billion in 2012. Indeed, pub restaurant and bars are also the most visited restaurants in the UK, with 57% diners visiting them. They are followed by ethnic (e.g. Chinese, Indian, Thai etc) restaurants at 52%, pizza, pasta and Italian restaurants at 45% and burger and chicken restaurants at  32%. British restaurants (Excluding pubs) 25%,  completes the top five most visited restaurants.

While eating out is most certainly still on the menu for Brits, with 54% of consumers saying that their eating out habits have not changed in the past year, Brits remain cautious with their money. Mintel’s research into consumer eating out habits has seen a more un-appetising trend for dining out with as many as a third of Brits (34%) reducing the number of times they have eaten out in restaurants compared to a year ago, and a quarter (24%) claiming to have reduced the amount they spend when they do, meanwhile 30% of restaurant diners agree that they enjoy splashing out on dining out.

“The onus is also on operators to reinvigorate consumers’ enthusiasm for spending on the category through techniques such as menu innovation and enhancing the experience of eating out in order to improve on the fact that only 30% of restaurant diners agree that they enjoy splashing out on dining out.”

Consumer price consciousness continues, with 54% of restaurant diners citing price range as the most important factor when selecting a venue to for an everyday meal and as many as a third (33%) of all diners admit that they order tap water rather than bottled water in a restaurant. Around the same number (30%) order house wine rather than more expensive wine, compared to 18% who are prepared to pay more for good quality wine or beer.

“Diners are more likely to be frugal on areas where it isn’t obvious where the added value lies, such as in the case of tap vs bottled water, for example. Offering greater variety in terms of the range of drinks and dishes available should provide operators with key opportunities for upselling, with a good portion of consumers prepared to pay more for good quality wine or beer. ‘Guiding choice’ concepts such as drinks paddles, miniature desserts and dessert platters can help operators maximise revenues from these opportunities.” Helena concludes.

Finally, proving there’s nowhere quite like home,  nearly a third (33%) of restaurant diners state that they are cooking at home more instead of eating out. The trend toward home dining continues with just over one in ten (11%) consumers stating that they are trying to recreate restaurant meals at home instead of eating out.

 

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