In this, the second part of our five-part insights series, we look at the behaviour around diners eating out – where they are eating, when, why and with who.  

In Part 1: Eating Somewhere New we talked about how we commissioned this research to help our customers understand what motivates diners to eat out and the decisions they go through when selecting where to eat. Key to this series is that we wanted it to be practical and actionable with information that you can apply to your business to pull in diners and keep them coming back.

Be sure not to miss the next parts by signing up to Fairway INSIDER

PART 3: Latest Trends in Eating Out
PART 4: Researching Where to Eat
PART 5: Pulling It All Together

Meal Times

Lunch and evening meals are the meals most commonly eaten out. Older Customers are more likely to dine out for lunch.

Not surprisingly, lunch and evening trumped breakfast when it came to the most popular times to eat out.  Both age groups – 18-24 (82%) and 65+ (80%) – are more likely to dine out for lunch. 

Meanwhile, those in the 45-54 age group (83%) are most likely to have eaten an evening meal out in the last month.

Cuisine Types

Generally, consumers are choosing budget-friendly cuisines when dining out, including pizza, burgers, fish & chips and ‘pub grub’

While it’s clear people love eating out, budget-friendly eateries still reign supreme, with pizza, burgers, fish and chips and general ‘pub grub’ often favoured over fine dining. 

Diners were asked: ‘In the last month, which of the following cuisine(s) have you had when you eat out?’

The majority (70%) of the 65+ age group said British cuisine enticed them into a restaurant, with 18-24s sampling a wider range of cuisines and with fast food the most popular over the last month. 

Surprisingly, vegan and vegetarian-friendly fast food options are enticing meat eaters as well, with The Take Out cementing this fact, stating that beef burger growth ‘remained flat’, but meat-eaters’ appetite for meatless burgers was helping drive sales of vegan and veggie food in general.

Interestingly, 24% of people who took part in our survey also said they’d eaten Thai food in the last month, while 18% plumped for Mexican. The CGA site backing up our Thai stat, saying: ‘Thai managed restaurants have more than doubled in the five years to December 2018’.

Outlets Visited

Consumers are most commonly visiting local independent pubs, bars or restaurants; this is consistent across all age groups.

Consumers are most commonly visiting local independent pubs, bars or restaurants and this was consistent across all age groups. Middle-aged diners are driving independent restaurant take-up, with 70% of those aged 35-44 saying they’d visited a local independently owned restaurant or bar over the last month. Older consumers were less likely to visit chains, with only 10% of 65+ having eaten in one over the past month.

Outlet Frequency

Consumers tend to be visiting the same kind of outlet once or twice a month; more regular visits are very unusual. A total of 26% of consumers visit a local restaurant once a month while fine-dining restaurants were considered a ‘treat’ visit.

“The reason for eating out, and the people you are eating with, heavily influence the type of establishment visited”

Occasion and Venue Choice

For those who were making a repeat visit to a restaurant, the following reasons (of which some diners chose more than one) helped shape diners’ decisions:

Convenience was cited as the reason fast-food outlets are popular, with diners choosing to visit one before or after scheduled activities. When local independent restaurants are visited with family or friends, convenience is much less important. 

For celebrations, consumers are more likely to consider independent restaurants that offer great food.

Accompanying Party

Consumers, particularly those aged 35-64, most commonly eat out with their partner.

Consumers, particularly those aged 35-64, most commonly eat out with their partner.

One in five consumers (21%) aged 18-34 last ate a meal out with their parents. Furthermore, when dining out at  premium restaurants, young consumers are most likely to be with their parents. 

Those aged 44 to 54 (21%) and 65+ (20%) were most likely to have eaten out alone. Telegraph highlights an impressive stat from booking site OpenTable, which suggests restaurant reservations for solo diners jumped 160 per cent between 2014 and 2018 in the UK.

Venue Choice

The quality of food, customer service and overall value for money are the three key factors driving venue choice.

It came as no surprise that food quality, service and overall value for money were the key reasons people chose a venue. Quality of food is especially important to older eaters, with those aged 35+ rating the importance of the quality of food at 90%. Interestingly, the quality of food is less important for the 18-25 age group.

Those aged between 35 and 44 are likely to regard kids’ meal options as more important than other age groups, too. Kids’ meals must put health first, though, with The Daily Mail reporting that seven out of 10 children’s meals contain too much fat – food for thought for chefs everywhere?


While the research confirmed some of the trends, such as Thai food and vegan/ vegetarian,.it was interesting to note that meat eaters are also being pulled in to explore vegan/vegetarian options. 

The insights showed how distinct each demographic group is, such that you can specifically target a group by your establishment type. For example, caterers can market fine dining to parents and not younger audiences, or target older diners with British food at lunch time.  

Thanks to the growing number of solo dinners, you may want to consider their needs through menu choices, but do target couples as this remains the top reason for eating out. 

Finally, look at your children’s menu and ensure it has healthy options.

What Next…

Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for part three in our five-part series. In it, we’ll look at the latest trends in eating out, so do sign up to to Fairway INSIDER to receive industry news, inspiration and insights tailored to caterers.

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