Brits’ growing love of pub grub is plating up success for the pub industry. According to new research from Mintel, sales of pub meals grew by an estimated 14% between 2012 and 2016 to reach £7.4 billion. In the same time period, sales of alcoholic drinks grew by 6%, while soft drink sales rose by 7%.
The report reveals that it is increasingly likely that pub goers will be there for the food. 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 showing that plates trump pints on pub-goers’ wish lists, a heady nine in 10 (89%) Brits say they typically visit a pub or bar to eat, compared to eight in 10 (79%) who go to drink in these venues.
Overall, UK pub industry turnover grew by an estimated 8% between 2012 and 2016 to reach £23.5 billion. In 2016, alcoholic drinks made up half (50%) of UK pub industry turnover, compared to 31% brought in by catering.
Richard Caines, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, said:
“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. 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.”
Looking into the battle for the UK’s favourite pub dish, it’s steak that tops the menu. One in five (20%) Brits say that grilled steak is their favourite pub dish, narrowly pipping roast dinners (19%), burgers (15%) and fish and chips (14%) to the top spot. Falling flat, however, just 3% say beef wellington or sausage and mash is their best of the bar meals respectively. What’s more, giving a new meaning to ‘getting pie-eyed’ at the pub, 5% say pie is their favourite pub dish.
And it seems that many pub-goers aren’t afraid to splash the case 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% comfortable paying between £20-24.99 and 8% prepared to splash out over £25.
While pub grub has not held the reputation of a fine dining destination in the past, today, Brits 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 which are made with premium ingredients.
Trish Caddy, Foodservice Analyst at Mintel, said:
“When it comes to food, it is 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. Value-for money gastropubs are currently fuelling the pub sector, but looking to the future there is 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.