A report by recruitment specialists Caterer.com has revealed that one in four people visiting a restaurant in the UK has special dietary requirements, such as allergies and intolerance, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, meat in moderation, religion or cultural-specific diet and low fat or low sugar. Digging a little deeper, the report revealed that selective eaters are more likely to be under the age of 35, identify as female or non-binary, live in an urban area or on an income of £50,000 or more. They are also more likely to live in the east of the UK. (London, the South East, the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East, to be precise.)
In a survey of diners the report also revealed that selective eaters:
- 47%have eaten this way for 10 years or more
- 37%have eaten this way for 2 to 10 years
- 16%have eaten this way for less than 2 years
- 80% eat out at least once a month and 60% would go out at least once more if restaurants went the extra mile for them.
Consumers with a dietary requirement can feel neglected in the restaurant industry, with 57% of diners feeling restaurants do not provide as many options for their diet and 47% worrying about a mistake being made with their meal.
The report also found that selective eaters are more likely to ask for menu substitutions compared to people without a dietary requirement, with 21% of selective eaters having to return their meal as it did not meet their dietary requirements. Likewise, 80% of consumers with dietary requirements have had to change their diet at least once when eating at a restaurant, with 26% of those who have compromised their diet saying it was because they wanted to try a particular dish. But alarmingly, 21% of those who have slipped up when eating out said it was because they were wrongly told a dish met their requirements when in fact it didn’t.
UK burger chain Honest Burgers marketing director Meg Ellis said: “At Honest we put a lot of effort into training our staff around dietary needs and preferences and ensuring our processes are robust and externally audited so people can feel reassured before their first bite. We support this with a broad approach to recruitment.”
The report also revealed that selective eaters spend more on an average meal out than people without dietary requirements.
If restaurants can fulfil the demands of people with dietary requirements, the benefits could be huge the report adds, the current revenue of UK restaurants stands at £40bn, and by fulfilling demands this could increase by £9bn.
Survey respondents said selective eaters want UK restaurants to do more when thinking about customers dietary requirements, with 40% wanting to see menu items for dietary requirements updated as frequently as regular menu items.
As well as more familiar specialist dietary requirements, some people avoid certain foods based on appearance, smell, taste, texture, brand, presentation or a negative experience from food in the past.
See the original research report here.