Report: five lessons in consumer attitudes to eating out

Eating out has become part of everyday life, a new report from CGA Peach and Barclaycard reveals—but restaurant and pub operators seeking to expand face obstacles in their path. Here are the top five findings. 

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CGA Peach’s BrandTrack survey collects consumers’ opinions about 74 leading restaurant and pub brands, delivering an eagle-eyed view of sentiment around the industry. Here’s what the research has been telling us lately—and not all of it is happy reading. Download the report, Looking for Tomorrow’s Growth for more details. 

1.  Brand ratings are static

Across the seven attributes of consumers’ ratings measured by BrandTrack— ambiance, environment, food quality, food choice, hygiene / cleanliness, service and value—roughly 20% to 25% of ratings are strongly positive. Two attributes attract slightly better ratings: good quality food and good service, which 27% and 26% of brand customers strongly agree they received.

But a key concern for the industry, particularly in these times of high supply growth and new competitive intrusion, is that these brand ratings do not appear to be improving. Reviewing BrandTrack data across the last four years of surveys, the industry’s overall ratings as of April 2016 were lower than in any of the three previous years on four of these seven attributes: food choice, value, service and hygiene / cleanliness. It suggests consumers are getting harder and harder to impress. 

2. Restaurants rate for quality, pubs for value

BrandTrack shows subtle but important differences between the ratings achieved by restaurants and pubs. Restaurants tend to rate better on food quality, environment and ambience, while pub restaurants perform stronger on value for money. 

Again though, overall ratings are not what they could be. The April 2016 survey showed pub-restaurant brand ratings were lower than in any of the three previous years on four of the seven attributes, including food quality, service and value for money. For restaurant brands, this can be said of six of the seven attributes. In April 2013, for instance, 37% of consumers strongly agreed that they had received good food quality from restaurant brands—but by April 2016 the figure had dipped to 33%.

3.  Satisfaction is not guaranteed
In terms of overall customer satisfaction, 30% of these major brands’ customers, in aggregate, are very satisfied, but another 18% are either undecided or actively dissatisfied. These results have been broadly static over the last four years’ surveys.

4.  Recommendations are down
Across all brands, just over a quarter (28%) of consumers say they are extremely likely to return to a brand—a figure that has changed little over the last four years of the BrandTrack survey. A similar proportion (27%) can be defined as brand advocates, rating their likelihood to recommend to a friend either nine or ten out of ten. Restaurant brands perform rather better than the pub-restaurant brands here, with average advocacy percentages of 32% and 27% respectively. However, both these results are two to three percentage points lower than the equivalent survey in 2013. 

5.  The game is there to be won
All these ratings point towards only modest levels of perceived excellence among consumers. What’s more, they suggest that the branded market has not been driving up standards in the eyes of their customers, and that is compromising brand advocacy. It leaves many customers of individual outlets vulnerable to defection to other brands, particularly in an era of high levels of new openings. That is a major threat to under-performing brands—but for those who can engage and impress their guests, it is a big opportunity too.   

This is an extract from ‘Looking for Tomorrow’s Growth’, the new report on the UK eating-out market compiled by CGA Peach in partnership with Barclaycard. It pulls together exclusive insights from CGA Peach’s portfolio of research channels, including BrandTrack, Coffer Peach Business Tracker and the Alix Partners Market Growth Monitor. For more details, contact Chris Jeffrey at

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