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Barriers to eating out – What is stopping us from going out for dinner? 

There is nothing nicer than going out for a meal, whether it is going out for a steak or trying that new fusion pop up – but here in the UK we are finding new excuses for not wanting to go out for a bite.  

Unfortunately for the casual dining industry, this is not a new development. Over the last few years, Starcount has seen these barriers evolve from economic uncertainty to socio-environmental concerns that keep people at home instead of venturing out for their dinner. 

This is one of the major concerns facing the casual dining industry at the moment and Starcout decided to look into the specific barriers.

In 2015, there were two major barrier groups stopping diners in their tracks from eating out. They were people trying to save money and people with a lack of disposable income. These barriers are unsurprising and affect everyone throughout the UK. 

The casual dining industry noticed this and responded in the only way it knew how… discounts and vouchers. It made sense, people are worried about money – give them a two for one meal deal or 25% off when you have three courses. 

It worked. Simple.

Fast forward to 2019 and there is a dip in people dining out again, restaurants saw this and decided to go with the approach of ‘well, if it ain’t broke…’.  What happened?

It did not work. Not so simple. 

But why not? It was the same as before, two tablespoons of economic uncertainty, half a jug of decreased footfall and a pinch of Brexit and you should get the same cake. But this time it did not rise. 

The reason – a lack of consumer understanding in their data. 

If we look at the biggest barriers in 2015 we can see people trying to save money and less disposable income are the biggest concerns. But what is interesting is the three up and coming concerns that the industry did not see coming. 

Cooking at home from scratch, trying to eat healthily and a rise in food delivery brands. 

We compared these reasons to our casual dining audience and saw a staggering 164% rise in at-home chefs (people cooking at home) and a 158% rise in health-conscious consumers.

There were some chains that bucked the trend and didn’t offer discounts and instead tapped into focusing on the dining experience to bring customers in. TGI Fridays CEO, Karen Forrester, refused to discount and focused on experience, and the chain saw unprecedented growth between 2015 and 2018.

Only now restaurants are starting to click, and re-focusing their efforts on the dining experience.

Food delivery brands

The casual dining industry has been shaken up in the past few years by the exponential rise in food delivery brands. Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats are the market leaders in bringing the casual dining experience into our homes. 

Why go out for dinner when you can have a premium burger cycled to your flat door in 20 minutes without having to put a coat on. 

There has been questions as to whether these services are a threat or an opportunity for the industry, as on the one hand they are another avenue to connect with your customer – but the industry will need to look closely and see if this new market will benefit them. 

There is an opportunity in all this chaos, the industry needs to find a balance between focusing on the experience and offering discounts and deals, as at the moment the two are mutually exclusive.    

Understanding your customer

It all comes down to understanding your customers and knowing who they are right now, not who they were three years ago. Starcount’s founders Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby revolutionised customer understanding when they created the Tesco Club Card and they continue to break barriers and develop new ways to understand your customers today. 

Starcount focuses on using combinations of data sets, predominantly social media and demographic data, to get a richer picture of ‘who’ consumers are not just based on what they buy. By understanding what people like, follow and engage with socially, we get a deeper understanding of what they are passionate about and what motivates them.

For this industry study, we built an audience for the casual dining and restaurant industry to understand who the customers are, what their interests are and where they are likely to dine next, as consumers ‘passions’ are predictive of purchase intent and behaviours. 

If you want to find out more about the current challenges facing the casual dining and hospitality industry and more about Starcount and our capabilities please download our whitepaper below: 

Sign up to download our Casual Dining & Hospitality Whitepaper

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