New research shows that British consumers are Europe’s biggest spenders on eating out. In 2004, Britons spent on average £312 (US$588.9m) per person a year on eating out, and this is set to increase to £356 in 2009. According to Datamonitor estimates Italy came second with £295 spent, while France came in third with £249.

By 2008, 3 billion extra breakfasts, lunch and evening meals will be consumed out-of-home relative to 2003 in the UK. These trends are driven by the fact that dining out is less often seen as special occasion. Eating out on weekdays has become a way for consumers to seek a hassle free and social environment in which to eat.

Time pressures and extra responsibilities are forcing consumers to eat out or pick food up to bring home. As consumers go out more during the week these occasions will be less planned, leading to more irregular eating times and ‘quick and easy’ meals away-from-home. The number of mid-week evening eating-out occasions in the UK is rapidly increasing; forecast to rise by 30% over the next five years.

Seeing friends and ‘quality time’ with the family are the most important motivations that consumers have for choosing to eat out according to Datamonitor’s consumer surveys. Consumers now want to maximise their time and going out in the week allows them the chance to socialise without the hassle of cooking.

The weekend maintains its long-running status as being the time when consumers choose to ‘dine out’ as opposed to ‘grabbing a bite’. With weekday dining as a more frequent and informal experience, ‘posh nosh’ still remains reserved to the weekend for most consumers.

Consumers are also increasingly defining foods by restaurant standards, something reflected in the popularity of the celebrity chef and ‘restaurant branded’ or ‘restaurant quality’ ready meals and meal components. For instance, in the UK celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has recently launched “restaurant quality” ready meals for two, which cost up to £40 for home delivery via the Internet and are also on sale in some supermarkets. These are ideal for wealthier, quality seeking consumers looking to the home as a new arena in which to relax and enjoy a meal without having to cook or resort to fast food.

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