Restaurant

Cardlytics State of Spend Report April 2024: UK Dining Trends

Chris Harris
6 minute read

Cardlytics State of Spend Report April 2024: UK Dining Trends

Introduction 

Cardlytics helps brands understand and respond to the biggest trends in consumer behaviour, supported by spending insight from over 20 million UK bank accounts. 

In this report, we have analysed eating and drinking habits to understand how restaurants, from quick-service to fine-dining, as well as lunch spots, coffee shops and casual chains, have been impacted by the prolonged high cost-of-living. Are we still a nation addicted to coffee? Are pizza shops still hitting the spot with consumers? Are bakeries and burger chains suffering as many consumers look to embrace healthier choices??    

To help brands better understand how consumers are reacting to this extended period of high inflation, we’ve tackled all of these topics, analysing Cardlytics purchase intelligence data and providing insight and advice for brands on supporting and continuing to attract customers in today’s operating environment. 

Pizza shops getting the chop as consumers shift to alternative fast-food options   

Takeaway pizza chains are losing ground in the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector, as consumers continue to move away from pizza in favour of alternative fast-food options. 

Despite the average transaction value (ATV) at pizza restaurants increasing by only 11% between 2022 and 2024 (compared to a 21% rise in chicken shops and 18% at fast-food restaurants), diners have cut the number of visits to popular pizza takeaway chains by 20% over the same period.

This is significantly greater than the 4% reduction in visits to fast-food restaurants and 7% drop seen by chicken shops during the same period. It shows that, despite the widely reported impact of inflation on spending habits and a general rise in ATV across the QSR sector, consumers haven’t been entirely deterred from discretionary spending on the odd takeaway.

In fact, fast-food restaurants saw a 13% rise in spending between 2022 and 2024, whilst chicken shops saw an 11% increase. Comparatively, takeaway pizza restaurants saw a reduction in spending by 12%.

It appears, therefore, that despite tightening purse-strings, consumers are reluctant to forgo spending money on fast-food and chicken shops but are willing to sacrifice the occasional pizza. 

Why might this be? Perhaps it’s due to the increasing availability of similar quality products at more affordable price points in supermarkets, or it could be as a result of a growing variety of fast-food and chicken shop chains in the UK market. In any eventuality, pizza shops face a unique set of challenges that they must overcome, if they are to regain market share in the QSR sector. 

Cardlytics analysis

For pizza brands, there is a clear task at hand to ensure that they remain competitive in an increasingly busy QSR sector.

Consumers are faced with a growing number of takeout options to choose from, with chicken shop and fast-food chains from around the world recognising the opportunity available in the UK market. The rollout of up-and-coming fast-food restaurants is a clear indication of the growing choice consumers have from chains that,  when compared to 10 years ago, had little to no market presence in the UK.

In tandem, established players in the QSR sector are recognising the need to deploy more creative and effective marketing campaigns to gain a competitive edge and drive engagement amongst consumers. This has been the case amongst fast-food and chicken shop chains, where spending amongst consumers has continued to increase despite rising inflation, whereas pizza chains have suffered a significant reduction in footfall by 20%.

The data shows that, despite the macroeconomic headwinds, there is a sustained appetite for takeaway food in the QSR sector. Marketers should therefore emphasise rewarding consumers with the best possible deals to gain a competitive advantage in what is, and continues to be, a heavily saturated market. 

Coffee and quick ‘city lunch’ culture on the wane, while on-the-go bakeries see boost as cost-of-living continues to bite

As the cost-of-living continues to remain high, and disposable incomes still stretched due to unrelentingly high-interest rates, many commuting office-goers are being forced to modify their spending habits.

In fact, the broader macroeconomic challenges have had a significant impact on ‘city’ lunch brands, causing prices to hike. The knock-on effect of this on consumers is clear to see, with the average costs per transaction up 5%. This has caused consumers to seek cheaper alternatives, leading to a 9% reduction in the number of transactions made across the year, whilst overall spending has reduced by 4%. 

A similar trend can be seen in spending at high-end coffee shops, a sector which saw a 14% drop in visits. This is a higher figure than the 9% drop in visits to chain coffee shops – which saw a 5% reduction in total customer spending.

Interestingly, this is not a trend that has affected the on-the-go bakery sector, with companies such as Greggs experiencing a 4% rise in spending for the year. This did not correlate with a proportionate increase in trips to such bakeries, which saw a 1% rise. This suggests either loyalty to the brands as a result of their consistent pricing, or perhaps resulting from customers shifting from the more expensive coffee or city lunch spots to more cost-effective alternatives. 

When considered together, these trends tell an interesting story of consumers becoming increasingly conscious of their spending and subsequently moving away from more costly options to more affordable choices. 

It is certainly feasible these statistics reflect a wider shift in habits, with many commuters now opting to bring in their own lunches and source cheaper coffee options (perhaps within their offices), and typically buying food and drink at more affordable dining spots where necessary. This remains a key trend to keep an eye on as the post-covid, hybrid working era is challenged by ‘return to the office’ protocols introduced by companies and the public sector. 

Cardlytics analysis

Commuters and city workers are key consumers for coffee shops, inner-city lunch spots, and on-the-go bakeries, so it’s important to keep an eye on how these trends continue to develop and what impact these changes may have. 

Crucially, for these brands – who regularly interact with their customers – data will be key. If the behaviours of their customers are changing, what do those changes look like? Are people opting only for a sandwich and sourcing their coffee elsewhere? Perhaps customers for whom a pastry was a daily purchase are now only buying them once-a-week as a treat? Looking at an individual’s data, and using that to create tailored offers, not only shows that your brand cares, but also helps to put the right offer in front of them at the right time. 

Then, by offering incentives to customers on the days of the week they are most likely to visit the store or buy a particular item, consumers are far more likely to become repeat customers. This  becomes particularly pronounced as people continue to limit their spending in the era of high inflation and an ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

Casual and upscale dining both drop off while burger chains see a hike 

Dining out is often one of the first areas of discretionary spend households look to reduce when their finances are stretched. With interest rates still at a high threshold, disposable incomes are still being spread thin for many. 

It is with this backdrop that the number of transactions within casual dining restaurants has dropped 13% year-on-year. This followed a small 2% growth in transactions between 2022 and 2023. 

However, despite the decline in trips to restaurants this year, consumers who are eating out are spending 7% more per transaction compared with the same time period in 2023. This is likely as a result of inflation hiking prices, increasing the average spend per transaction. Overall, casual dining has seen a 7% decline in  total spend by consumers. 

As purse-strings continue to tighten, upscale dining has seen a significant decline of 11% relating to trips to restaurants. With consumers clearly being more cost conscious than in recent memory, many appear to have reduced visits to more upscale restaurants in a bid to save money.

On the flip-side, burger chains – such as Honest Burger, Patty & Bun and Byron – have seen a massive 17% hike in transaction volume in the last 12 months. This has coincided with a 6% growth in the amount spent per transaction on average, contributing to an overall 12% growth in spend in burger chains this year. 

The reasons behind this could vary, numerous establishments have launched their own vegan and healthier-option burgers and  menus, for example, as well as the restaurants potentially representing a solid ‘middle ground’ for households, or an alternative between fast-food and fine-dining. 

Cardlytics analysis

The eat-in dining industry, from casual to  up-market, is still being impacted by the ongoing high cost-of-living. Whether it’s more regular purchases like a quick coffee or lunch, or something more meaningful, like a celebratory meal, customer scrutiny on spend remains high. 

For brands to continue to navigate this challenging  economic environment, clever use of data will be instrumental. This is particularly important for brands  which interact  frequently with customers,  such as coffee shops and quick service restaurants. For these brands, it is now important to  meaningfully consider what their customer data is telling them.  Which habits do their customers have? Is it a lunchtime treat every Friday? A sweet treat with their coffee as a midweek pick-me-up? 

Inspecting an individual’s data to create tailored offers shows that you understand and care about giving your customers the best  value for the brands on which they want to spend money . For most brands, the key will be offering introductory discounts to entice new customers , and longer-term personalised rewards to secure return visits.

Craving more? Click through here for access to our bite size infographic

Methodology

Cardlytics analysed spending trends based on its purchase intelligence data, which covers over 20 million UK bank accounts. The periods include January and February spending from the last four years (2024, 2023, 2022, 2021).  

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