Despite incessant negative headlines around the casual dining sector, MCA data has shown the branded restaurant sector growing market share in Q1.

The leading chain restaurants made gains at all day-parts except breakfast, amid losses at independents, according to the quarterly report from MCA’s Eating Out Panel.

According to MCA’s consumer insights director, Gareth Nash, the performance appears to show consumer uncertainty driving the adoption of more risk-averse behaviour.

Nando’s, PizzaExpress and Pizza Hut all saw impressive dinner share gains, propelling Nando’s into the Top 4 dinner brands and both pizza chains into the Top 10.

Nash said growing usage of promotional deals has been key to the uptick for chains such as PizzaExpress, which has also seen improved perceptions of the friendly service, family-friendliness and atmosphere/environment at sites.

Nando’s continues to thrive without the need for deep deals, profiting from its wide and growing fan-base despite falling scores from customers for its price levels and value for money, as well as food quality.

Pizza Hut, meanwhile, is beginning to see positive returns on its considerable investment into sites and menu, with the chain’s net promoter score at dinner rising from -10 up to 40, alongside significant increases across the most crucial customer scores including quality, value and service.

Nash said: “With the casual dining market feeling a bit battered and bruised recently from the numerous headwinds and negative press headlines, it’s great to see some positive results starting to filter through from our consumer tracker.

“Yes, it is tough out there at the moment and some operators have had to close more challenging sites and re-evaluate expansion plans. But there are still a lot of chains performing strongly, especially while consumer confidence remains low and they seek the familiar value offered by many of the larger branded restaurant players.”

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