‘Date nights’ are becoming an increasingly important driver of eating out visits, the latest MCA data has shown.

MCA’s comprehensive Eating Out Report 2016 shows that couple time is the fastest growing reason for having a meal out at dinner.

Spending time with a partner is the fourth most important reason for eating out at dinner – after a general get-together, having a treat and not being bothered or too tired to cook. However, while get-togethers remained essentially flat and the latter two reasons declined in importance, couple time rose from 8.7% of eating out missions to 9.5% between Q1 2015 and the same period this year.

At lunch, spending time with a partner is a smaller driver of visits but still grew year-on-year from 4.2% of missions to 4.8%.

The data, based on 36,000 consumer interviews from MCA’s Eating Out Panel, shows that special occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries, are also featuring more often as reasons for eating dinner out.

A lazy Sunday breakfast/brunch is also on the rise – growing from 8.1% of weekly share of visits to 9.2% over the year. The increase also seems to have had no impact on the popularity of eating for Sunday lunch and dinner – both of which grew share across the year.

Across channels and day parts, there has been an increase in experience-led missions, with a contrasting decline in the more routine, everyday occasions such as going to and from work or taking a break from the desk.

MCA’s head of consumer insight, Gareth Nash, said: “As the quality of the market has improved, with more appealing establishments, offering a wide range of cuisine and experiences, consumers are finding greater motivation to eat out. Couples, who may have previously settled for the comfort of their digital living rooms and a home-cooked meal or takeaway, are now increasingly being swayed out to one of a growing number of attractive eating and drinking out propositions, offering more appealing environments to spend time together.”

The Eating Out Report also reveals the top five reasons why establishments are chosen across 11 key channels, looks at share of visits across the days of the week and examines net promoter scores and revisit intentions across channels.

To find out more about the report please contact sophie.barber@mca-insight.com