Consumers’ satisfaction with eating out has significantly dropped over the last 20 years, according to a comparative study by the British Sociological Association.

Approval of food, decor and service fell by around 9 percentage points between 1995 and 2015, with food going from 81% to 72%, decor 57%-48%, and service 65-57%, the study reveals.

Three-course meals are much less common than 20 years ago, with fewer people ordering dessert or starters - a fall from 33% in 1995 to 22% in 2015 in those eating three courses.

People spend less time eating a main meal when in a restaurant, with the percentage of meals taking less than one hour increasing from 20% in 1995 to 35% in 2015.

More people eat out alone – a rise from 3% in 1995 to 6% in 2015 - and people tend not to dress up especially for the occasion as they did, falling from 39% in 1995 to 26% in 2015.

The number of people eating out for special occasion fell from 29% in 1995, to 22% in 2015, while people eating out as a snap decision rose from 19% to 26%.

Of all the types of restaurants visited in 2015, the most frequented were traditional British (60% of those surveyed visiting one or more in the previous year); Italian (53%); Indian (44%); Chinese (31%); American-style (26%); Thai (21%); Japanese (16%); French (14%) and vegetarian (13%).

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Manchester surveying 1,101 people in London, Bristol and Preston and comparing their results with similar research carried out in 1995.

Dr Jessica Paddock, Professor Alan Warde and Dr Jennifer Whillans, of Manchester’s Sustainable Consumption Institute, also found those who ate at a wide variety of restaurants, were much more likely to be professional middle class, degree educated, based in London, aged 16-39.

Dr Paddock said: “People of higher socio-economic status consume a greater range of ethnic cuisine, such as Japanese and Thai cooking.

“Those with the lowest incomes and without a university degree are much less likely to eat in exclusive restaurants and eat a wide variety of different cuisine styles. Class still matters.”

The findings were presented at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference at the University of Manchester yesterday.