Fast service has overtaken food quality as the biggest driver in choosing food to go (FTG), the latest MCA data has shown.

The Food To Go Tracker for the year to end of March 2018 showed 31% of consumers cited speed of service as their top reason for choosing an outlet – up 1.8 percentage points (pp).

Good value has also grown strongly as a motivation for choosing an establishment, increasing at all day parts, with strongest growth seen for snacking, up 4.1pp relative to the previous year, to 28%.

Food quality remains an important need for FTG consumers, ranked as the most frequent need at all meal time occasions, however its importance has shrunk over the past year. The number of consumers citing food quality as a need declined 0.1pp over the past year with the greatest fall seen at dinner, down 3.5pp to 29%, and strongly under-indexing compared to 39% for the total market.

Work-led reasons for eating out have become increasingly important over the past year for FTG occasions; the largest increases were seen for breakfast and lunch, both up 2pp to 25% and 26% respectively. The rise in prevalence of work-led missions coincides with a strong growth in the importance of fast service as a consumer need.

Sandwiches continue to dominate the FTG market in terms of popularity as lunch has increased in importance to the market. Lunch comprises 23.4% of FTG visits, up from 22.1% in March 2017. Half of FTG visits occurred at supermarket to-go and sandwich retailers and the most popular item by a large margin is sandwiches, which increased as a share of items bought by 1.7pp to 21.3%.

FTG now accounts for 42.8% of the total Eating Out market, 0.7pp down year-on-year. Share of visits for meal times and for snacking both fell by 0.5pp, to 31.6% and 60.2% respectively.

Average spend has dropped slightly for all four day-parts with lunch seeing the largest percentage decrease, down 2% from £5.23 to £5.13 per head per visit.

For more information about the Food To Go Tracker please contact For general enquiries about MCA’s suite of reports and insight, please contact MCA on 02076 110404 or