MCA’s first consumer research since the EU referendum has shown that a net balance of customers expect to reduce eating out frequency and average spend as a result of Brexit.

The research is included in MCA’s Eating Out Report 2016, which reveals that the total market is currently worth £87bn, comprising 331,384 outlets.

MCA predicts that the market will continue to increase turnover in 2016 but the estimated growth of 2.3% is slower than last year at 2.5% and has been downgraded from our previous forecast of 2.8%.

Outlet growth is also set to slow this year – to 0.8% from 1% in 2015 - due to the difficulty in finding sites and weakening business confidence.

The research shows that the market is currently in a positive place – with growth in visit frequency and average spend recorded across the vast majority of channels in H1 2016.

A poll of 1,000 respondents in the days following the Brexit vote found a shift in attitudes to spending across the generations. While almost half of 18-34-year-olds – or millennials – say they will be more cautious with their money post-Brexit, the figure falls to a third for over-55s. Similarly 40% of over-55s say Brexit will have no impact at all, while only 21% of millennials agree with that statement.

Looking specifically at eating out, a total of 22% of customers expect their spend to decrease, compared to 9% who expect it to increase. Again the disparity between generations is clear, with 34% of 18-34-year-olds planning to cut spend against 16% of the 55+ market.

The picture is similar in terms of eating out frequency with 19% across all age groups expecting to eat out less following Brexit, compared to 8% who think they will eat out more. Again, almost twice as many millennials plan to cut back as older customers.

The research shows that consumers expect prices over the coming year to rise but think food quality is likely to remain unchanged.

In terms of how consumers expect to mitigate the effects of Brexit, the most popular approach appears to be using more vouchers / promotional deals, chosen by 46% of respondents across all age groups. Other options included preparing more food at home to eat out (37%); ordering cheaper options (31%); eating out less often (31%); visiting cheaper establishments more frequently (24%) and ordering more home delivery (13%).

MCA’s director of insight, Steve Gotham, said: “The UK eating out market has built up significant momentum across the first half of the year, with our consumer research showing how the market is firing on all the key metrics of increasing participation, visit frequency and spend. So, despite weakening consumer and business confidence, it is not going to come to a grinding halt – though some growth slowdown appears inevitable. It will however, up the ante for operators and make it harder for higher costs to be passed onto consumers. As always in a tightening market, less well managed and funded businesses are going to be in for a rougher ride.”

The Eating Out Report provides a comprehensive analysis of market performance and growth potential with insight into consumer behaviour across channels and day parts as well as the performance of leading brands.

The full report will be published later this month. To pre-order a copy please contact