The UK restaurant sector is expected to recover to 94% of its 2019 value in 2022, according to new data from Lumina Intelligence.

The value of the market is set to reach £17.8bn, compared to its pre-pandemic value of £18.9bn in 2019 – an increase in value of 59% on last year.

Unrestricted trading would be the main market driver in 2022, so recovery would be contingent on no further trading restrictions being brought in, said Lumina, however outlet numbers are due to continue their decline – by -2.1% this year, which will act as a drag on recovery.

These findings and more will be published in Lumina’s upcoming UK Restaurant Market Report 2021/22.

The report suggests that it will be several pandemic-led trends that will leave a lasting legacy on the sector, but that they will also be key drivers of its recovery over the coming 12 months and beyond.

Interestingly, a poll of consumers found that 41% still said they did not feel comfortable being in restaurants because of Covid, with 46.3% stating they prefer having the option to sit outside.

The 25-44 age group over-indexed in their preference for outdoor seating, alongside concerns about the impact catching the virus would have in terms of disruption to work and daily life.

Other findings in the report include that almost half of consumers agreed that they browsed menus for longer when ordering through a mobile app or QR code that directly from staff, with 22.6% stating they somewhat agreed and 20.2% agreed.

Katie Prowse, senior insight manager, Lumina Intelligence: “Increasing time spent browsing the menu is a key opportunity for operators to encourage consumers to trade up to food and drink product they normally would not order.

“Including pictures of items throughout the app will entice consumers and make higher price point items easier to locate.”

To find out more about the full UK Restaurant Market Report 2021/22, and to pre-order your copy, please click here.