Consumers are more likely to choose independent venues than chain restaurants when eating out this December. The Mystery Dining Company (TMDC) survey revealed that 23% of consumers would prefer an independent, 16% would pick a chain and 61% said they were likely to visit both in the Christmas period. The survey also found that 71% of consumer are planning to use discount vouchers when dining out next month and that 58% would only make reservations for up to half of their eating out occasions. Around half of the 300 respondents said they expected to eat out in a restaurant between three and five times and in a pub once or twice in December. A third said they would eat at restaurants up to six times. Consumers are more likely to choose independent venues than chain restaurants when eating out this December with 23% of consumers preferring an independent, 16% more likely to pick a chain and 61% saying they were likely to visit both in the Christmas period. TMDC director Sally Whelan said operators that appeal to customers’ sense of “good value” will benefit from last minute trade and walk-ins. “It’s vitally important to remember that customers are increasingly savvy when it comes to assessing value for money,” she said. “Making portion sizes smaller, putting fewer staff on and charging more for drinks to help improve margins will not go unnoticed. Cheap meals and an experience that offers value for money are two very different things and if your promotion is not executed well, a discount offer actually has the potential to undermine a restaurant’s reputation.” The survey also found that nearly half of consumers would be looking to trade up their drink choices this Christmas with 8% actively looking to trade up to more premium beverages and 35% uncharacteristically looking to vary their drink selection out of home. Whelan warned that staff must be able to make suggestions and that publicans should look to offer a good value bubbly as customers will be “seeking small indulgences”.

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