Consumers have cut back on the number of times they eat out, according to the latest research commissioned by foodservice consultancy Horizons. The company’s latest QuickBite survey on eating out habits, which questioned 1,400 people over the last two weeks, found a 26% year-on-year decline in the number of times people eat out. The survey found that on average consumers now eat out just once a week compared with last year, when they were eating out 1.4 times a week (June 2010). Of those questioned 70% said they had eaten out at least once in the previous two weeks, with 48% doing so at least twice. The QuickBite survey also found that consumer spending on eating out had risen 9% year-on-year with an average meal in the last two weeks now costing £12.69 (including drinks) up from £11.53 in 2010. The research found that men were more likely to spend more than women at £13.77 per head compared to £11.70, although 18% of consumers spend a fiver or less on a meal out. At the other end of the scale 8% of consumers spend up to £25 when they eat out. Pub restaurants proved to be the most popular places to eat with almost a fifth of respondents choosing to dine out in pub, according to the research. Takeaways and home delivery were the second most popular choices, with quick service restaurants and Indian and Chinese restaurants coming equal third. Some 32% of respondents considered it more convenient to eat out and 25% said they would rather not prepare food at home. Over a quarter (28%) of consumers who had eaten out in the last two weeks said they did so to be sociable, while 23% did so for a special occasion. Emma Read, director of marketing and business development at Horizons, said: “The results of the survey demonstrate that while consumers may have cut back on their eating out spend, it is still a very strong habit for reasons of convenience, sociability and value for money. The fact diners are still eating out at least once a week demonstrates that eating out is entrenched in our way of life and is no longer necessarily seen as a treat.” The research found that the choice of venue was not dependent on “clever marketing” or money-off vouchers, with a third (31%) of consumers choosing a venue out of habit and 22% making a spontaneous rather than planned choice. Recommendation was the main factor in choosing a venue for 14% of consumers, while only 11% were influenced by vouchers or special offers. Read: “This is an important finding for those operators currently caught in a price war of money-off vouchers and special offers. While 11% of respondents to our survey were influenced by offers, loyalty to a particular venue and recommendations seem more important in their choice of venue.” The survey also found that the 18-24 year old age group eats out the most often, with 82% eating out at least once in the previous two weeks and spending an average of £12.67. However, it is the 25-34 year old age group that spends the most per head at £13.35 with 74% of this age group eating out at least once in the previous two weeks.