The frequency of food-to-go visits has declined across all day-parts, the latest data from MCA has revealed.

The Food to Go Tracker for the year to September 2017, found that overall frequency had fallen by 9%, while average spend declined by 2%, despite menu price inflation, with breakfast the only day part that saw an increase in average spend – up 2% to £4.32.

Frequency fell least at lunch – down 3% – where spend remained relatively stable at £5.11. In contrast the dinner occasion saw a 19% drop in the average number of visits per month, albeit from a lower level, and snacking and breakfast a 10% decline.

The combination of fewer visits and lower spend led to an implied 11% decline in the total value of the food-to-go market, marking a significant change from previous set of data for the year to June 2017, which showed a 1% decline in market value on the previous year.

There were also some interesting changes seen when it came to consumer needs. Fast service and convenience – in terms of location to work, grew in importance across the breakfast and lunch occasions, while there was less importance placed on the outlet being one the consumer had visited before across all day-parts, with dinner the most pronounced change, with a 12% decline to 22%.

Cheap/inexpensive pricing was also valued more highly by consumers, across all but the breakfast occasion, up 4% for lunch, dinner and snacking.

Steve Gotham, director of insight, MCA, said: “The weakness in the food-to-go market is further evidence of widespread tightening in the consumer economy.

“Food-to-go spending has typically benefited from its lower ticket price points and small treat nature, which has provided some insulation from the softening in the wider eating-out market,” he explained. “However this latest research suggests that consumers are now more closely scrutinising a greater proportion of their outgoings – and food to go is no longer immune.”

Gotham added that for a greater number of operators, their ability to offer convenience and fast service has often justified a price premium on food-to-go. “This is going to be under threat, with growing importance being attached by consumers to price-led value,” added Gotham.

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