Branded, value-led pubs are leading the recovery in the eating-out market as consumers trade down and move away from full service restaurants, according to a new study. A report into trends in eating out by market research company NPD Group found a 4% like-for-like rise in customer traffic in branded pubs in the first quarter of 2011, outperforming the pub sector as a whole, which experienced a 2.2% increase. Average individual spend in pubs overall increased 1.4%. In contrast, full service restaurants experienced a 4.4% decline in visits in Q1. NPD said: “The NPD Group’s research found that pubs serving food are capitalising upon longer opening hours by offering food throughout the day, from breakfast, morning coffee and lunch, through to dinner. There are also signs that value is the key to the recovery of foodservice in pubs, while more expensive restaurants are still in decline. “With their value for money approach such as breakfast offers and deals for early evening meals, NPD found that consumers regard pubs as good value and worth trading up to from fast food chains.” However, NPD said the pub sector is still not back to pre-recession levels. For the year ending March 2011, the pub food sector was worth a projected £9.8bn, compared to £10.4bn for the year ending March 2008. Across the year ending March 2011, average individual spend in a pub was £7.98, compared to £9.44 for a full service restaurant. NPD said there are also signs that eating out in pubs primarily appeals to middle income families, with 28% of their customer base across the year falling in the £19,000-£29,999 household income bracket, and 28% in the £30,000-£49,999 bracket. NPD’s Business Development Director for foodservice Guy Fielding said: “When the recession hit, people stopped eating out and either ate at home or traded down to fast food. Now, full service restaurants are still too expensive and they are out-pricing themselves, particularly with alcohol. “But the value for money food on offer from pubs, at all points throughout the day, is enticing customers to return. The good news is that pubs are also attracting consumers back to the higher spend occasions, such as dinner and at weekends, when they can bring their children and the meal becomes a social occasion.”