Value for money on pub food is the most important factor for customers and is the key to improved business performance in pubs, according to The Mystery Dining Company (TMDC), writes Lesley Foottit. More than 66% of 357 respondents said improved food options would encourage them to visit pubs more often and 90% said they would have a look at the menu even when not intending to eat. Just 36% of respondents said they visit pubs intending to eat and drink, 31% for socialising and 14% for just a drink. Positively, 80% said service in pubs had improved in the last five years and 80% of people had a favourite pub. “For consumers there is still a significant emotional difference when it comes to choosing to eat at a pub as opposed to a restaurant and the pubs which are performing best are those who have adopted the best elements of the restaurant sector,” said Sally Whelan, director at The Mystery Dining Company. “That is seasonal menus, with an emphasis on good quality ingredients and engaging, consistent customer service, but who have retained a strong identity as a pub operating as part of a community. “A menu acts as a shop window for a venue’s ability to deliver an enjoyable and memorable experience and the fact is that with prospective customers seeking out menus when they visit publicans should be using this to their benefit.”