A generational divide is opening up in full-service restaurants. Many consumers in their 30s and older began to dine in more frequently during the review period, viewing home-cooked food as not only more affordable but also healthier in comparison to dining out. However, the end of the review period saw the emergence of a new group of gourmet consumers, with those aged 18-35-years-old being particularly likely to dine out. These consumers are often seeking affordable but gourmet food and a distinctive dining experience in terms of décor and menu, with casual dining being particularly popular among this group.
Mitchells & Butlers remained the leading player in full-service restaurants in 2014, accounting for 4% of overall value sales and 19% chained value share in the year. The company benefits from offering the Harvester and Crown Carveries chains, which benefit from a family-friendly and value-focused casual dining positioning. The company however lost share a percentage point in chained value share in the year, with this chiefly due to it rationalising its network. Crown Carveries saw a reduction from 154 outlets in 2013 to 112 in 2014, while Premium Country Dining dropped from 83 outlets to just 53. Mitchells & Butlers meanwhile acquired 173 pubs via its acquisition of Orchid Group's estate in June 2014. This acquisition may boost the company's share in full-service restaurants in the forecast period, with the company planning to convert 96 outlets to its own brands. However, with the Orchid estate being made up of unbranded pubs, this acquisition did little to boost the leader's share in full-service restaurants in 2014.
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Young adults are expected to be a key consumer group for full-service restaurants in the forecast period. Older consumers are expected to continue limit dining out due to cost and health considerations, with many also viewing dining out as simply too much effort and thus opting for home delivery when seeking consumer foodservice. Consumers in their 20s are in contrast showing a strong interest in food and are keen to enjoy the experience of dining out and socialising over food. A strong social media presence will be important to attract these consumers but so will a focus on offering something distinctive, with premium twists on British classics and American fast food such as burgers and poutine (chips topped with gravy and cheese curds) likely to appeal. This will benefit new start-ups with a similar positioning, such as Pieminster. Niche cuisines such as Ethiopian and Vietnamese cuisine could also attract this group, with many seeking an unusual experience that can subsequently be shared via Facebook or Twitter.
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