Conflicting statistics

30 March 2006
Conflicting statistics

Your article "Britons are top of dining-out league" (Caterer, 23 March, page 15) contained lots of fascinating information. But, after just a cursory look, much of the report gives rise to scepticism.

For example, it claims that, on average, Britons ate out on 633 occasions last year. That works out at 12 meals a week. Granted, some members of the population, such as prison inmates, eat out 21 times a week, but that is not enough to make up the average to almost two meals out each day - much as the restaurant industry would like that to be true. And even taking the concept of "core meals" - whatever they are - the average still works out at one meal a day.

The article also states that the average Briton spends £1,224 on eating out; that implies a market worth £72b, a figure that is greater than the total retail market for food and drink. Does your average Briton - that includes the ill, the elderly, the poor - spend more than half of his or her food and drink money on dining out? I think not.

These figures are way off the mark. For instance, Horizons says the total food service market, including commercial and non-commercial sectors, is worth £35b, and the Office for National Statistics, using slightly different definitions, says it is worth £43b.

The point of all this is that an industry as ill-served with credible statistics as the eating-out market is done no favours by presenting figures which are, at best, wide of the mark and, at worst, misleading.

Peter Backman
Managing director, Horizons

(Ed: we would like to clarify that the Datamonitor report on which the article was based took into account core meals eaten out of home, so therefore included the sandwich and snack market. As a consequence, the figures inevitably included some spend in the retail sector.)

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