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Are consumers still in love with dining out?

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If we’re talking about brand loyalty, Valentine’s Day has got it in spades. In terms of customer satisfaction, this is one night we want to get right. It’s estimated that this year we parted with £1.6 billion in the name of cupid – that’s a lot of cards, flowers and restaurant bookings.

But there might be a snag – I’m not so sure we’re still feeling the love for dining out. This Valentine’s Day, something took me by surprise.

Restaurant staff with time on their hands.

The majority of restaurants I saw had empty tables and bored waiters staring out of the window. Isn’t February 14th the annual bonus for eateries? It certainly used to be. To get a table – any table at all, even one squeezed into a space smaller than your average shoe box – you had to book weeks in advance.

So what’s going on?

I know the UK economy has been through its own heartache – I was there, I feel your pain – but figures suggest that despite a decidedly icy forecast of pay freezes and redundancies, the amount we spend in the name of love has continued to increase year on year.

If we’re spending more, maybe we’re spending it differently?

Just as we were all settling in to the economic downturn, M&S bucked all financial trends and announced better than expected profits. The reason? A lot of the credit has to go to their ‘dine in for £10’ promotion – with 4.5 million of them sold in 6 months. A cheap alternative to restaurant-quality food? UK consumers bought into it – and then some.

In 2013, 25% of us chose our home as the most romantic restaurant in town. M&S sold 700,000 of their £20 Valentine’s Gourmet Menu. Now that’s consumer expression, loud and clear.

But everything will get back to normal, right?

When a country is hit by recession, we all tighten our belts. You could say that the economy changes consumer spending for a while before we fall back into old habits at the first sign of recovery.

But this recession was hard – and long. We’ve had to change our spending patterns for years, not months. Perhaps we don’t miss our old habits because we’ve forgotten we ever had them.

If that’s true, maybe this time consumers are changing the economy.
Now that’s worth finding out about.

If you want to know who your market drivers really are, click here to find out more about The Monachie Project’s consumer satisfaction services.

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