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Late-night customers account for 83% of British foodservice growth

British people visit food or beverage outlets 257 million times between midnight and 7am every year, according to new figures.

The data, released by market research firm, The NPD Group, for the year ending May 2018 suggested that the growing demand for late-night and early morning food and beverages consumed away from home were an important new source of growth for the foodservice sector.

Britain’s eat-out or out-of-home (OOH) foodservice industry – which includes everything from full service restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, fast food places, takeaways, vending machines and work canteens – registered more than 11.3 billion visits for the year ending May 2018 and is now worth £56bn. The overnight custom however, accounted for 83% of the sector’s growth or an equivalent of 36 million visits.

Overall the OOH foodservice industry grew by 43 million additional visits in the two years ending May 2018.

London has provided much of the overnight boom and now accounts for 26% of night-time traffic nationwide with over 67 million visits annually. The capital’s overnight foodservice market grew 38% in visits in the two years ending May 2018.

Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh are building night-time business with 20% average visit growth over the past two years. However, Cardiff, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Oxford, Cambridge and Norwich have seen visits drop by 6% on average.

Britain’s quick service restaurant (QSR) outlets are also showing an increase as on a 24-hour basis, visits to QSR brands increased by just under 3% over the two years ending May 2018. But for the overnight market, visits have increased by nearly 27% over the same period – nine times faster.

Foodservice operators selling coffee have seen visit growth of 36% against total market growth of 4% over the same period. According to the data, an outlet selling coffee that is open between midnight and 7am, is three times more likely to be visited during this period than the rest of the day.

The overnight OOH market is now worth close to £1.2bn, having broken the billion pound consumer spend barrier in the 12 months to May 2018. The NPD Group said this market segment could expand from the current level of 257 million visits annually to 300 million visits by the end of 2020, potentially creating a market worth £1.5bn.

Consumers are also much more likely to seek special promotions at night involving vouchers, discounts or meal deals. Around 28% of daytime visits involve an offer or promotion, while at night this jumps to 46%. The bulk of the market is grab-and-go, accounting for 75% of nighttime visits compared to the lower figure of 55% when measured across the full day.

Dominic Allport, insights director with The NPD Group, said: “London is leading the overnight and early morning trend. The two years of growth we have identified includes the period since the August 2016 start of London’s night Tube operations, and the months since the announcement in July 2017 of Sadiq Khan’s 24 hour vision for London.

“What we are seeing in London and other major cities is a welcome growth trend that can benefit many operators.”

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