Knowledge Hub

British consumer behaviour trends in casual dining

What’s in store for British quick service restaurants (QSRs) in 2023?

This year is set to be significant for the fast food industry, with the UK facing a continuing cost-of-living crisis alongside ongoing consumer demand.  

People toasting using burgers

According to Yahoo Finance, a key trend in fast food for 2023 is investment in digital. The rise of digital has been a massive takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic era. Christopher L Turner, CFO of Yum! Brands, the American group behind KFC and Pizza Hut, says his aspiration is that, “someday, 100% of our sales should be powered by digital”. This figure is currently above 40%. In the UK, McDonald’s saw approximately 50% of its sales through digital channels. 

Blurred image of fast food restaurant with digital menu screens at ordering counter

In terms of restaurant design, speed, accuracy and efficiency will be key in 2023. KFC, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Burger King all announced investments in restaurant layouts and redesigns in 2022. Our client McDonald’s is one example of a casual dining brand that is putting omnichannel-ordering experiences at the forefront of its strategy. Its latest campaign, “Convenience of the Future”, will see 200 restaurants redesign their operations this year to reflect the different ways customers can order, from the MyMcDonald’s app to McDelivery and Drive Thru ordering, all with the aim of giving customers the best possible McDonald’s experience. 

Another digital channel that casual dining brands are focusing on in the UK is digital screens. No longer seen as static menu boards, screens are so much more than the hardware and the British consumer has high expectations when it comes to the in-restaurant experience.  Screens can offer considerable cross-selling and seasonality product opportunities; they can calm or excite your customers while in store and can increase your customers’ overall spend. Digital signage depends on the right content at the right time and in the right place. Read more in our blog post - right content, right audience, right time. But not just that, digital screens have become as sophisticated and as savvy as the British consumer. They’re not just a pretty picture; they give your audience a way to interact through gamification and social media walls, and make kiosk-based ordering possible and often expected. Find out more on the impact digital signage can have on your in-store experience

Hand touching digital ordering kiosk in a fast food restaurant

How do rising prices affect the British consumer and what they spend on casual dining?

Prices in 2022 for food and non-alcoholic beverages rose 14.6%. Despite this, people are still keen to eat out – though analysts acknowledge that this may change going forward. Bidfood, working with CGA’s Cost of Living consumer pulse research, has revealed six key trends for the eating-out market in 2023, when consumers consider eating out as a looked-forward-to treat. 

Dinner plate, knife and fork set against a yellow background

But just how much do Brits spend on eating out anyway?

A recent survey by OpenTable revealed the figure to be as much as 25% of our income. We eat out about 1.5 times a week, spending as much as £53 per meal. Gen Z consumers eat out twice as often as those over 55 and prefer to eat out cheaply and more frequently – good news for QSRs. 

So, what are British consumers looking for when it comes to casual dining in 2023?  

We break down some of the latest casual dining trends you can expect to see across the next 12 months: 

White box of noodles with blue background
  1. Exploring less known food flavours

Consumers want to explore less-mainstream flavours, but cannot find them on the high street, providing an opportunity to restaurants to offer these cuisines. In contrast, a trip down memory lane is also predicted – a return to retro-inspired comfort food.  

Pizza cutter with pizza on the wheel section
  1. Pizza leading the way

Pizza, the UK’s most ordered takeaway dish in 2022, continues to evolve with new formats and adaptations such as gluten-free bases and vegan toppings. And as health concerns prompt diners to moderate their alcohol intake, they want their out-of-home beverage to be worth spending money on, so signature cocktails are a real hit.

Boxed salmon and asparagus with fork surrounded by other healthy food boxed in takeaway boxes
  1. A more considered consumer

Consumers are making more considered decisions about their food and drink in 2023, relating to cost, calories or environmental issues. And chefs are becoming more adventurous with vegetable-based dishes, with plants increasingly celebrated as hero ingredients. Alongside this, 59% of people feel that vegetarian options in restaurants are limited, so offering meat-free but non-vegan options would appeal. Just Eat has discovered that Brits are embracing Veganuary, with a 15% increase in orders of vegan dishes so far this year.

Mobile phone with food packaging with yellow background
  1. Food delivery remains strong

Looking at options around food delivery, a sector which grew rapidly in the UK during COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s predicted that the market size of the online food ordering and delivery platforms industry will increase by 23.5% in 2023. Trends identified include third-party delivery services, with food just a click away; subscription-based delivery services with reduced fees; and the continuing popularity of meal kit delivery.

Person ordering food on mobile phone over a blurred background of takeaway food on a wooden table
  1. The rise of personalisation in food menus

In the future, we can expect an increase in stacked deliveries, more menus customised to specific consumers and an expansion in dark kitchens, where a restaurant markets and produces delivery orders without the need for premises. Find out more about dark kitchens in our insight report EAT.

White casserole dish with cherry tomatoes, cheese and olive oil cooked

With social media channels such as TikTok often inventing and enforcing the next trend, we have no doubt that the next 12 months will remain pretty colourful for the casual dining industry. While consumers may have fewer pennies to spend, the enticement of new product offerings and restaurant redesigns are sure to keep them interested and wanting more.  

Linney: your marketing partner 

Whether you are a new casual dining brand looking to enter the UK market or a well-established player in the market, Linney’s expertise across the casual dining industry can help heighten your brand. From expertise in digital signage, creative design, including animation, to printed materials, our omnichannel approach will ensure you have all the right tools you need to get in front of your customers on any channel. Our in-house team works with brands such as McDonald’s, Ben & Jerry’s and Compass and will help your brand kick start 2023 in style. Interested? Let’s talk.