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Are pubs overtaking restaurants for hungry Brits?

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Traditionally, the only sustenance available from an average British pub was a pickled egg of dubious provenance and age, or an unappealing selection of sandwiches and crisps prepared reluctantly by the barman.

However, this has changed a great deal in recent years, with pub chains such as JD Wetherspoon and Marston's leading the way in highlighting the importance of food sales to profitability in the modern pub environment.

Since the smoking ban helped make bars more family-friendly and changed the potential demographic of pub-goers, an increasing number of establishments have set about installing restaurant equipment in order to provide customers with a range of different meals.

This appears to have been successful in attracting new visitors, with a recent report from CGA Strategy even suggesting that pubs have overtaken restaurants as the biggest single channel in the licensed trade for food.

According to the organisation, food sales in British pubs totalled £7.5 billion in the last 12 months, an increase of 4.2 per cent on a year-on-year basis.

Furthermore, growth is expected to continue until 2017, with Britons continuing to choose pubs rather than licensed restaurants when they want to pop out for a quick meal.

CGA Strategy's Scott Elliott said: "Our work charts the epic rise of food in pubs from pork scratchings and pickled eggs to the dynamic, diverse and quality-driven landscape evident today."

He added that food-led outlets are helping the pub trade to defy the recessionary climate still evident in the British hospitality market, with wet-led pubs and social clubs struggling to maintain their income levels under current conditions.

"It seems that the nation increasingly sees the pub as the first choice for eating out," Mr Elliott declared.

While pubs are unlikely to shift fine dining restaurants from the UK's high street, there is no doubt that they can compete with many of the mid-priced casual dining brands seen across the country.

This is reflected in another recent study from CGA, which highlighted the changes in what kind of meals are being served up in British pubs.

Food pubs now sell an average of 160 burgers a week each, with this staple accounting for roughly £1 of ever £12 spent in establishments of this kind and outselling classic British dishes like fish and chips.

CGA argued that this indicates a more "gourmet" experience is now on the menu in British boozers, with burgers offering enthusiastic retailers the opportunity to customise their menu heavily in a bid to outflank their counterparts.

In the increasingly competitive world of the UK leisure industry, as consumers are offered a plethora of options about where to eat, it is crucial pubs find an innovative way to keep ahead of the crowd.

Horizons' Annual Briefing last year highlighted the underlying health of the UK dining our market, but stressed that businesses need to work hard to keep consumers interested in their service.

With the company expecting major growth in the lucrative casual dining sector over the coming years, it seems likely food-led pubs will continue to populate British high streets for some time to come.ADNFCR-16001031-ID-801491293-ADNFCR

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