Nearly 40% of Britain’s foodservice visits each year are from solo eaters, according to global information company The NPD Group.
Customers eating alone is a growth market - visits increased twice as fast as overall visits in 2019. What’s more, solo eaters have increased their average spend on food and beverages away from home by +16% in the five years to the end of 2019, versus an increase of +11% for the overall eat-out market.
Workplace pressures top the list of why customers are increasingly likely to be alone when we buy food and drink away from home.
In terms of behaviour, Solo eaters like to complete their orders as quickly and conveniently as possible, with 59% more likely to use a self-ordering kiosk. They are also more inclined to eat away from the place they purchased their food, suggesting some do not feel comfortable eating on the premises.
The quick-service ‘ethnic’ channel, which includes pan-Asian, Indian and Chinese food as well as kebab outlets, has grown solo-eater visits the most in the last five years.
Suggesting cafes, restaurants and pubs tap into this big opportunity, Dominic Allport, insights director (foodservice), The NPD Group, said: “The shrinking lunch break means workers want efficiency, and many foodservice outlets are making ordering and collecting food speedy and smooth. Ordering via click and collect, delivery and self-service kiosks are making solo eating ‘al-desko’ easier than ever. But it’s not just workers at lunchtime that are increasingly eating and drinking alone, snacking, breakfast and coffee breaks taken solo are on the rise too across the wider population.”
Recommending a more inviting interior – with counter-style seating to make eating alone on the premises less daunting, he adds: “Modern pan-Asian outlets such as Yo! Sushi and Wasabi are great examples of this. Zoning is another effective design strategy, where small tables or sofas are clustered together, so solo diners don’t feel awkward when surrounded by larger groups. And if lone diners want to linger to do some work, then friendly staff, pull-out desks, power sockets and table ordering via an app can all help to maximise additional spend.”