Bars and restaurants set to keep the high street buzzing in 2018

Bars and restaurants will play a pivotal role in tempting consumers, particularly millennials, back to the high street in 2018, according to a survey by leading audit, tax and consulting firm RSM.

The survey of more than 2,000 adult consumers across the UK revealed that three quarters of those questioned (75 per cent) visit the high street to eat and drink and over two thirds (68 per cent) go to spend time with family and friends – turning a day’s shopping into a social experience and an experiential event.

This increases to 87 per cent for 18-35 year olds going to eat or drink and 82 per cent to spend time with friends and family, demonstrating the high percentage of millennials using the high street.

Promisingly, 72 per cent of consumers intend to spend more or the same amount on leisure and hospitality over the next 12 months, which suggests the boost to the high street will continue if the right mix of shops, bars, restaurants and leisure activities continue to thrive.

The survey entitled ‘Who are today’s consumers?’ also revealed that over half of those questioned (51 per cent) now describe themselves as ‘cost- conscious’ when it comes to spending on eating out, clothes, homeware and technologies. Conversely a quarter of consumers across all generations said they had spent more on holidays in the past 12 months, with the same proportion planning to increase their spend on travel and tourism next year – a clear illustration of the wider experience economy that the high street will be competing with in 2018.

Paul Newman, partner and head of leisure and hospitality at RSM said:

‘Consumers are increasingly craving the experiential. Gone are the days of just nipping to the shops, consumers are looking for a dynamic high street that delivers the opportunity to shop and browse whilst socialising and offering a new experience. This is particularly relevant with millennials who are looking for ‘Insta-worthy’ experiences.

‘Due to the high levels of 18-35 years olds already hitting the high street, catering for this shift in demand is becoming increasingly important, so expect to see more multi-sensory experiences, new cuisines and unique offerings such as single-item menus popping up on the high street in 2018.’

Helen Melvin, Finance Director of Brasserie Bar Co (owner of Brasserie Blanc and the White Brasserie Pub Company brands) said:

‘Being agile to change and shifting demand is hugely important. We’ve seen a marked increase in the younger demographic in our restaurants in the last few years due, in no small part, to positive changes we have made to stay relevant and make our business more appealing to this important audience.

‘Whilst RSM’s latest findings are insightful, and in parts encouraging for those high street businesses looking to stay relevant and grow, it doesn’t mean much if that which you are offering is not presented in a way that resonates. 

‘We shape and deliver our brand message, through relevant mediums such as Instagram, using key points of difference to stand out to entice our target audience, and present an experience that is memorable.’

The survey also asked consumers whether they would pay more for time-saving technology. A quarter of millennials (25 per cent) would be prepared to pay a premium to enhance the eating and drinking experience and days outs. The same proportion would be willing to pay up to 20 per cent more for sustainable produce.

Paul Newman added:

‘Although consumers are looking for more variety on the high street, the focus is on quality rather than quantity, and technology will play an increasingly important role in this approach. Whether it’s maximising online booking platforms, implementing time saving tech or harnessing emerging technologies such as robotics, augmented reality or artificial intelligence – innovation will spearhead future change and transform the consumer experience within the leisure and hospitality sector.’