Britons less satisfied with restaurant food and their dining companions

Britons are less happy with restaurants’ food and service, and with their dining companions, than they were 20 years ago, research says.

The British Sociological Association’s annual conference in Newcastle heard today [Thursday 12 April] that ratings given by diners for restaurants’ food, decor, service and value for money have all fallen.

And while people are more likely to eat out with their families, they say they are less happy with the conversation and company during the meal.

Three researchers compared ratings given in 1995 and in 2015 by 2,100 people in London, Bristol and Preston for their last meal out at a restaurant or cafe.

Professor Alan Warde, of The University of Manchester, told the conference that the proportion saying they were satisfied with the meal’s value for money fell from 69% to 56%, a drop of 19% (13 percentage points).

Professor Warde, who worked with Dr Jennifer Whillans, also of Manchester, and Dr Jessica Paddock, University of Bristol, found that:

  • the rate of those satisfied with the food fell from 81% to 72%, an 11% drop (9 percentage points).
  • for the service, the rate of those satisfied fell from 65% to 57%, a drop of 12% (8 percentage points).
  • for the decor it fell from 57% to 48%, a fall of 16% (9 percentage points).

The researchers also found that the rate of people dining out with just their partner fell from 23% to 16%, a fall of 30% (7 percentage points). The proportion eating out just with friends fell by 9%, from 23% to 21% (2 percentage points). Dining as a family rose by 21%, from 29% to 35% (6 percentage points).

During the same period, diners were less happy with their companions. The proportion who said they were satisfied with the company at the meal fell by 5% from 91% to 86% (5 percentage points), and the proportion happy with the conversation fell by 4%, from 82% to 79% (3 percentage points).

The proportion eating alone doubled, from 3% to 6% (a rise of 3 percentage points).

“The results show some important changes over 20 years in how happy people are with dining out,” Professor Warde told the conference.

“We see that people are generally less satisfied with the last meal they ate in a restaurant, with lower rates of satisfaction for the food, decor, service and value for money.

“And while people are more likely to eat out with their family, and less with just their partner or just friends, the survey found that people’s satisfaction with their dining companions also fell during the 20 years.”

The researchers found that the most frequent styles of food eaten at the last meal out were traditional British (41%); Italian (13%); and Indian (9%), with other types comprising the rest.

The researchers also found that people were 23% more likely to eat just one course, (43% compared to 35%, an 8 percentage points rise), 11% less likely to eat at weekends (58% compared to 65%, a 7 percentage points fall), and 33% less likely to dress up for the occasion (26% compared to 39%, a 13 percentage points fall).

For more information, please contact: 

Tony Trueman
British Sociological Association
Tel: 07964 023392


1. The British Sociological Association’s annual conference takes place at Northumbria University, Newcastle, from 10 to 12 April 2018. Over 700 research presentations are given. The British Sociological Association’s charitable aim is to promote sociology. The BSA is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 3890729. Registered Charity Number 1080235

2. The University of Manchester, a member of the prestigious Russell Group, is the UK’s largest single-site university with 39,700 students and is consistently ranked among the world’s elite for graduate employability. The University is also one of the country’s major research institutions, rated fifth in the UK in terms of ‘research power’ (REF 2014). World-class research is carried out across a diverse range of fields including cancer, advanced materials, addressing global inequalities, energy and industrial biotechnology. No fewer than 25 Nobel laureates have either worked or studied there.