A report by Caterer.com has found that one in four people visiting a restaurant in the UK has a special dietary requirement, such as vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, meat in moderation, allergies or intolerances, religion-specific diet and low fat or low sugar.
Consumers with a dietary requirement can feel neglected in the restaurant industry, with 57% of diners feeling restaurants do not provide as many options for their diet and 47% worrying about a mistake being made with their meal.
The report also found that selective eaters are more likely to ask for menu substitutions compared to people without a dietary requirement, with 21% of selective eaters having to return their meal as it did not meet their dietary requirements. Similarly, 80% of consumers with dietary requirements have had to change their diet at least once when eating at a restaurant.
UK burger chain Honest Burgers marketing director Meg Ellis said: “At Honest we put a lot of effort into training our staff around dietary needs and preferences and ensuring our processes are robust and externally audited so people can feel reassured before their first bite. We support this with a broad approach to recruitment.”
The report found that selective eaters spend more on an average meal out than people without dietary requirements.
With 80% of selective eaters dining out at least once a month, it could benefit the restaurant industry if outlets catered to diners with dietary requirements. The current revenue from UK restaurants is at £40bn a year; if restaurants were catering more too selective eaters’ potential revenue gains would be at £9bn, according to the report.
Survey respondents said selective eaters want UK restaurants to do more when thinking about customers dietary requirements, with 40% wanting to see menu items for dietary requirements updated as frequently as regular menu items.
As well as more familiar specialist dietary requirements, some people avoid certain foods based on appearance, smell, taste, texture, brand, presentation or a negative experience from food in the past.