Brits are snubbing independent foodservice operators in favour of branded business, according to a new study.

Branded operators are outpacing their independent rivals thanks to their breakfast offer, use of promotions and ability to attract younger consumers, according to research from analyst The NPD Group.

Independent businesses now account for 44% of Britain’s £50bn out-of-home foodservice industry, down from 57% eight years ago, found the study of sales through quick-service restaurants, casual dining brands, pubs, hotels, workplace canteens and vending machines.

Sales through independent operators have fallen from £30bn in 2008 to £23.2bn this year, while sales through brands have risen from £20.9bn to £30bn.

Brands have been more effective at increasing consumer spend, with the average bill at branded operators up 16% in the eight years versus a modest 4% hike at independents.

NPD suggested three key reasons for the success of brands:

  • Their ability to attract younger consumers, something  independents can struggle to do
  • By capturing a big bite of breakfast trade, which accounts for 14% of visits to brands versus 8% for independents
  • By driving more than 36% of their visits through meal deals or promotions, while independents attract only 13% through this tactic.

“For the branded sector to have reversed its market share with independents over just eight years underlines how quickly Britain’s foodservice market is changing,” said Cyril Lavenant, NPD director of foodservice UK.

“Independents are struggling to be relevant and appealing to consumers on the British high street and clearly do not ‘speak’ well to young adults. Foodservice chains do a better job in this respect, especially with meal deals and promotions. Consumers are hungry for good value and they know where to go for it on the high street.”

He added that large brands also benefit from the ability to invest in their products and to expand into new locations.

NPD Group warned that independents were likely to find it more difficult to compete against the big brands over the next 10 years, but Lavenant added: “Many of the big foodservice outlets we know today started as small independents. So there is clearly room for new players but they must offer something exciting and different or they will not succeed.”