More people are buying snacks and meals to eat outside the home as the number of foodservice outlets and cuisine choice continue to grow.

As food operators focus on increasing their appeal across the day parts, the temptation to consume meals out of home has never been greater, according to foodservice consultancy Horizons and JRA. The report revealed that 66% of foodservice operators that took part saw an increase in food sales in the 12 months to April this year, with 21% reporting a “large” increase.

However, the research, involving nearly 300 operators, revealed a drop in spend, with reports of people spending less than £12 per head and fewer parting with more than £16. Average spending had dropped from £13.10 in spring 2014 to £11.03 in spring 2015, with 62% of consumers spending an average of less than £12 per head, compared with 51% last year.

Almost half (48%) reported an increase in sales of snacks year-on-year, while just 40% said the same a year ago.

More people are also eating out at weekends with 42% of operators saying they now serve more meals from Friday to Sunday and just over a third saying they serve more on Sundays.

Emma Read, Horizons’ director of marketing & business development, said: “People are now snacking more, or having one, or maybe two courses instead of three, which explains why average spend appears to have fallen. This backs up our previous consumer research that shows that while spend has fallen back slightly, frequency of eating out is rising.

“Foodservice operators have done a great job at changing their offer and adapting to the way consumers eat out today, providing more foods that satisfy the snacking opportunity throughout the day. This, typically, means several small meals during the day, whether it be coffee and porridge bought to eat at our desks in the morning, a muffin with a coffee mid-morning or light snack in the afternoon.”

Operators remain positive for the future of eating out, with 78% of businesses surveyed – including restaurants, pubs, hotels, cafés and leisure outlets – expecting to see an increase in sales over the next 12 months. While 58% expect a small increase, 20% expect it to be larger. This optimism has dropped from last year – 87% and 25% respectively.