Recession-hit Brits dine out on comfort food, but hold back on the tip

Mixed fortunes for the restaurant industry, claims latest poll. Despite the recession and the advent of major spending cuts, almost three quarters of Brits (73%) still regularly treat themselves to a meal out at least once every three months, but times are still tight when it comes to the tip.  According to the YouGov poll – commissioned by not-for-profit company, Opportunity Peterborough, which is aiming to make Peterborough the UK’s sustainable food capital – most British households have a meal out at least once a quarter, but almost as many as one in ten (9%) of those who eat out fail to serve up a tip (assuming the services is satisfactory). 

The research of over 2,000 people nationwide looked at regional dining out habits and found that over one in two (56%) eat out at least once a month, with most (91%) spending at least £10per head and – when we leave them –most  (50%) of those who eat out give  a tip of between 5-10%. And it’s not just Londoners who are splashing out on the comfort food – almost one in five of us (18%) nationwide spend at least £30 and half of us (50%) spend at least £20 when we eat out. The East of England, and Yorkshire and the Humber are challenging the capital (80%) as the home of dining out with both regions having 76% of their residents eating out at least once a quarter.

Neil Darwin, Director of Economic Development at Opportunity Peterborough, commented: “Despite the recent tightening of our financial belts, the British people are undoing a few notches when it comes to their actual belts and regularly enjoying a good sit down meal in restaurants. Our research has shown that the public are bucking the trend and are still treating themselves when it comes to eating out.

“In difficult times, few things in life are as comforting as food. As the cuts begin to be felt in public services, and we head towards an era of austerity, it’s good to see that many of us are still budgeting for the odd fine dining treat where we can”.

No Tips Please – we’re British

The ‘tough times’ are having an impact on our tipping habits, however, with one in ten (9%) never leaving a tip and 16% leaving less than 5% of the bill assuming the services is satisfactory. Young people are the worst offenders when it comes to rewarding service, with the proportion of those who eat out failing to leave a tip rising to 15% in the 18 to 24 age bracket and to 17% for full time students.

Of all the UK regions, the East Midlands is the stingiest when it comes to paying the bill with almost one in five (19%) failing to leave a tip.

UK’s top tip-skipping regions

The ‘Stingy’ rank Region Percentage who never leave a tip
1.         East Midlands 19%
2.         South West 15%
3.         West Midlands 14%
4. Wales 13%
5. Yorkshire and the Humber 8%

The majority of Brits do however, give credit where it’s due with half of us who eat out (50%) leaving a tip of between 5 and 10% of the bill and over one in five of us (22%) leave a tip of between 10 and 15%. 
82% of the Scottish leave a tip of at least 5%, 81% of Londoners, 80% of the South East, and 78% of those in the East of England. 

Passion for dining out
Outside London, the East of England is the area of the country (along with Yorkshire) where people eat out the most, with three quarters (76%) eating out at least once every 3 months. In London, 80% of respondents eat out at least once every quarter.

Neil Darwin, Director of Economic Development at Opportunity Peterborough, said: “The research confirms what we’ve known for a while about the East of England and its appetite for eating out – historical data shows that we have always spent more than other regions on our dining and this research is no different [1].  Peterborough is a great example of the area’s interest in all things food and here’s at least one tip for Britain’s restaurateurs: with several new restaurants opening up here in 2011 we believe Peterborough is one to keep an eye on as the next restaurant destination in Britain.”

Jim Trevor, a chef who trained at Grosvenor House Park Lane, who now heads up Jim’s Bistro, an award winning restaurant based in Peterborough, adds: “Peterborough has long been a city where residents have enjoyed eating out, but the city is undergoing something of a culinary renaissance –  residents are really sinking their teeth into the dining scene and we are confident our city is going to rival the much bigger cities of Birmingham and London as a restaurant hot spot.  Jim’s Restaurants is a fast growing company and we have already opened three restaurants in and around the city.  I am fully confident that Peterborough’s dining scene is one to watch – and we are ready to satisfy the local appetite for eating out”.


Notes to editors
The total sample size for the survey was 2,141adults and fieldwork was undertaken across Great Britain by YouGov between 21st -23rd February 2011.  The survey was carried out online and the figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

[1] Official statistics taken from the latest available 2010 data: