REKOM UK identifies the changing consumer behaviours that are re-defining the UK’s late-night sector

For the first time in over a year, people are spending less on a late night out, according to the quarterly survey commissioned by the UK’s leading late-night operator, REKOM UK.

The latest REKOM Night Index has revealed that total spend on a night out has decreased by 2.1% to £73.19 per person on average, now more in line with expenditures in Autumn last year (October 2022: £73.36).

Despite this, pricing remains the top concern for nearly half (44.9%) of consumers when deciding to go on a night out, indicating the clear influence the cost-of-living crisis continues to have on societal socialising patterns. This, combined, with the survey revealing further key trends that have emerged over the past year, paints a clear picture for the future of the late-night sector:

1. Student nightlife continues to evolve
While students, stalwarts of the night out, used to go out during middle of the week, the survey revealed that for over two thirds (67.9%) of students, Saturday has pipped Friday to be the most popular day of the week to go out, indicating a significant alignment with the majority market trend.

2. Alcohol alternatives on the rise
Low or no alcohol offerings are increasingly prominent as the findings reveal that nearly half (45.9%) regularly go on a late night out without consuming alcohol – this was particularly prevalent for those aged 25-34 (54.3%). Over half (52%) said that they now consume less alcohol on a night out compared to a year ago. This rose to 59.7% for 25-34 year olds and among students this was 48.5%.

3. The end of spontaneous nights out?
There is a tendency amongst consumers to now plan their nights out and pre-book venues in advance. Nearly half (47.5%) claim to prioritise planned social events over a spontaneous night out, with just 26.4% opting for unscheduled nights out. Main reasons cited for planning ahead include to guarantee a seat or area at the venue (22.7%), a birthday celebration (21.8%), and to attend a ticketed event (20%).

4. TikTok will tell you where to go
Additionally, social media platforms are fast becoming the go-to for many customers in how they choose a night out, with a quarter choosing Instagram (25.1%) and TikTok (24%). For students, TikTok was the most popular platform.

Peter Marks, Chairman of REKOM UK says: “Over the past year or so, there has been a clear and fundamental shift in people’s socialising habits, as a direct impact of the cost-of-living crisis. People are still going out less and spending less money. The high rents, which haven’t adjusted for the tough economic conditions affecting businesses across the sector, make for difficult trading. We have had to think prudently about our business decisions, whether that’s choosing to no longer open early-mid week to focusing our efforts on the bar sector, which offers an extended trading timeframe and appeals to a broader demographic.”

Russell Quelch, Operations Director at REKOM UK adds: “In line with the results of the survey, we’ve also noticed the increasing popularity of non-alcoholic drinks, along with a huge uptick in pre-booking venues or seating areas as people shun the spontaneous night out for a pre-arranged event, such as for a birthday or celebration. We’re adapting our offering accordingly to meet these changes in consumer demand, and we are prioritising our bars where the space is multi-functional. By providing areas for dining, drinks and dancing, we can accommodate a diverse range of preferences and cater to everyone’s needs.”

Key highlights from the report include:

Regarding spend breakdown on a night out:
• Average total spend on a night out has decreased by 2.1% to £73.19 (July 2023: £74.78)
o Predrink spend decreased by 2.5% to £12.97 (July 2023: £13.31)
o Food spend was the only category to increase, by 2.6% to £17.72 (July 2023: £17.26)
o Transport spend decreased by 5.5% to £12.77 (July 2023: £13.51)
o Entry fee spend decreased by 6.2% to £10.81 (July 2023: £11.53)
o Drinks in venue decreased by 1.2% to £18.92 (July 2023: £19.16)

• Additional category of daytime spend in preparation of a night out increased by 1.5% to £16.04 (July 2023: £16.28)

• Women spend marginally more than men (£89.58 compared to £88.46)

• Full time employees spend significantly more than students (£79.16 compared to £64.60). Both spend the most on drinks in the venue compared to other categories listed above.

• Pricing remains the most important factor for respondents (44.9%) largely unchanged from 45.1% in July 2023.

• The other main reasons for going out amongst respondents are (largely) unchanged since July 2023, with the top reasons being:
o To spend time with friends (62.6% up from 61.4% in July)
o To celebrate an event / occasion (33.6%) up from 31.3% in July
o Relieving day to day pressures and stress (24.8%) up from 26% in July
o To enjoy shared experiences (25.6%) down from 25.8% in July

• 58% go out at least once a week, an 8.9% decrease from 66.9% in July 2023.
o Amongst 18-24 year olds this is 69.2%, a 5.7% decrease from 74.9% in July 2023.