Restaurants really are more popular than the internet
Given how much interesting stuff there is on the internet, surfing government websites is probably not high on most people's list of things to do on their day off, but amongst the bureaucratic rough, there is the odd diamond, and I would include for this the Office for National Statistics which has data on just about everything you could imagine. In particular, the biennial report Lifestyles and Social Participation focusses on social trends, and one has to go no further than page three of the most recent issue before the question of what people do in their free time is addressed. Since I am sure you can't wait to know the answer, we have summarised the data in a convenient chart below.
Selected activities performed in free time 2009/10
This is big news, eating out at restaurants is the fifth most popular thing people do in their free time!
It is more popular than reading (67%), days out (63%), gardening (49%), and going to the pub (48%). And while we all use the internet, the number of people who said they choose to spend their free time on it is 59%. According to most recent data then, restaurants are 17% more popular than the internet as a way to spend free time.
For restaurants, this is clearly good news, but the news gets better yet. If we compare the 2009/10 survey (published in 2011) with the 2007/08 survey, we can see how these trends are developing in time. If we look at the absolute percentage point increase in people choosing to eat out at restaurants as a leisure activity, the two year on two year change is six percentage points making it the activity (tied with cinema) that has shown the largest absolute growth amongst all traditional activities. So not only are restaurants hugely popular, they are becoming even more popular still.
We should point out that the internet was not included in the 2008/09 survey (odd because it was included in 2006/07 survey at around 42%), so its growth rate cannot be exactly determined but it would probably be fair to assume it is higher, possibly eight percentage points if the improvement is linear during that four year period. If the trend continues in this fashion in the latest survey (to be published later this year), eating out would still then rate as a more popular pastime than the internet.
Change in selected activity (likes) performed in free time, 2007 - 2010
Simply put, eating out is popular, and becoming more popular at a rate faster than almost any other pastime.
So that photo thing....?
Polaroid (remember them) recently put out a press release (click here) that estimated that 1.5 billion pictures are now taken every day due to the popularity of smartphone cameras. Whether this is a sustainable trend or not, who cares, but right now, people love taking pictures with their iPhone or Galaxy and are of course going to take pictures of what they do. And what are their favourite things to do? Well, we've already considered this:
2) time with friends
3) listening to music
5) eating out at restaurants
You will quickly see that the most popular pastime, TV, does not lend itself it taking pictures with a smartphone. Nor does listening to music, and shopping. So of the five things that people most like to do in their free time, only two activities can you genuinely capture with a smartphone camera, your friends and your food. Should anyone be surprised therefore that cameras are now used so extensively in restaurants?
While some people (or more usually trolls) enjoy taunting those who like eating in restaurants, these statistics prove that naysayers, who so often claim to speak for the majority, are in fact simply a vocal minority, and if you like restaurants, you can include yourself amongst the 40 million people in this country who share that hobby with you.
Half of all people in this country are estimated to use a smartphone while 64% of internet users are believed to be on Facebook. Such people are part of a budding photography pool who globally take 547,500,000,000 pictures every year with their phone (which works out at 17,000 smartphone pictures every second).
For those of you who half remember with terror Venn diagrams from your school days, why people are using cameras in restaurants becomes too facile a question to ask, but if it does need pointing out, it is this: what do you get if you cross the country's fifth most popular pastime with a public who take 17,000 photos every second? Pictures of food of course, lots of them, thousands, millions. But in reality, you get pictures of everything, a taxonomy of people's every waking moment, weighted by their favourite activities.
It is far too clumsy a sentence, so apologies to Wilde, but our message to chefs would be this: the only thing worse than customers wanting to take pictures of food in your restaurant, is customers not wanting to take pictures of your food. Well, either that, or having no customers at all.