The number of times people in Britain visited food or beverage outlets between midnight and 7am rose to 257 million visits during the year ending May 2018, according to new figures from global information company The NPD Group.

The out-of-home (OOH) foodservice industry is now worth £56bn, with 11.3 billion visits made over the 12-month period. The NPD Group said the growing demand for overnight and early morning food and beverages provided retailers with an important new source of revenue.

In the two years ending May 2018, the total OOH foodservice industry grew by 43 million additional visits with overnight sales making up 83% of this growth (+36 million visits). The NPD Group said the figures were fuelled by improvements in 24 hour operations and delivery.

London provided much of the growth in overnight trade for the foodservice sector and now accounts for 26% of night-time traffic nationwide, with more than 67 million visits made each year. The capital’s overnight foodservice market grew 38% in visits for the same two year period.

Large cities in the North of England and Scotland, including Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh, also saw an increase in their night-time foodservice trade with average visit growth of 20%.

However, cities in Wales, the Midlands and the East of England, including Cardiff, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Oxford, Cambridge and Norwich, saw less demand between midnight and 7am, with visits down by 6% on average.

Dominic Allport, insights director for The NPD Group, said: “London is leading the overnight and early morning trend. The two-years of growth we have identified includes the period since the August 2016 start of London’s Night Tube operations, and the months since the announcement in July 2017 of Sadiq Khan’s 24-hour vision for London.

“A huge variety of sectors routinely involve night work – including hotels and restaurants, arts and entertainment, media, transport, health and social work, wholesale and retail. People in these occupations want to visit foodservice outlets to buy food and beverages that they can consume away from home. Our data indicates the foodservice industry is contributing to London’s 24-hour economy. And we know from other foodservice trends that major cities will often follow London.”

The NPD Group also found that an outlet selling coffee, that is open any time between midnight and 7am, is three times more likely to be visited during the overnight and early morning period than during the rest of the day. Foodservice operators selling coffee have also seen visit growth of 36% against total market growth of 4% during the two years to May 2018.

Overall, the overnight OOH market is worth close to £1.2bn and is expected to reach £1.5bn by 2020.

Consumers in this market are also more likely to look for vouchers, discounts or meal deals. Around 28% of visits in the foodservice market involve an offer or a promotion but this jumps to 46% at night with 75% of purchases being grab and go.

Allport added: “Foodservice operators face many challenges, including Brexit-related labour issues, workplace pensions, inflation, higher business rates, new wage laws and declining retail footfall, driven partly by growth in online shopping. What we are seeing in London and other major cities is a welcome growth trend that can benefit many operators.”