South Africans spent more money eating out in February than they did drinking at local pubs, data from Statistics SA showed yesterday.
Food sales at local restaurants were slightly higher in February than last year while liquor sales at bars plummeted.
According to data released by Stats SA yesterday, sales of food in restaurants, fast food outlets and caterers were up 3,9percent to R2,1billion in February compared to the same month last year.
Income from bar sales across the country fell by 20,1percent to R210,6million, bringing overall food and beverage growth down to 1,2percent for the month.
For the three months to February food sales increased by 10,8percent compared to the previous corresponding period, while bar sales fell by 14,9percent.
Economists owed this to lower disposable income and differences in people's usage leading them to rather spend on takeaway food than on bars and nightclubs.
Nedcor Securities retail analyst Syd Vianello said beer sales at SA Breweries had fallen by 10percent for the three months to March.
"This 20percent decrease (in income from bar sales) is realistic," he said.
"There was also a price increase for alcohol products in February, which people didn't take too kindly to.
"The growth in food sales was a function of falling interest rates giving people more money in their pockets to spend," Vianello said.
Richard Downing, chief economist at the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that in difficult times people preferred to spend their extra cash on food rather than alcohol.
He said: "Fast food will pick up as consumers move from luxury restaurants to cheaper takeaway-type food.
"I expect that bars will remain under pressure with a possible change in direction when the soccer tournaments (Confederations Cup and World Cup) begin."
Solidarity spokesman Jaco Kleynhans disputed the accuracy of Stats SA's findings saying food sales figures should have fallen.
He said: "We're not sure about the correctness of these statistics. South Africa has had one of the highest food inflation levels across the world, peaking at two percent last year.
"While input costs in South Africa have been steadily decreasing food price increases have consistently remained way above those of similar countries."