Square research signals 2024 will be the year of growth for UK businesses, with restaurant owners leading the charge

Jan 31, 2024
  • Business expansion and automation are top of mind for restaurants, retailers and beauty businesses
  • Majority of restaurateurs (89%) are pursuing business expansion in 2024
  • Consumers are keen to try new products and services while welcoming automated technology

London, UK – Today, Square, the technology company that makes commerce and financial services easy and accessible, has released its fourth annual Future of Commerce report. The report features comprehensive analysis on how business owners and consumers are considering the evolution of the restaurant, retail, and beauty industries, offering insights on how these businesses are shifting – and how consumers are responding – with diversification and automation coming out as key trends for business owners to consider in 2024.

Square surveyed thousands of UK business owners and consumers, as well as gaining global insights from the United States, Canada and Australia.

Samina Hussain-Letch - Executive Director, Square UK says:
“For UK businesses, the future is looking cautiously optimistic, with retailers and restaurateurs feeling positive about growth. Square’s ecosystem supports businesses with their expansion – whether that means opening a new location, improving reservation systems or introducing new payment solutions – all while driving customer loyalty and engagement.”

Growth is top of mind for retailers, with business owners seeking solutions to reach shoppers online and in-person, to cater to how consumers choose to shop. UK shoppers are equally divided in their shopping habits, with nearly half (49%) opting for online shopping vs just over (51%) choosing in-store. This presents a far more equal split than global shoppers, with just 37% of shoppers worldwide preferring online. Retailers need to keep up with consumer demand for online shopping, with almost half (45%) of UK purchases made online in December 2023. Business owners are tapping into this demand, with over a third (43%) of retailers wanting to offer a more personalised digital shopping experience.

Rich Bayer - UK Country Manager, Clearpay says:
“Shoppers prefer seamless journeys, whether they’re online or in-store, and when it comes to payments, they want choice and flexibility at the checkout to select the payment option that best suits them. With Buy Now, Pay Later transactions expected to increase by around 11% per year in the next five years, reaching £44 billion by 2028 *, forward looking retailers should evaluate whether they are offering their customers an optimal selection of payment options.”

Offering compelling in-store experiences for customers is key for retailers to drive in-store traffic and create a sense of community - over half of shoppers (54%) are interested in trying in-store dining options like a café or wine bar, and 41% of global shoppers say that such offerings would make them spend more time browsing. Convenience is king, with more than 3 in 5 in-store shoppers (61%) preferring contactless payment methods (compared to 48% globally). Appetite for traditional card payment is low, with just 23% of shoppers choosing this option.

Decisively, most restaurateurs (89%) say they want to expand their businesses in the next year through offering new products or services, including classes, events, meal kits or retail items. At the same time, Brits are planning to pull back on restaurant spending in 2024, with just under half (43%) of consumers predicting they’ll order less takeaways this year – meaning restaurateurs need to invest in more efficient ways to find and engage customers to see return on their investments.

Consumers are looking for a tech-forward approach from eateries – and with less than half (45%) of restaurants offering online ordering, business owners need to invest here to inspire customers to order in. Global diners welcome new technologies, with over three quarters (76%) welcoming restaurants to implement automated systems if they are low on staff.

Having a robust, user-friendly reservation system in place encourages Brits to eat out - diners are far more likely to have their interest piqued in trying a new restaurant if reservations are accepted (39%), and almost half (45%) of consumers prefer to make bookings directly through a restaurant’s website.

The report also includes findings on beauty, with loyalty playing a key role in choosing a beauty salon. Over half (56%) of global consumers always book with the same provider, and the report shows that a payment methods are an important factor in retaining loyal customers, with almost three quarters of customers (69%) preferring a contactless payment option - meaning personal care business owners should consider this as a vital offering in their payment solutions.

Lois Williamson, Founder & Owner of Si Belle says:
“I wanted a complete service with a booking system, a card reader, and marketing so I could do email blasts. With Square, everything is aligned and seamlessly syncs. It saved me because it runs so smoothly. With Square it’s just so easy to expand, I know if I was to get a third salon, I could literally press a few buttons and it would be sorted for me. It’s really good at allowing you to replicate things across different locations.”

Moreover, the majority (90%) of global consumers who frequently visit beauty salons agree that reminders are important, but less than a fifth (14%) of customers would select a phone call as a preference - so business owners should explore other options, such as text or email notifications. Over two thirds (63%) of consumers say they would welcome automation in salons, barber shops and spas, offering a great opportunity for business owners to upgrade their tech stack.

For a full analysis of the top restaurant, retail, and beauty trends for 2024, industry data and insights from Square experts, and real-life examples from Square sellers, download the report here or reach out to press@squareup.com


Notes to editors

Further findings include:


  • Online reigns triumphant for convenience, with almost three quarters of global shoppers (74%) saying the ease it offers is a key driver for online shopping.
  • Social media channels present a ripe opportunity for retailers, with global consumers buying an average of 9 products directly from social media in the past month.
  • Retailers need to ensure their websites and social media are up to scratch, with over half (54%) saying these are key driving factors in considering whether to visit them for the first time. Online reviews and personal recommendations come out on top with choosing to try new retailers (67%).
  • Communication plays a key role, with the majority of consumers (82%) agreeing that receiving comms from retailers makes them feel more connected, with over two thirds (63%) of shoppers preferring email communication, and around half (52%) opting for social media or direct messaging.


  • Brits don’t like picking up the phone to book a dinner reservation, with only 39% of people choosing this as their preferred method, meaning a solid online booking platform is essential to success.
  • Around half (49%) of diners opt for contactless payment methods, so it’s vital for restaurateurs to offer this option.
  • More than two thirds (61%) of global consumers would also be supportive of restaurants using more AI technologies.


  • Consumers are keen to engage with new offerings from personal care businesses, with more than a quarter (27%) interested in online tutorials or virtual classes and more than over two thirds (63%) having purchased retail items from a beauty business.

About Future of Commerce

The retail and restaurant surveys were conducted by Wakefield Research among 2,000 retail owners and managers and 2,000 restaurant owners and managers, with quotas set within each survey for 500 respondents per market in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Australia between October 27 and November 8, 2023, using an email invitation and an online survey.

The consumer survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 4,000 nationally representative adults ages 18+ in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Australia, with quotas set for 1,000 respondents per market, between November 15 and November 28, 2023, using an email invitation and an online survey. Data has been weighted.

About Square

Square makes commerce and financial services easy and accessible with its integrated ecosystem of commerce solutions. Square offers purpose-built software to run complex restaurant, retail, and professional services operations, versatile e-commerce tools, embedded financial services and banking products, buy now, pay later functionality through, staff management and payroll capabilities, and much more – all of which work together to save sellers time and effort. Millions of sellers across the globe trust Square to power their business and help them thrive in the economy. For more information, visit www.squareup.com/gb.