Those who cannot stomach the economic downturn are eating out more to cheer themselves up.
As many as 24% of people are going out for meals more than they did three years ago, a survey by lastminute.com showed.
Of those prepared to go out, 19% are visiting restaurants and other eating places up to four times a week.
Italian is the top cuisine of choice, followed by British, Chinese, Indian and Thai.
The leading reason for dining out was for the emotional benefits, while others merely said eating out made them happy.
Of the 2,000 people polled, 82% said they preferred eating out to shopping, while 74% rated restaurants above visits to the cinema.
A large proportion saw a restaurant meal as a better option than a night on the town or an evening in front of the television.
The survey showed that diners were becoming more savvy, with 24% looking for good deals before venturing out and 15% more never eating out without a discount.
Almost three in five eat early or late to get the best deals, with diners spending an average of £18.93 per head on a two-course meal with drink.
Lastminute.com UK and Ireland managing director Mark Maddock said: "It seems that we've reverted back to 'eating out as the new eating in' as Britons choose to dine out more and make the most of their free time with great restaurant offers available rather than spending the night in."