Nearly two-thirds (60%) of restaurant-goers confirm that the recession has changed their families' spending habits, 63% say it's too expensive to eat out regularly, and 24% say they plan to spend less at restaurants in 2011 than they did in 2010.
The (sort of) good news: Among respondents who had visited a restaurant in the past month, 66% say they plan to spend the same amount when dining out this year as they did in 2010.
But just 10% -- mostly those with the highest household incomes -- report intending to spend more at restaurants this year. Most (67%) of these consumers say that casual dining restaurants are their favored destinations -- good news for this sector, particularly given that Mintel research conducted in October 2010 showed that 31% of diners who visited casual formats in 2010 were spending less than they had in 2009.
"The restaurant industry grew 2.1%, to $403.5 billion, last year, but if restaurant-goers reduce how much they spend when they eat out, or only spend as much as they did last year, restaurants could have a slow recovery ahead of them," observes Mintel director of foodservice research Eric Giandelone.
"This focus on frugality isn't likely to disappear any time soon," adds Giandelone, so restaurants will need to continue to focus on value, such as limited-time offers, small portion size options, kids-eat-free promotions "or other creative ideas to increase traffic with value pricing and help consumers feel more confident about spending their dollars at a restaurant instead of a grocery store."