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CHICAGO -- It isn't just consumers whose wallets are emptier these days who are choosing to save money by cutting back on their restaurant patronage, according to a new study by market research firm The NPD Group. Both the financially strained and the financially comfortable are eating at home more, but for different reasons.
"The Growing Divide: Restaurant Behaviors of the Financially-Comfortable and Financially-Strained" surveyed 5,251 consumers, 56 percent of which defined themselves as financially strained and 44 percent of which defined themselves as financially comfortable. Most of the financially-strained group fell into the 18-to-34 year-old age bracket, while the financially-comfortable group was fairly evenly dispersed, although twice as many consumers aged 65 years and up were financially comfortable than were strained. Seventy-five percent of the comfortable and 92 percent of the strained consider themselves controlled spenders, said NPD.
The financially strained listed price and affordability as the top reasons why they’re visiting restaurants less often, while the financially comfortable cited diet/health reasons for their cutbacks. The study also found many consumers visiting restaurants less often find the current price paid for a restaurant meal is acceptable, and that while fast-food consumers would prefer more lower-priced choices, casual dining has the greatest price disparity issue.
Still, even consumers who have cut back on restaurant visits are searching for good deals to bring them back, though what defines a good deal depends on the category of restaurant and a consumer's individual financial situation. Coupons appeal to both categories of consumers, but the financially strained actively seek them out, along with discounts. The financially comfortable view frequent visitor cards and rewards programs as enticements. Meanwhile, young adults indicated a particular interest in fast-food restaurants' dollar menu items.
"It is presumed financially-stressed consumers have kept the industry from realizing growth, but that's not the case," stated Bonnie Riggs, the report’s author and NPD restaurant industry analyst. "For this reason it's important that foodservice marketers understand the behavior of both groups in order to align both short- and long-term marketing strategies appropriately against the correct target."
For more information on the report, visit NPD's website.