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    Consumers Plan to Spend More at Restaurants

    Survey: Fewer consumers plan to cut back on restaurant spending in the next three months.

    ATLANTA -- Fewer consumers plan to cut back on restaurant spending in the next three months, and a larger number of consumers than in previous months actually plan to spend more at restaurants, according to new data from Atlanta-based RBC Capital Markets, which was cited in a recent Nation’s Restaurant News report.

    In RBC’s April survey of 2,717 consumers, 44 percent of the respondents said they were planning to spend less at restaurants during the next 90 days, an improvement from the 50-percent reading in March. The percentage of consumers who said they were planning to spend more at restaurants rose to 6 percent in April, from 5 percent in March.

    "The stabilization [and] improvement in confidence and restaurant spending intentions support the notion we’re nearing an inflection point in consumer spending," RBC analyst Larry Miller said in the report. "We are seeing an improvement in spending plans over the last several months after a year of declining spending intentions."

    Even more, when the economy does improve, 44 percent of the respondents said they would spend more money on dining out and everyday entertainment—second only to the 48 percent of the respondents who said they would spend more on travel. Others said they would increase spending on household repairs or improvements (36 percent); consumer electronics (30 percent); durable goods for homes (30 percent); and automobiles (22 percent).

    The investment bank’s April survey also showed the first year-over-year improvement since April 2007 in the CASH Consumer Confidence Index, which measures consumer viewpoints on the current economy, expectations for the future, and feelings on job security and their personal financial situations. The index rose to 38.3 from 8.2 in March, and was driven by consumer optimism about how the economy will improve during the next six months. Consumers had registered pessimistic responses related to the future economic outlook nearly every month since January 2008. The CASH index had declined steadily nearly every month since September 2007, when it registered above 70, and it bottomed out at nearly zero in February, Nation’s Restaurant News reported.

    The RBC survey is the latest data suggesting a shift toward more optimist outlooks. Evidence released last week from The Conference Board, a New York-based research group, said the worst of the job cuts could be over and that chief executives are less pessimistic about the future performances of their respective industries.

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