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CHICAGO -- Consumers have cut back on their dinner restaurant visits, but a new foodservice industry report sees brighter days ahead.
According to The NPD Group, the restaurant supper occasion has lost more than 650 million consumer visits since 2006, but will gain approximately 795 million visits over the next decade. The Chicago-based research firm's "A Look Into the Future of Foodservice" report forecasts 4-percent growth in visits through 2022.
Restaurant supper visits have been on a steady decline since 2006. At the same time, supper meals eaten at home have steadily increased. Per capita, annual supper meals eaten at home increased from 235 in 2006 to 250 in 2012, according to NPD's "National Eating Trends," which tracks all aspects of how U.S. consumers eat. Conversely, per capita, supper meals eaten away from home declined from 67 percent in 2006 to 61 percent in 2012, according to NPD's CREST, which tracks daily how U.S. consumers use restaurants.
NPD pointed out several factors that have led to the downward trend of the supper occasion, but said one of the largest influences has been the impact that the economy has had on younger adult consumers between 18 and 49 years old. According to the foodservice report, younger adults have historically been the most frequent suppertime restaurant visitors. As a result of these cutbacks, there has been a shift of supper traffic dependence to older consumers who historically have been less frequent visitors to restaurants during suppertime.
It's this increase in restaurant supper visits among older adults that is the primary contributor to the growth forecast for supper traffic over the next 10 years, NPD added.
"While supper is forecast to fare better than it has over the past several years, foodservice marketers will need to create a strong value proposition to entice U.S. consumers out of their homes," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD's restaurant industry analyst. "During this very challenging time, consumers have become even more accustomed to eating supper at home. Foodservice marketers need to understand how food retailers and manufacturers are meeting consumers' needs, as prepared foods purchased at grocery stores provide an easy and generally less expensive alternative to restaurants."