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CHICAGO -- Restaurants may be moving beyond big steaks and bigger spenders. As financial woes grip the nation and people grip their pocketbooks, Mintel Menu Insights reported more restaurants are promoting value on their menus.
Through Mintel's newly enhanced Menu Insights database, director and registered dietician Maria Caranfa said she sees more restaurants, from fast food to fine dining, promoting quality menu items for lower prices, and thinks it's a wise move.
"Foodservice has been hit hard by people cutting back. When we surveyed Americans last January, over half said they were trying to reduce restaurant spending because of the economy. Many people's finances have worsened since then, so it's smart for restaurants to advertise lower prices," Caranfa said in a statement. "The key to making these lower prices work, however, is maintaining food quality and making sure every customer's experience is optimal. Restaurants need to make cheap chic."
She highlighted the "$5 phenomenon" taking place in-quick service restaurants, including:
-- Subway foot-long subs for $5;
-- Quiznos large deli favorites for $5;
-- Pizza Hut's Pizza Mia pizzas for $5 each (when you order three or more); and,
-- Boston Market meals for $5
"Many quick-service restaurants are permanently lowering regular menu prices to draw in customers," Caranfa commented. "They're giving people more for their dining dollar, offering good quality food at a reasonable price. For restaurants, the $5 deal is a happy medium between satisfying the customer and staying competitive within the industry."
Family and fine dining restaurants are also finding ways to help diners stretch their dollars. T.G.I. Friday's "Right Portion, Right Price" offers smaller servings of regular entrees, value-priced between $5.99 and $9.99, while Ruth's Chris Steak House's "Economy Proof" meal includes soup or salad, entrée and a side dish from a limited menu for $35.95.
"Dining out is a choice, not an obligation," Caranfa noted in the Mintel Menu Insights report. "By offering people the prices they can afford with the food quality and experience they crave, restaurants can stay vibrant and current in today's economy."
Mintel Menu Insights tracks more than 1 million food and drink items on 2,400 U.S. menus to help companies stay on top of evolving menu concepts.