Value Drives Dining Decisions

May 17, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Data-driven | Food & Restaurants | Retail & E-Commerce

Consumers are dining out less often, and more value-focused when they do visit a restaurant, according to the results of a recent Harris Poll.

One-Third of Consumers Scale Back Dining Out
Both fast food and casual dining restaurants have experienced the same slowdown in the past six months, with 34% and 31% of adults respectively saying they have visited these types of restaurants with less frequency than a year ago. Almost half of Americans (45% and 47%) have respectively visited casual and quick service restaurants at the same level as a year ago. On a more positive note, 13% and 14% say they visited these types of restaurants with more frequency than in the past year.

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More than 8 in 10 Diners Driven by Value
Prices are important to more than eight in 10 consumers when choosing both a fast food and casual dining restaurant. Among fast food customers, a total of 83% consider price important, with 22% finding it extremely important, 27% finding it very important, and 36% finding it important. Only 12% consider price somewhat important and 5% consider it not at all important.

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Price sensitivity is virtually identical in the casual dining niche. Twenty percent of casual dining customers consider price extremely important, 28% consider it very important, and 36% consider it important, for a total of 84% of casual dining customers considering price an important factor. Twelve percent consider price somewhat important and 5% consider it not at all important (total equals more than 100% due to rounding).

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Location More Important for Fast Food
The importance accorded different factors by fast food and casual dining customers diverges beyond both customer sets agreeing price is paramount. Fast food customers consider convenient location the second-most important factor (82% consider it important and 18% consider it somewhat or not at all important), followed by type of food offered (78%/22%), availability of a specific menu item (72%/28%), and menu variety (67%/33%).

However, casual dining customers consider type of food the second-most important factor (80%/19%), followed by menu variety (78%/22%), location (77%/22%), and availability of a specific menu item (70%/30%).

Mary Bouchard, VP of restaurant industry research for Harris Interactive, says consumers now expect value throughout their dining out experience, which even higher-priced restaurants can use to their advantage.

“Although consumers have shown a tendency over the past few years to move their dining out dollars to lower-price, quick service restaurants; any restaurant brand that promotes good value as a reason to dine out and then successfully fulfills consumer demand with price-conscious menu items are more likely to draw a greater share of today’s smaller wallet,” said Bouchard.

Consumers Seek Comfort Food
In addition to seeking lower-priced fare, consumers in 2010 desire “comfort foods” such as sausage, fried foods and tavern fare in 2010, according to the Top List of 2010 Menu Trend Predictions from Flavor & the Menu magazine. Other predicted trends include a desire for casual setting, ethnic sandwiches from around the globe, chile-fired sauces, deep-fried foods, and “virgin” alcohol-free specialty cocktails.

About the Data: This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between April 12 and 19, 2010 among 2,755 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

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