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    ‘Fiscally Confident’ Reversing Part of Dinner Downtrend

    Casual, fine-dining linger on the cusp of recovery; fast feeders, QSRs more pressured
     

    Packaged Facts estimates that dinner daypart restaurant sales dropped 4.6 percent to $174.4 billion in 2009, and forecasts a 2.8 percent drop in 2010.
     
    This upswing, although still in negative territory, could gain momentum in 2011, according to the New York-based publisher of market intelligence, a division of MarketResearch.com, with "a spending renaissance among consumers with stable household balance sheets" that may already be underway. In "Dinner Trends in the U.S. Foodservice Market," Packaged Facts expects "full-service dinner to benefit from the return of the fiscally confident -- more affluent consumers with strong household balance sheets. We expect limited-service restaurants, on the other hand, to face the prospect of modest trading up in restaurant choices while weaning extreme-affordability customers from low-margin menu items intended to drive traffic but not sales."
     
    While casual and fine-dining establishments linger on the cusp of recovery, Packaged Facts reveals that fast-food and quick-service restaurants are more pressured, being shackled by consumer expectations of lower pricing, and by the fact that "trading up" among recently invigorated spenders will hurt traffic in much the same manner that "trading down’ benefited the segment in 2008 and into 2009. The dinner daypart is important to the fast-food/quick-service restaurant segment, with 42 percent of respondents to Packaged Facts’ proprietary survey revealing that they had gone to a fast-food/QSR establishment in the past month. Lunch and breakfast also drew strong usage, however, with lunch trumping dinner as the most used daypart.
     
    The report concludes that for the average American family, eating dinner at home instead of at a restaurant may bring the greatest economic benefit. Thus, the trend toward eating dinner at home is most pronounced among consumers age 18 to 24, students, homemakers, females and consumers in households with an income of less than $50,000. Consumers say that a dinner meal at a family restaurant costs about 29 percent more than lunch at a family restaurant, and 21 percent more than breakfast at a family restaurant. While fast food has lower prices across all dayparts than at family and casual restaurants, consumers report an even higher dinner-cost burden: 45 percent more than a fast-food breakfast, and 26 percent more than a fast-food lunch.
     

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