Study: Consumers to cut back

Staff Writer
Study: Consumers to cut back

Consumers say they will likely cut back on restaurant visits in 2012, and spend less money on dining out, a new report by restaurant and foodservice consulting firm AlixPartners LLP finds.

Consumers overall expect their restaurant visits to decline by about 3 percent in 2012, according to the report, from 11.7 monthly visits in last year’s second quarter to 11.3 monthly visits this year.

Most consumers said they were cutting back on dining out for financial reasons, but many also named a desire to eat more healthfully. A desire for value and convenience also played heavily into their dining-out decisions.

After a tough 2011 marred by spikes in commodity costs, price competition and the general lack of consumer confidence, restaurant chains saw the dining public split into two categories: the 1 percent, or high-end diners who are spending again; and the 99 percent, who are searching for affordable meals that don’t sacrifice quality.

“The industry most certainly is rebounding, but slowly,” said Adam Werner, managing director and co-leader of the restaurant and foodservice practice for AlixPartners. “Companies are going to have to become more defensive. It’s more of a share game. In order for me to grow, I have to steal from you.”

Key trends for 2012: Value, convenience, health

While quality food remains the No. 1 factor influencing restaurant choice, value, convenience and healthfulness are also key trends for the year ahead, the report said.

Consumers said they plan to pay about 5 percent less in restaurants in 2012 compared with last year, in part because of promotions and dining deals that drive traffic.

The average amount spent per meal is expected to drop to $13.30 this year, compared with $14 last year, the report found.

“Discounting is here to stay,” Werner said, and restaurant chains will continue to use bundled meals to convey value.

Pricing, however, will also become more sophisticated, with many chains using tiered strategies, varying prices by region or based on consumer demographics, and raising prices only on select or non-core items.