Foodservice Equipment Reports

Better-Off Consumers Also Restrain Foodservice Growth

A recent study by The NPD Group’s restaurant analyst Bonnie Riggs adds to the fascinating body of data and analyses about how consumers at different income levels use foodservice and how the Great Recession has changed those behaviors. The report, titled The Growing Divide: Restaurant Behaviors of the Financially Comfortable and Financially Strained, finds that sluggish demand for restaurants meals—per capita visits are down about 8% since peaking in 2006—can be traced to both self-identified groups, though those most affected by the economy have cut back most.

We mention “self-identified” because, perhaps surprisingly, 30% of those with household incomes greater than $150,000 identified themselves as “financially strained.” And 52% of those with incomes of more than $75,000 checked the “strained” box. This is critical to foodservice operators, particularly at the higher end of the price and service spectrum, because about 50% of all foodservice spending comes from households with incomes greater than $75,000. Also, a bit counter-intuitively, just as many consumers with household incomes in the $45,000-$75,000 range define themselves as comfortable as strained.

Overall, of the 5,251 consumers older than 18 who were included in the study, 56% defined themselves as financially strained and 44% as comfortable.

The study found that while both the strained and the comfortable had cut back on restaurant visits, the strained cited price and affordability as the main reasons, while the comfortable mentioned diet/health reasons. And while strained consumers would like to see more lower-priced options, casual dining still suffers most from the price/value issue.

From an age standpoint, the highest percentage of financially strained consumers is in the18-34 year-old group.  They’d like more dollar-menu quick-service options. On the other end, twice as many consumers aged 65 or more define themselves as comfortable rather than strained.

Information on the research study and other NPD Group products can be found at

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