While the economy shows signs of recovery, many consumers are beginning to allow more wiggle room in their budgets, but a recent Harris Interactive poll indicates that those who scaled back on dining out in the hard times continue to keep a tighter hold on the purse strings.
After surveying 2,451 adults in March, the study shed some light on where and how often Americans are dining out.
In an effort to save money, seven in 10 (71%) respondents reported stocking the fridge and cooking at home more often than eating at a restaurant. More than half (57%) said they consider dining out as a luxury rather than a regular convenience.
For those who avoid the kitchen, but still want to save money, 60% reported eating out just as often, but at less expensive eateries, while 29% said they are shifting reprioritizing other expenses to still enjoy meals on the town.
“At the beginning of the economic downturn we saw consumers saving money by changing their behavior in two ways: eating out less frequently and shifting their eating-out dollars away from Casual Dining towards Fast Food/Quick Service restaurants,” Mary Bouchard, Vice President and Thought Leader at Harris Interactive said in a news release. “Now, with several years of experience with constrained budgets, they have shifted even further from the busy-lifestyle convenience of eating out on a regular basis to making time for cooking at home. When they do eat out, not surprisingly, price is still a primary component of their decision making process.”
Over the last six months, respondents were nearly split evenly on cutting back on fast food consumption frequency (36%), casual dining chains (34%) and local casual dining restaurants (34%). Consumer restaurant behavior is also divided between the sexes. According to the survey, 45% of women report eating fast food less often, versus 31% of men.
-Follow Elise Rambaud Marrion, @emarrion_cmn.