Most Americans Have Dined Out in the Past Month and, Among Type of Cuisine, American Food is Tops Followed by Italian

NEW YORK, N.Y. – April 3, 2013 – Eating out can mean anything from a quick breakfast sandwich picked up at the drive through to a celebratory dinner at the swankiest restaurant in town. Restaurant choices can be driven by passion for food, convenience or the simple fact that you’re famished and this is the place you’re closest to “right now.” But the simple fact is – Americans dine out. A lot.

Looking at specific restaurant types, over three in five U.S. adults (64%) have dined at a fast food restaurant chain in the past month and just over half have dined at a local casual dining establishment (54%) and a casual dining restaurant chain (52%). Fewer have dined at either a local fine dining restaurant (18%) or a fine dining restaurant chain (9%), while only one in ten Americans (10%) have not dined at any of these types of restaurants in the past month.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,496 adults surveyed online between February 13 and 18, 2013.

Suburban Americans are more likely to have visited a casual dining restaurant chain (57%) than their urban and rural counterparts (both 47%). Additionally, Urban and Suburban Americans are both more likely than those in rural areas to have visited a local fine dining restaurant (23%-19%-10%) or a fine dining restaurant chain (11%-9%-5%) within that timeframe.

While it may not come as a surprise that those with children under 18 in the household are more likely than those without to have visited a fast food restaurant chain within the past month (73%-61%), it may surprise some that they are also more likely to have visited a fine dining restaurant chain within that time (13%-7%).

Changes in dining out behavior

 Americans appear to be cutting back in how often they eat out; when asked whether they have eaten out more or less frequently at the same list of restaurant types over the past six months, “less frequently” responses consistently outpace “more frequently” ones:

  • Fast food restaurant chain (26% less, 14% more)
  • Local casual dining restaurant (20% less, 14% more)
  • Casual dining restaurant chain (24% less, 11% more)
  • Local fine dining restaurant (21% less, 7% more)
  • Fine dining restaurant chain (23% less, 4% more)

However, it is worth noting that “less frequently” mentions have declined across all categories, in most cases considerably so, when compared to March 2012 results:

  • Fast food restaurant chain (36% 2012, 26% 2013)
  • Local casual dining restaurant (32% 2012, 20% 2013)
  • Casual dining restaurant chain (34% 2012, 24% 2013)
  • Local fine dining restaurant (27% 2012, 21% 2013)
  • Fine dining restaurant chain (26% 2012, 23% 2013)

Factors in Choosing a Restaurant

There are multiple factors driving Americans’ choices between the restaurants available to them, with those most frequently identified as important including good prices (90%), the mood they are in (for either type of cuisine or type of food – 86%), having a specific menu item they enjoy (84%), a convenient location (83%) and a broad variety of menu items (78%). The majority also consider special offers (59%) and healthy menu items that fit a dietary need (56%) to be important.

Two things the majority of Americans say are not important when choosing a restaurant are choosing the same restaurant when going out for a meal (56%) and a restaurant with a menu that usually has new items to choose from (57%).

Gen Xers (93%) are more likely than any other generational segment (86% Echo Boomers, 85% Baby Boomers, 82% Matures) to indicate that their mood is an important factor in choosing a restaurant. Additionally, Gen Xers (63%) and baby Boomers (62%) are more likely than either Echo Boomers (54%) or Matures (52%) to consider special offers to be important.

Matures are less likely than any other generational group to rate healthy menu items (56% EB, 56% GX, 55% BB, 45% M) and usually having new items to choose from (46% EB, 46% GX, 41% BB, 33% M) as important.

Preferred cuisine

 American adults have their choice of a multitude of different cuisines when it comes to dining out these days. Depending on region, options can vary from the everyday to the exotic: from pasta to poutine, from BLT’s to bahn mi’s, from steak medium rare to salad Nicoise. But, it’s tough to argue with the food we are most familiar with; as such, if faced with going to a restaurant and eating a single type of food, American food would be the preference for the highest percentage of U.S. adults (31%). Italian (23%) is the next most popular choice, followed by Mexican (16%) and Chinese (14%).

Tastes are largely regional:

  • U.S. adults living in the West (22%) are less likely than those in any other region (34% East, 34% Midwest, 32% South) to choose American food.
  • Eastern Americans are most likely of any region to choose Italian food (31% East, 21% each Midwest, South & West) and the least likely to choose Mexican (7%-13%-18%-24%).

Additionally, men (35%) are more likely than women (26%) to choose American food.

So What?

Consumers’ restaurant behaviors continue to evolve, as does the country’s economic fortunes. Restaurant visits appear to be in decline over recent months, but at the same time this decrease in restaurant visits appears to be leveling off vs. 2012 findings. This is trend is surely one the restaurant industry will be watching closely, as will the Harris Poll.

TABLE 1
TYPES OF RESTAURANTS EATEN AT IN PAST MONTH
By Generation, Gender, Children in HH & Metro Status
“Please review the following types of restaurants and select the types of restaurant(s) you have eaten out at in the past month for either lunch or dinner?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

2012 Total

2013 Total

Generation

Gender

Children <18 in HH

Metro Status

Echo Boomers
18-35

Gen Xers 36-47

Baby Boomers 48-66

Matures 67+

Men

Women

Yes

No

Urban

Sub-urban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Fast Food Restaurant Chain (i.e. McDonalds, Burger King, Jack in the Box, etc.)

63

64

71

68

61

51

66

62

73

61

64

63

67

Local Casual Dining Restaurant

53

54

52

51

55

61

53

55

50

55

50

56

54

Casual Dining Restaurant Chain (i.e. Applebee’s, Chili’s, Olive Garden, etc.)

50

52

57

52

51

45

50

54

56

51

47

57

47

Local Fine Dining Restaurant

18

18

21

20

14

19

19

17

16

18

23

19

10

Fine Dining Restaurant Chain (i.e. Ruth’s Chris, Morton’s Steak House, etc.)

9

9

14

9

5

7

8

9

13

7

11

9

5

None of these

13

10

8

9

12

11

10

10

8

11

12

10

10

Note: Multiple responses allowed.


TABLE 2a
CHANGES IN DINING OUT OVER PAST SIX MONTHS
Summary Grid
“Thinking of how often you have eaten at each of these types of restaurant chain in the past 6 months, would you say you have eaten at this type of restaurant”

Base: U.S. adults

 

More Frequently (NET)

Much more
frequently

Somewhat more frequently

About
the
same

Less
Frequently
(NET)

Somewhat less frequently

Much
Less
frequently

Haven’t eaten at this type of restaurant in past 6 months

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Fast Food Restaurant Chain

14

6

9

47

26

13

12

13

Local Casual Dining Restaurant

14

5

9

50

20

11

9

16

Casual Dining Restaurant Chain

11

4

8

48

24

13

10

17

Local Fine Dining Establishment

7

2

5

31

21

9

11

42

Fine Dining Restaurant Chain

4

2

3

26

23

10

13

47

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 2b
CHANGES IN DINING OUT OVER PAST SIX MONTHS
Tracking
“Thinking of how often you have eaten at each of these types of restaurant chain in the past 6 months, would you say you have eaten at this type of restaurant”
Summary of Somewhat/Much More Frequently & Somewhat/Much More Frequently

Base: U.S. adults

 

MORE Frequently

About the same

LESS Frequently

Haven’t eaten at this type of restaurant in past 6 months

2012

2013

2012

2013

2012

2013

2012

2013

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Fast Food Restaurant Chain

12

14

39

47

36

26

12

13

Local Casual Dining Restaurant

12

14

42

50

32

20

14

16

Casual Dining Restaurant Chain

9

11

40

48

34

24

17

17

Local Fine Dining Restaurant

6

7

27

31

27

21

39

42

Fine Dining Restaurant Chain

5

4

24

26

26

23

46

47

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 2c
CHANGES IN DINING OUT OVER PAST SIX MONTHS

More Frequently” Summary
By Generation, Gender, Children in HH & Metro Status

 “Thinking of how often you have eaten at each of these types of restaurant chain in the past 6 months, would you say you have eaten at this type of restaurant”
Summary of Somewhat/Much More Frequently

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Children <18 in HH

Metro Status

Echo Boomers
18-35

Gen Xers 36-47

Baby Boomers 48-66

Matures 67+

Men

Women

Yes

No

Urban

Sub-urban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Fast Food Restaurant Chain

14

24

14

9

6

16

13

20

13

20

13

12

Local Casual Dining Restaurant

14

20

8

12

13

15

13

15

14

15

14

13

Casual Dining Restaurant Chain

11

18

10

7

10

11

11

16

10

11

12

10

Local Fine Dining Restaurant

7

14

6

4

5

9

6

8

7

8

8

3

Fine Dining Restaurant Chain

4

10

4

1

 

5

4

8

3

6

4

2

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; indicates <.05%

 

TABLE 2d
CHANGES IN DINING OUT OVER PAST SIX MONTHS

Less Frequently” Summary
By Generation, Gender, Children in HH & Metro Status
“Thinking of how often you have eaten at each of these types of restaurant chain in the past 6 months, would you say you have eaten at this type of restaurant”
Summary of Somewhat/Much Less Frequently

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Children <18 in HH

Metro Status

Echo Boomers
18-35

Gen Xers 36-47

Baby Boomers 48-66

Matures 67+

Men

Women

Yes

No

Urban

Sub-urban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Fast Food Restaurant Chain

26

28

24

28

20

23

28

24

26

23

26

27

Casual Dining Restaurant Chain

24

21

29

24

20

23

24

25

23

26

24

21

Fine Dining Restaurant Chain

23

24

24

22

21

23

23

22

23

22

24

22

Local Fine Dining Restaurant

21

21

21

21

20

20

21

22

20

20

21

20

Local Casual Dining Restaurant

20

20

23

22

12

19

21

23

19

19

21

20

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 3a
FACTORS IN CHOOSING A RESTAURANT
Summary Grid
“Please think about what drives you to choose a restaurant when you go out to eat. How important are each of the following when you choose to eat at a specific restaurant?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Important (NET)

Very Important

Important

Not Important
(NET)

Not that important

Not at all important

%

%

%

%

%

%

A restaurant which has good prices

90

45

45

10

7

2

It depends on the mood I am in for either a type of food (e.g. pasta, salad, sandwiches, burgers) or type of cuisine (e.g American, Chinese, Thai, etc.)

86

34

52

14

10

4

The restaurant offers a specific menu item that I enjoy

84

29

55

16

12

4

A convenient restaurant location for me

83

30

53

17

13

5

A restaurant menu which has a broad variety of menu items to choose from

78

24

54

22

18

4

A restaurant that usually has special offers

59

18

40

41

31

10

They have healthy menu items that fit my dietary needs

54

18

36

46

31

15

I usually choose the same restaurant when I go out for meal

44

9

35

56

42

14

A restaurant menu which usually has new items to choose from

43

9

34

57

45

12

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 3b
FACTORS IN CHOOSING A RESTAURANT

“Important” Summary Tracking
“Please think about what drives you to choose a restaurant when you go out to eat. How important are each of the following when you choose to eat at a specific restaurant?”
Summary of Very Important + Important

Base: U.S. adults

 

Very Important + Important (NET)

2012

2013

%

%

A restaurant which has good prices

90

90

It depends on the mood I am in for either a type of food (e.g. pasta, salad, sandwiches, burgers) or type of cuisine (e.g American, Chinese, Thai, etc.)

84

86

The restaurant offers a specific menu item that I enjoy

81

84

A convenient restaurant location for me

80

83

A restaurant menu which has a broad variety of menu items to choose from

78

78

A restaurant that usually has special offers

59

59

They have healthy menu items that fit my dietary needs

56

54

I usually choose the same restaurant when I go out for meal

41

44

A restaurant menu which usually has new items to choose from

39

43

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 3c
FACTORS IN CHOOSING A RESTAURANT – “Important” Summary
By Generation, Gender, Children in HH & Metro Status
“Please think about what drives you to choose a restaurant when you go out to eat. How important are each of the following when you choose to eat at a specific restaurant?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Children <18 in HH

Metro Status

Echo Boomers
18-35

Gen Xers 36-47

Baby Boomers 48-66

Matures 67+

Men

Women

Yes

No

Urban

Sub-urban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

A restaurant which has good prices

90

90

90

91

90

89

92

91

90

88

92

89

It depends on the mood I am in for either a type of food (e.g. pasta, salad, sandwiches, burgers) or type of cuisine (e.g American, Chinese, Thai, etc.)

86

86

93

85

82

85

88

90

85

84

86

90

The restaurant offers a specific menu item that I enjoy

84

82

85

84

87

82

86

84

84

82

86

83

A convenient restaurant location for me

83

83

82

84

77

82

83

82

83

81

82

85

A restaurant menu which has a broad variety of menu items to choose from

78

76

79

80

74

74

81

83

76

78

79

74

A restaurant that usually has special offers

59

54

63

62

52

53

63

64

57

54

60

60

They have healthy menu items that fit my dietary needs

54

56

56

55

45

45

61

59

52

53

56

49

I usually choose the same restaurant when I go out for meal

44

47

47

41

37

45

42

48

42

44

41

49

A restaurant menu which usually has new items to choose from

43

46

46

41

33

38

47

49

40

42

43

41

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 4
TYPE OF FOOD MOST LIKELY TO CHOOSE FOR EATING OUT
By Tracking, Region & Gender
“Thinking of food now, if you had the choice to go out to a restaurant and eat one type of food, which of these are you most likely to choose?”

Base: U.S. Adults

 

2012 Total

2013 Total

Region

Gender

East

Midwest

South

West

Men

Women

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

American

28

31

34

34

32

22

35

26

Italian

22

23

31

21

21

21

22

24

Mexican

17

16

7

13

18

24

15

16

Chinese

16

14

13

17

13

15

14

15

Japanese

7

5

4

4

5

5

4

6

Middle-Eastern

1

3

2

1

4

4

3

3

Indian

2

2

1

4

1

3

2

3

French

1

1

1

2

1

2

2

1

Other

4

3

4

1

3

4

2

4

None of these

1

2

3

2

2

1

2

2

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

Methodology
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between February 13 to 18, 2013 among 2,496 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’e2’80’99 propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll #18, April 3, 2013
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager