New Dining Out Habits Mean Increased Demand for Value

 

New York, N.Y. – May 13, 2010 – In April 2010, the Harris Poll® reported that more than two in five (43%) U.S. adults said they feel less secure about their personal financial situation when compared to a year ago. One of the outcomes of this sense of financial insecurity is that many consumers have changed their dining out habits.

In fact, both casual dining restaurants and fast food, or quick service, restaurants have experienced the same slow down in the past six months, with 34% and 31% of adults respectively saying they have visited these types of restaurants with less frequency than a year ago. Almost half of Americans (45% and 47%) have respectively visited casual and quick service restaurants at the same level as a year ago. On a more positive note, 13% and 14% say they visited these types of restaurants with more frequency than in the past year.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,755 adults surveyed between April 12 and 19, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

 

Perceived Value Dictates Restaurant Choice

Among those who have eaten at a quick service restaurant in the past month, half (50%) said an extremely or very important reason in choosing a particular restaurant was that the prices were in the range they were willing to spend. This attitude is consistent among those who ate a casual dining restaurant with almost half (48%) saying price was an extremely or very important reason for selecting the restaurant.

This attitude is still paramount even among those who have increased their dining out habits. Six in ten diners who increased their visits to quick service (62%) or casual dining restaurants (57%) said prices were an extremely or very important factor when choosing a restaurant. Those who have decreased their dining out habits also hold the same attitude about price – 58% said price was an extremely or very important reason when selecting a quick service restaurant and 57% said price was an extremely or very important reason when selecting a casual dining restaurant.

 

Price Dictates Menu Items Ordered

Consumer’s sensitivity towards price also dictates the selection of a menu item. More than four in ten (44%) quick service and casual restaurant patrons said that the price fitting into their budget was an extremely or very influential factor when ordering from the menu in the past month. Price sensitivity is even more influential among those who have increased their quick service restaurant visitations in the past year with almost six in ten (56%) saying price was an extremely or very influential factor during the ordering process. On the other hand, price is less influential among casual restaurant patrons who have increased their visits (42%), as compared to those who have decreased their visits (56%) in the past year.


So What?

While there are some indications that the economy is improving, we still see one third of respondents dining out less than a year ago, and there is a much smaller lift in respondents dining out more often, says Mary Bouchard, Vice President of Research for the Restaurant Industry. Regardless of how often they eat out, consumers are now expecting value throughout the dining out experience. Although consumers have shown a tendency over the past few years to move their dining out dollars to lower price, quick service restaurants, any restaurant brand that promotes good value as a reason to dine out and then successfully fulfills consumer demand with price-conscious menu items are more likely to draw a greater share of today’s smaller wallet.

 

TABLE 1

DINING HABITS COMPARED TO LAST YEAR

Thinking of how often you have eaten at each of those 3 types of restaurant chains in the past 6 months, would you say you have eaten at this type of restaurant…?

Base: All adults

More frequently

than a year ago

About the same

as a year ago

Less frequently

than a year ago

I haven’t eaten

at this type of

restaurant in the

past year

%

%

%

%

Fast Food Restaurant Chain

14

47

31

9

Casual Dining Restaurant Chain

13

45

34

8

Fine Dining Restaurant Chain

6

31

29

34

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

 

TABLE 2

FACTORS IN CHOOSING A RESTAURANT – FAST FOOD

Please think about the most recent visit you had to a fast food restaurant chain and your dining experience there. How important were each of the following when you chose to eat at that fast food restaurant on that occasion?

Base: Adults who have eaten at a fast food restaurant in the past month

Extremely/

Very

Important

(NET)

Extremely

Important

Very

Important

Important

Not at all/

Somewhat

Important

(NET)

Somewhat

Important

Not at all

Important

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The restaurant’s prices were in the range of what I wanted to spend

50

22

27

33

17

12

5

The restaurant’s location was convenient for me

48

19

29

34

18

14

4

I was in the mood for the type of food (e.g. pasta, salad, sandwiches, burgers) or type of cuisine (e.g. American, Chinese, Thai, etc.) offered at the restaurant

41

15

26

37

21

16

6

The restaurant offered a specific menu item that I was hungry for

36

13

23

36

28

17

10

The restaurant menu has a broad variety of menu items to choose from

29

9

20

38

33

22

11

I was interested in the restaurant’s special offer

22

7

15

26

52

27

25

I usually choose this restaurant chain when I go out for a meal

17

4

12

30

53

29

24

They offered healthy menu items that fit my dietary needs

19

7

12

27

54

26

27

The restaurant menu usually has new items to choose from

11

3

8

24

65

30

35

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

 

TABLE 3

FACTORS IN CHOOSING A RESTAURANT – CASUAL DINING

Please think about the most recent visit you had to a casual dining restaurant chain and your dining experience there. How important were each of the following when you chose to eat at that casual dining restaurant on that occasion?

Base: Adults who have eaten at a casual dining restaurant in the past month

Extremely/

Very

Important

(NET)

Extremely

Important

Very

Important

Important

Not at all/

Somewhat

Important

(NET)

Somewhat

Important

Not at all

Important

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The restaurant’s prices were in the range of what I wanted to spend

48

20

28

36

17

12

5

I was in the mood for the type of food (e.g. pasta, salad, sandwiches, burgers) or type of cuisine (e.g. American, Chinese, Thai, etc.) offered at the restaurant

43

16

28

37

19

15

4

The restaurant menu has a broad variety of menu items to choose from

37

11

26

41

22

16

6

The restaurant’s location was convenient for me

36

12

25

41

22

16

6

The restaurant offered a specific menu item that I was hungry for

33

11

22

37

30

18

11

They offered healthy menu items that fit my dietary needs

23

8

15

32

45

24

21

I was interested in the restaurant’s special offer

21

7

14

30

49

24

25

I usually choose this restaurant chain when I go out for a meal

16

5

11

31

52

28

24

The restaurant menu usually has new items to choose from

15

4

10

29

56

31

25

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

 

TABLE 4

FACTORS IN CHOOSING A RESTAURANT – FAST FOOD BY FREQUENCY

Please think about the most recent visit you had to a fast food restaurant chain and your dining experience there. How important were each of the following when you chose to eat at that fast food restaurant on that occasion?

Summary of those saying Extremely Important or Very Important

Base: Adults who have eaten at a fast food restaurant in the past month

Total

Eats at Fast Food restaurants

compared to last year

Eats at Casual Dining restaurants

compared to last year

More

Frequently

Same

Frequency

Less

Frequently

More

Frequently

Same

Frequency

Less

Frequently

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The restaurant’s prices were in the range of what I wanted to spend

50

62

41

58

60

40

58

The restaurant’s location was convenient for me

48

58

43

52

56

40

56

I was in the mood for the type of food (e.g. pasta, salad, sandwiches, burgers) or type of cuisine (e.g. American, Chinese, Thai, etc.) offered at the restaurant

41

51

37

43

50

36

46

The restaurant offered a specific menu item that I was hungry for

36

43

34

35

46

31

40

The restaurant menu has a broad variety of menu items to choose from

29

38

26

30

36

23

32

I was interested in the restaurant’s special offer

22

31

19

21

27

18

25

They offered healthy menu items that fit my dietary needs

19

28

16

20

26

16

19

I usually choose this restaurant chain when I go out for a meal

17

26

14

15

23

14

17

The restaurant menu usually has new items to choose from

11

21

8

9

17

9

11

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

 

TABLE 5

FACTORS IN CHOOSING A RESTAURANT – CASUAL DINING BY FREQUENCY

Please think about the most recent visit you had to a casual dining restaurant chain and your dining experience there. How important were each of the following when you chose to eat at that casual dining restaurant on that occasion?

Summary of those saying Extremely Important or Very Important

Base: Adults who have eaten at a casual dining restaurant in the past month

Total

Eats at Fast Food restaurants

compared to last year

Eats at Casual Dining restaurants

compared to last year

More

Frequently

Same

Frequency

Less

Frequently

More

Frequently

Same

Frequency

Less

Frequently

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The restaurant’s prices were in the range of what I wanted to spend

48

61

40

54

57

40

57

I was in the mood for the type of food (e.g. pasta, salad, sandwiches, burgers) or type of cuisine (e.g. American, Chinese, Thai, etc.) offered at the restaurant

43

56

37

50

52

39

46

The restaurant menu has a broad variety of menu items to choose from

37

53

30

39

48

31

40

The restaurant’s location was convenient for me

36

45

32

39

46

30

41

The restaurant offered a specific menu item that I was hungry for

33

45

29

34

48

28

34

They offered healthy menu items that fit my dietary needs

23

32

16

27

28

22

22

I was interested in the restaurant’s special offer

21

27

18

21

28

18

21

I usually choose this restaurant chain when I go out for a meal

16

27

13

16

24

14

15

The restaurant menu usually has new items to choose from

15

24

11

15

24

12

14

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

 

TABLE 6

FACTORS IN CHOOSING MENU ITEMS AT FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS

Now considering the menu item(s) that you ordered at that fast food restaurant for yourself, how influential were the following when you made your order(s)?

Base: Adults who have eaten at a fast food restaurant in the past month

Extremely/

Very

Influential

(NET)

Extremely

Influential

Very

Influential

Influential

Not at all/

Somewhat

Influential

(NET)

Somewhat

Influential

Not at all

Influential

Not Applicable

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The price was within my budget

44

23

21

29

23

10

13

4

It’s what I usually order at the restaurant

39

18

21

30

26

15

11

5

The menu item was prominently featured on the menu with a picture

17

6

12

25

51

18

33

8

The menu item was prominently featured on the menu with a description

17

6

11

23

53

21

31

7

The menu item was discounted for a limited time only

16

7

8

18

51

13

38

16

The menu item was available for a limited time only

10

4

6

13

59

13

46

18

I ordered the item based on a recommendation from a friend or family member

7

3

5

15

59

14

45

19

I ordered the menu item based on a recommendation from the restaurant’s staff (i.e. waiter, server)

5

1

4

9

65

13

52

21

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

 

TABLE 6A

FACTORS IN CHOOSING MENU ITEMS AT FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS

Now considering the menu item(s) that you ordered at that fast food restaurant for yourself, how influential were the following when you made your order(s)?

Summary of those saying Extremely Influential or Very Influential

Base: Adults who have eaten at a fast food restaurant in the past month

Total

Eats at Fast Food restaurants

compared to last year

More

Frequently

Same

Frequency

Less

Frequently

%

%

%

%

The price was within my budget

44

56

38

46

It’s what I usually order at the restaurant

39

53

36

37

The menu item was prominently featured on the menu with a picture

17

35

13

14

The menu item was prominently featured on the menu with a description

17

29

14

15

The menu item was discounted for a limited time only

16

27

13

13

The menu item was available for a limited time only

10

18

8

8

I ordered the item based on a recommendation from a friend or family member

7

20

4

7

I ordered the menu item based on a recommendation from the restaurant’s staff (i.e. waiter, server)

5

14

3

3

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

 

TABLE 7

FACTORS IN CHOOSING MENU ITEMS AT CASUAL DINING RESTAURANTS

Now considering the menu item(s) that you ordered at that casual dining restaurant for yourself, how influential were the following when you made your order(s)?

Base: Adults who have eaten at a casual restaurant in the past month

Extremely/

Very

Influential

(NET)

Extremely

Influential

Very

Influential

Influential

Not at all/

Somewhat

Influential

(NET)

Somewhat

Influential

Not at all

Influential

Not Applicable

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The price was within my budget

44

23

22

27

25

14

11

3

It’s what I usually order at the restaurant

26

12

15

32

34

15

19

7

The menu item was prominently featured on the menu with a description

23

9

15

31

40

15

25

6

The menu item was prominently featured on the menu with a picture

17

6

11

28

46

16

31

9

The menu item was discounted for a limited time only

16

6

10

20

50

13

36

14

I ordered the item based on a recommendation from a friend or family member

13

4

10

18

57

17

40

12

The menu item was available for a limited time only

10

3

7

16

59

14

44

15

I ordered the menu item based on a recommendation from the restaurant’s staff (i.e. waiter, server)

7

2

4

17

65

21

44

12

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

 

TABLE 7A

FACTORS IN CHOOSING MENU ITEMS AT CASUAL DINING RESTAURANTS

Now considering the menu item(s) that you ordered at that casual dining restaurant for yourself, how influential were the following when you made your order(s)?

Summary of those saying Extremely Influential or Very Influential

Base: Adults who have eaten at a casual restaurant in the past month

Total

Eats at casual dining restaurants

compared to last year

More

Frequently

Same

Frequency

Less

Frequently

%

%

%

%

The price was within my budget

44

42

37

56

It’s what I usually order at the restaurant

26

30

24

28

The menu item was prominently featured on the menu with a description

23

32

18

27

The menu item was prominently featured on the menu with a picture

17

24

15

18

The menu item was discounted for a limited time only

16

20

17

14

I ordered the item based on a recommendation from a friend or family member

13

22

12

11

The menu item was available for a limited time only

10

17

10

6

I ordered the menu item based on a recommendation from the restaurant’s staff (i.e. waiter, server)

7

10

8

4

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

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between April 12 and 19, 2010 among 2,755 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’ 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.

 

J38067

Q860, 865, 870, 878, 888

The Harris Poll ® #63, May 13, 2010

By Mary Bouchard, Vice President, and Andrew Compagno, Research Manager, Restaurant Research Group, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

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