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Consumer Trends: Casual Dining Challenges

Thu, 02/14/2013 - 12:00pm

CHICAGO (PRNewswire) — There's good news to report for the casual-dining segment: customer enthusiasm is up. But the other side of the coin shows that new challenges are emerging for casual-dining operators as the lines continue to blur between limited-service fast-casual restaurants and full-service casual-dining chains. Consumer expectations are shifting as customers continue to trade-up and trade-down across the casual-dining spectrum.

"Consumers in search of a casual-dining occasion have plenty of choices, and their expectations are changing," says Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic. "Whether their needs are driven by price, food quality, overall value or simply the dining experience itself, operators need to know how to stay competitive."

To help foodservice executives understand the latest consumer behaviors, preferences and attitudes regarding casual-dining restaurants, Technomic has developed the  Future of Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report. Interesting findings include:

  • More than four out of five casual-dining consumers say they visit fast-casual (85 percent) and traditional casual-dining restaurants (82 percent) at least once a month, and 40 percent of casual-dining consumers visit upscale casual-dining restaurants just as often.
  • Consumers' fast-casual and traditional casual-dining visits appear to be cutting into fast-food and upscale casual-dining visits, as consumers trade up from quick service and trade down from upscale casual-dining restaurants to these locations.
  • Compared to two years ago, consumers today are more likely to visit casual-dining restaurants for a variety of occasions—including, but not limited to, routine lunches, everyday occasions, special occasions and meals with colleagues and family members.
  • In an effort to compete with quick-service restaurants, leading fast-casual brands have expanded breakfast offerings by 31 percent since 2011; however, there's still plenty of opportunity as just 31 percent of leading fast-casual restaurants offer breakfast.
  • A third of consumers say they are ordering from the healthy menu more often than they did a year ago at fast casual (36 percent) and traditional (34 percent) casual-dining restaurants, but just 27 percent of consumers say the same for upscale casual-dining restaurants.
  • While price is a major deterrent for some upscale casual-dining consumers, 41 percent of consumers indicate that meals at these locations are worth the price because of the overall dining experience.

Technomic's Future of Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report is a comprehensive study that explores the latest trends at fast-casual and full-service casual-dining restaurants. The Menu Insights section of the report uses Technomic's exclusive MenuMonitor data to provide year-over-year analysis on changes to fast-casual and casual-dining menus. The Consumer Insights section examines occasion drivers, usage dynamics, attitudes and purchasing decisions for fast-casual and full-service casual-dining restaurants based on findings from an exclusive survey of 1,500 consumers. Finally, the report appendices feature detailed concept and menu profiles for 20 fast-casual and full-service casual-dining restaurant brands.

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