While the frequency of consumers dining out is up, the final bill cost is not.
Alix Partners's annual fall survey showed that within the next 12 months, consumers will dine out more but their average spend per meal will faintly decrease. This information sets the stage for a competitive 2015 in the food industry.
“The battle for market — or stomach — share in the restaurant industry is as fierce as ever. The winners will be those who pursue the right paths to growth and value creation, while reigning in costs,” said Eric Dzwonczyk, managing director at AlixPartners and co-lead of the firm’s restaurant and foodservice practice.
Consumers had health on the brain when ordering out, preferring smaller, more focused meals. All food categories went up in the past year, except fast food, which actually dropped.
Of the 1,018 respondents, seventy-six percent said they are planning on going out just as much, if not more. But the other quarter of respondents will be staying in. Twenty-three percent plan on decreasing their dining expenses. That is down from 2013, when one third of the respondents were planning on eating in more.
Consumers are expected to spend less than a percent on each meal. Respondents, who typically spent about $15.30 per meal in 2014, are likely to spend about $15.19 per meal within the next 12 months.
Kurt Schnaubelt, director of AlixPartners, notes that this minor dip is actually good news. Previous surveys reported respondents spending about 5 percent less.
The real concern is for fast food restaurants. While in 2012, consumers were more interested in convenience - grocery stores as well as fast-casual and full-service restaurants. But in 2014, visits to fast food restaurants dropped from an average of 5.8 a month in the first quarter to 5.3.
“That’s a real threat,” said Schnaubelt as freshly prepared food in grocery and convenience stores continue to steal market share from restaurants. The trend of ready-to-eat meals continues a steady growth. Twenty percent of respondents aim to buy ready-to-eat meals in 2015. That is up a percent from the first quarter of 2014, and up six percent from the first quarter of 2013.