U.S. diners now spend, on average, $144 of their monthly food budgets on food prepared outside the home. That’s $25 more than two years ago, according to new research published in the third edition of “The Why? Behind the Dine,” an annual report released by Acosta, a sales and marketing solutions provider, and Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm.
That $144 represents 35 percent of U.S. diners’ total monthly food budget—up five percentage points from last year. Consumer spending in the foodservice channel has been growing strongly since 2011, the report notes.
“Along with an increase in spending on food prepared outside the home, the market is also seeing a surge in the variety of dining options available, from different types of cuisine to new ways to eat off-premise, such as ordering delivery from sit-down restaurants,” said Colin Stewart, Acosta SVP. “More than anything, our research makes it clear that dining out is more than just a meal. It’s an experience for diners—and a growth opportunity for foodservice operators.”
Jennifer Passmore, regional VP at Technomic, added, “The rate of consumers dining at restaurants over the last year has leveled off, but look beyond face value and you will see diners’ dollars are now being spread across various out-of-home channels, not only concentrated at dine-in establishments. In fact, many diners anticipate spending even more on food prepared outside the home in the coming year, and they will have a full menu of dining options to choose from regularly.”
Current trends in foodservice
More than a meal
Total U.S. diners surveyed agreed that time spent dining out is both valuable and enjoyable, even more so than the year prior, illustrating how experiential factors frequently drive dining decisions.
• 66 percent of diners agree they view mealtime as a valuable time to connect with family or friends.
• 64 percent of diners say they love trying new restaurants.
• 63 percent of diners agree that visiting restaurants is a form of entertainment for them.
• 45 percent of diners consider themselves adventurous eaters.
Prepared food spending varies by age
Spending on food prepared outside the home varies greatly across generations, with Millennial and Gen X diners taking the lead.
• 42 percent of Millennials’ monthly food budget is spent on food prepared outside the home, more than any other generation. This is seven percentage points above the percent of the monthly food budget spent by total U.S. diners on food prepared outside the home.
• 35 percent of GenXers’ monthly food budget is spent on food prepared outside the home.
• Over the next year, 53 percent of Millennial diners plan to eat more meals outside the home.
Dining at restaurants remains the most popular format for eating out, but compared to the year prior, more diners report using carryout, delivery and drive-thru options, with convenience being a primary motivator.
• The rate of U.S. diners who ate-in at a restaurant’s dining area in the past three months has remained steady year over year at 82 percent.
• 70 percent of diners ordered carryout from a restaurant over the past three months, while 67 percent ordered from a drive-thru and 50 percent ordered delivery food in that same time period.
• 56 percent of Millennial and Gen X foodservice dollars are being spent “off-premise” (such as through carryout or delivery).
The digital world serves as a catalyst for dining decisions, as U.S. diners research options online, and continue the conversation on social media by posting reviews of their experiences.
• 49 percent of diners look for coupons/offers online for restaurants.
• 46 percent of diners often read restaurant menus online before going there to eat.
• 61 percent of diners on Facebook follow restaurants to learn about new menu items and for coupons/offers.
• 28 percent of diners with kids indicate they often tell family and friends about their restaurant experiences on social media, with many including photos of their meals.
“There’s no question that dining out is in,” Stewart said. “However, restaurant owners and foodservice operators need to consider what they can offer diners beyond good food. This can include focusing on factors that create a unique dining experience by differentiating elements such as the atmosphere, convenience and ways to connect with others.”
The third edition of The Why? Behind The Dine was fielded in December 2016 using a random sample of 1,500 U.S. diners.