What, When, and Where America Eats A. Elizabeth Sloan | January 2016, Volume 70, No.1

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Sourced From Home
An increase in the number of meals prepared and eaten at home and a corresponding decline in restaurant usage is one of the single biggest changes in eating patterns in America over the past five years (NPD 2014a). Americans bought 191 meals per person at restaurants for the year ending August 2014, the slowest pace of eating out since 1993 (NPD 2015b).

Total foodservice visits were flat for the year ending May 2015. Quick-service restaurant (QSR) visits—including retail and fast-casual eateries—grew 1%; visits to casual dining restaurants, which have declined over the past five years, held stable. Visits continue to slide at quick-service hamburger chains, midscale/family dining eateries, and independent restaurants (NPD 2015c).

Breakfast/morning meal visits are setting the pace, up 4% for the year ending May 2015. Lunch and dinner visits were flat; traffic during the p.m. snack daypart declined by 2% (NPD 2015d).

Those aged 25–34 are making 50 fewer visits per person per year to restaurants than they did in 2007, those aged 18–24 are making 33 fewer visits. Millennials ate eight more meals at home in 2014 compared with the prior year, while all others ate one additional meal at home (NPD 2015b). Families with kids, which represent 32% of U.S. households and $83.7 billion of total restaurant sales, made one billion fewer visits to restaurants over the past six years (NPD 2014b).

Hispanics’ per capita spending at restaurants increased 4% in 2014. Hispanics are more likely to dine out with children, doing so 40% of the time versus 29% for non-Hispanics (NPD 2015e).

Among the top 15 largest U.S. restaurant chains, Chipotle Mexican Grill posted the biggest sales gains in 2014, +17.6%. It was followed by Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, and Panera Bread. McDonald’s struggled last year, with sales down 1.1%. Other chains reporting a downturn included Subway, Pizza Hut, and Wendy’s (Technomic 2015).

When all the numbers are in for 2015, Technomic expects sales at limited-service restaurants to increase by 3.7% for the year. The Asian/noodle sector is projected to lead growth, followed by Mexican, coffee/café, chicken, and bakery café. The pizza, sandwich, and burger segments are expected to underperform (Technomic 2015). In the full-service sector, where the forecast is for overall sales growth of 3.5%, steak restaurants will lead the way.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, Marco’s Pizza, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, and Chipotle Mexican Grill were the fastest-growing limited-service chains in the United States in 2014. Twin Peaks, Seasons 52, Chuy’s, Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, and Fogo de Chão were the fastest-growing full-service chains (Technomic 2015).

Mealtime Patterns and Behaviors
During an average week, consumers eat dinner at home 5.7 times (FMI 2015a). Only 28% of family eating occasions include kids (Hartman 2014a). With children and parents eating alone more often, kid-specific meal options will come into vogue.

Millennials prepared dinner at home an average of 4.5 nights per week in 2014; Gen Xers, 5 nights; boomers, 5.1 nights; and those 65+, 5.2 nights (FMI 2015a).