Frequent customers of fast-casual restaurants plan to cut back their visits by 13% in the next 12 months, according to a new study, adding one more indication of a significant slowdown in the industry’s fastest-growing sector.
The research, from New York City consultancy AlixPartners, showed a deceleration also in the works for traditional quick-service restaurants, though not as severe. A survey of consumers found that frequent QSR customers intend to pare their purchases of burgers, chicken, pizza and the like by 8%.
For both groups of consumers, the most frequently cited reason was a desire to save money (mentioned by 50%), followed by an effort to eat more healthfully (44%).
A frequent customer is defined as one who visits a particular type of restaurant at least twice per week.
The motivation to economize isn’t necessarily a struggle to cover fundamental costs like rent or car payments, AlixPartners found. About a third (32%) of the savers said they intend to put the unspent money toward leisure travel.
Overall, the majority of consumers (57%) said they intend to buy restaurant meals in the next 12 months at roughly the same frequency as they did in the past year. However, they expressed a willingness to spend an average of $15.43 per visit, or a nickel more than they did in the past year.
Other recent data similarly attest to problems in the fast-casual sector. For instance, fast-casual brands ranking among the industry’s Top 500 Chains grew last year by 8%, according to Technomic—“the first time we’ve seen the rate dip below 10%” said Patrick Noone, the researcher’s EVP of business development. He noted that Technomic has been tracking fast-casual performance for 20 years.
AlixPartners’ report was based on a survey of 1,000 consumers.