CHICAGO (April 4 , 2012)—The much hyped growing divide between the have and the have-not consumers is evidenced in the different ways each group use restaurants, but both groups share in common cost-consciousness and an appreciation for deals, according to a new study by The NPD Group, a leading market research company. The NPD foodservice market research report, which takes an in-depth look at restaurant behaviors of the financially-comfortable and financially-strained, finds that the sluggish demand for restaurant meals traces to both the financially-strained and financially-comfortable, although a greater proportion of those cutting back are most affected by the economy.
The NPD report entitled The Growing Divide: Restaurant Behaviors of the Financially-Comfortable and Financially-Strained finds that 56 percent of the 5,251 consumers, 18 and older, surveyed define themselves as financially-strained and 44 percent as financially-comfortable. The highest percent of financially-strained consumers are younger (18-34); the financially-comfortable are fairly evenly dispersed, however, when viewed against the financially-strained, twice as many of those 65+ fall into the financially-comfortable group. Seventy-five percent of the financially-comfortable and 92% of the financially-strained consider themselves controlled spenders. A sizable percentage of the financially- strained have relatively high household incomes.
The Growing Divide – Household Income
Source: The NPD Group/The Growing Divide: Restaurant Behaviors of the Financially-comfortable and Financially-strained
Price and affordability are the top reasons why the financially-strained say they are visiting restaurants less, and those financially-comfortable are visiting less because of diet/health reasons, according to the NPD report, which looks at the reasons for less visits and enticements to visit more by each restaurant segment. For many consumers who are visiting restaurants less, the current price paid for a restaurant meal is acceptable; and while fast food customers would like to see more lower-price options, it is casual dining that has the greatest price disparity/issue.
Regardless of their financial situation consumers who have cut back on visiting restaurants are still looking for good deals to entice them back, but define good deals differently depending on type of restaurant, NPD finds. The “right” deals, however, vary depending on the consumer’s financial situation. Although coupons were appealing to financially-comfortable and financially-strained consumers alike, the more financially-stable consumers saw frequent visitor cards and rewards programs as enticements, and those financially-strained were seeking coupons and discounts. Young adults, many of whom fall under the financially-strained group, were especially interested in dollar menu items from fast food restaurants.
“It is presumed financially-stressed consumers have kept the industry from realizing growth; but, that’s not the case,” says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst and author of The Growing Divide. “For this reason it’s important that foodservice marketers understand the behavior of both groups in order to align both short- and long-term marketing strategies appropriately against the correct target.”