Off-premise boom isn't eating dine-in biz, study finds

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The boom in takeout, delivery and catering hasn’t cut into on-premise restaurant dining, validating operators’ contentions the newfound business is largely incremental, according to a new study of dining-out patterns.

Eating inside restaurants remains the top choice of restaurant patrons, with the portion of customers opting for dine-in service holding steady at 82% for the last three months, reports this year’s edition of The Why? Behind the Dine. The report is a collaboration between Technomic, the research sister of RestaurantBusinessOnline.com, and Acosta, a grocery products marketing specialist.

The study noted the gap between in-restaurant and off-premise consumption of meals prepared outside the home is closing. Seven of 10 customers bought takeout meals or snacks in the last three months, and two of three used a drive-thru, according to the report. Delivery was the least used off-premise option, but half of patrons used that channel in the most recently concluded quarter, the study found.

Millennials and Gen Xers are particularly avid buyers of food and beverages for off-premise consumption. The report found that 56% of the total restaurant dollars spent by those age groups went toward takeout or delivery.

The Why? Behind the Dine presented a brighter picture of the restaurant industry than many recent gauges have. For instance, the research showed U.S. restaurant patrons now spend an average of $144 per month on meals purchased from commercial kitchens, an increase of $25, or 21%, from two years ago.

Most research reports have shown traffic abating and sales growth moderating, the result of people dining out less often.

“While our research found that dining in at restaurants has remained flat year-over-year, U.S. diners instead indicated spreading their dollars across a variety of out-of-home channels," said Marianne Quinlan-Sacksteder, director of insights at Acosta’s Center of Shared Business Intelligence: "Diners reported out-of-home food spending has increased significantly over the past two years, with increasing levels of diners indicating they are leveraging foodservice solutions beyond dine-in establishments.”

The study also found that 53% of millennial restaurant patrons intend to increase the number of restaurant meals they buy during the coming year. 

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