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Consumers Place a Premium on Value for Dinner and Late-Night Occasions

CHICAGO (January 12, 2012 - PRNewswire)—In the past year, 40 percent of consumers have cut back on away-from-home dinner purchases, largely because they have less money to spend on dining out. When weighing dine-out options, today’s consumers are more likely to choose restaurants based on the availability of frequent diner programs (31 percent vs. 23 percent in 2009) and happy hour deals (24 percent vs. 21 percent in 2009). As a result of consumers’ decrease in away-from-home dinner purchases, it is vital for operators and suppliers to stay on top of dinner and late-night trends, such as combo meals, smaller portions or shareable items, in order to more effectively identify opportunities of growth.

“It’s imperative for operators to recognize the importance of today’s value equation,” says Technomic EVP Darren Tristano. “Drawing dinner and late-night traffic now means exploring new ways to underscore value beyond low prices. Operators may be able to boost dinner sales by strengthening their overall value with other pricing strategies, such as specials or combo meals.”

To help operators and others aligned with the foodservice industry more effectively identify opportunities for growth and competitive advantage, Technomic has developed the Dinner and Late-Night Consumer Trend Report.

Interesting findings include:

  • 71 percent of consumers skip dinner at least sometimes, citing lack of hunger or eating a late lunch instead of dinner, which could allow for smaller portions or shareable menu items as opportunities for operators to boost incremental traffic and sales during the dinner daypart.
  • Operators and suppliers are emphasizing late-night menus by developing a new mix of craveable options to draw customers in after hours. Smaller portions, mix-and-match options, and shareable samplers meet the needs of a younger millennial customer base that tends to congregate over food and drinks during late-night hours.
  • Value is the key positioning for dinner entrées in limited-service restaurants. Lower-priced items that can easily be bundled for a quick and affordable meal for one person or a whole family are the focus for LSR dinner menus.
  • Full-service restaurants are promoting dinner values, with bundled meals and affordably priced family dinners to go, while also emphasizing “premium” as part of the value equation for entrées. To boost check averages, adult beverages, appetizers and desserts are also essential marketing components for FSRs.

Technomic’s Dinner and Late-Night Consumer Trend Report examines preferences, attitudes, and purchasing behavior regarding dinner and late-night occasions. The menu insights section utilizes Technomic’s exclusive MenuMonitor database to provide an in-depth look at dinner menu trends at Top 500 and emerging LSRs and FSRs. The consumer insights section examines dinner and late-night patronage, purchasing behavior, attitudes and preference of more than 1,500 consumers. Additionally, data from Technomic’s 2008 Dinner Consumer Trend Report is discussed throughout the report to provide a benchmark for key trends. Appendices include detailed concept and menu profiles for 20 chains with an innovative approach to dinner and late-night offerings as well as full demographic profiles of consumers who patronize 45 leading limited- and full-service restaurants at dinner.

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