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A Closer Look At Today’s Restaurant Consumers

We’ve always known that to be able to operate a successful business, we need to know our market.

The National Restaurant Association says that we need to do more than that. During these challenging times, we need not only know our customers, but understand them at a more expansive length: take an insight into their minds, identify their present financial affairs and recognize their spending patterns.

The NRA did all these in their latest 2012 Restaurant Industry Forecast which was released last month.

Customers’ economic outlook

In the report’s December 2011 survey, it was found that 92% of American adults think that the present state of the U.S. economy is either “poor” or “fair,” the same view they had in 2010.

The same goes for their economic outlook this year–3 out of 10 says that it will get better in 2012, 24% thinks that it will get worse, while 44% says that it will remain the same.

This outlook is the same as what customers had in 2010, where 29% said that economic conditions would improve in 2011, and 17% thought that it would worsen.

As with regards to their personal situation, 33% of adult consumers say that their financial circumstances at home will improve in 2012, while only 9% think that it will get worse.

The optimistic, cautious and hunkered down consumers

Taking these into account, the report then categorized today’s American diners into three: the optimistic, the cautious and the hunkered down.

The Optimistic: This comprises 21% of consumers, those that say they are certain of their good financial situation and have not restrained their spending habits. Majority of them are men (63%) and they are the ones who visit restaurants the most. They’re also the ones who don’t normally care of the amount that is presented in their restaurant check presenters.

There’s a good 72% of optimists who were not affected by the recession at all – their spending movements on entertainment, restaurants, travel and clothing remain the same. Only 16% of optimists said that they reduced their spending.

The Cautious: These are the 42% who have taken the wait-and-see attitude and have done a substantial cut back on their spending patterns, comprising of men and women.

The Hunkered Down: The hunkered-downs comprise the 37% who have the biggest concerns about the economy and their personal finances, having made significant cut backs in their spending routines. Most of these consumers are women (57%).

When asked how their spending patterns have been affected by the recession, 51% of the cautious customers and 67% of the hunkered-down claimed that they have lessened their expenditures because of the economic downturn.

How restaurants cope

Seeing that most restaurant diners are constrained these days, restaurants are finding ways to coax their customers with attractive incentives. Operators have seen how today’s diners grew to be more knowledgeable and detailed about the food and beverage that they buy, with everyone making sure that they get value for every dollar they release to settle their restaurant bill (checks that’s shown in the restaurant’s quality check presenters). This fact compelled restaurant operators to add more new, innovative dishes to their menu last year; and seeing that these proved effective in increasing their restaurant sales and profits, they plan to do it again this year.