Dinner Is Served...At Home

Most U.S. households report eating dinner at home, and together, says NPD

CHICAGO -- Home is where the heart is for dinnertime in 81% of U.S. households, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research company. The NPD food and beverage market research study finds that home is the most popular location for eating dinner, and 47% of consumers report eating dinner with everyone in their household every night of the week.

According to NPD's study on dinnertime consumption habits entitled Dinnertime MealScape Study, dinner is most often consumed in the kitchen, followed by the dining room and then family/living room. Approximately 40% of individuals [image-nocss] are watching a TV show or video while eating. Although about half of households reported eating dinner together, shift eating is somewhat sizeable, with more than one in three consumers indicating they ate at a different time from other household members.

The Dinnertime MealScape Study reported that dinner is described as a "full or complete meal" by 68% of consumers; 29% of consumers feel dinner represented more of a "small or mini meal" and 2% viewed it as a snack.

"We found through our research that consumers derive the most enjoyment from preparing meals at home for their families," said Dori Hickey, director of product management at NPD, Chicago. "When we assessed consumer satisfaction with their dinnertime food and beverage selections, we found that overall satisfaction was higher among consumers who made dinner at home compared to those who ate out or brought food in. It's really about bringing the family together and nurturing the ones we love by preparing and sharing a meal."Historically, supper is the meal that leads the restaurant industry out of recessions, but that won't be the case this time, NPD said in February. Supper is the restaurant industry's largest sales generator, but has been the weakest performing meal period for the past decade, it said.

According to an NPD restaurant market research study, which examined how the supper market weakened and analyzes how each generation uses restaurants, multiple factors have contributed to the decline in supper visits. Among the most important factors is that the aging of the U.S. population has resulted in a fundamental shift in the profile of supper restaurant users. The study reports that whereas younger consumer groups had and continue to have the highest usage frequency of restaurant suppers, their pullback on usage has narrowed the frequency gap, and the sheer number of aging Boomers has increased the importance of more mature adults to the supper occasion.

"The fact that older consumers make up a larger portion of the populationand are lighter restaurant supper usersis part of the explanation for this slip in per capita visits, but not the full explanation," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD's restaurant industry analyst and author of the Getting a Grip on the Supper Market study. "Even if you subtract out the changing age composition of the population, restaurant usage for supper would still be slipping. While this is especially notable since the recession began, it was also visible between 2002 and 2007."

In fact, Riggs said, supper visits have been cut back by all but the most mature age group. The heaviest restaurant supper customers, the 18-to-31 age group, have cut back the most, dropping 13 visits per year, respectively, over the last eight years. Even before the current economic situation, consumers were shifting how they addressed their needs to feed themselves and their families at supper.

"What this all means for restaurant operators is that they can't control population trends, but they can influence buying rate momentum by understanding the levers that appeal to their target customers," she said. "Through product and concept innovations, availability, understanding their consumers' value perceptions, right pricing, and targeted messaging, they can re-attract consumers to restaurants for supper."The NPD Group is a leading provider of consumer and retail information for a variety of industries, including automotive, beauty, commercial technology, consumer technology, entertainment, fashion, food and beverage, foodservice, home, office supplies, software, sports, toys and wireless.