Why Consumers Eat Out

Cravings, combos, comfort, shareability are among top drivers

CHICAGO -- Consumers decide to eat away from home for many different reasons. Maybe they're looking for a fun-filled environment or a family-friendly atmosphere. Or perhaps they crave a favorite menu item or simply a convenient, budget-friendly meal. Often the decision to eat out stems from more than one reason.

Restaurants that genuinely understand consumers' most significant visit drivers can take important steps to tweak their operations and win incremental business, said food consultancy Technomic in its Menu Positioning & Occasion Driver Consumer Trend Report.

"We see a strong relationship between different consumer dining occasions and the reengineering of operators' menus," said Darren Tristano, vice president of Chicago-based Technomic.

"We've identified several distinct dining occasions and they're directly influenced by consumer needs and industry trends," he said. "As operators and suppliers recognize how these occasions differ, they can spot opportunities to not only reposition menu offerings, but to update and revamp service elements, in order to meet the direct needs of customers for each occasion and gain valuable foodservice dollars."

Findings include:

  • 70% of consumers say they order shareable meals so they can try more than one item on the menu.
  • Although most convenience-driven meal occasions are for takeout or delivery (58%), two-fifths are for dine-in (42%), indicating that speed of service is also a key factor for dine-in occasions.
  • Cravings are strong foodservice purchase drivers; 50% of all consumers'--and 59% of younger males' (aged 18-24)--foodservice occasions are driven by cravings.
  • 55% of consumers look for combo meals when seeking strong overall value for their money at restaurants and other foodservice locations.
  • More than any other factor, 69% of consumers report that dining with friends contributes to a fun, exciting restaurant experience.
  • When having a regular meal with family or friends, nearly three-fifths of consumers (58%) prefer comfort foods.

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