Americans' Dining-Out Frequency Little Changed From 2008

Americans’ propensity to eat at restaurants is little changed from a decade ago. Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults recently reported they ate dinner at a restaurant at least once in the past week, similar to the 60% found in 2008. The rate was a bit higher before the 2007-2009 recession, including 66% in 2003.

Eating out is big business in America, comprising 4% of the U.S. gross domestic product. More than 1 million dining establishments accounted for an estimated $782 billion in sales in 2016. These results provide a good indication of real-world changes in Americans’ dining habits.

Gallup’s trend is based on polling conducted in December of each year, with the most recent survey fielded Dec. 7-11, 2016. The question does not specify what types of restaurants respondents should consider in their answer, and thus could include fast food and the rapidly growing fast-casual sector, as well as more formal sit-down experiences. Regardless, any variation in how different respondents define what constitutes a “restaurant” likely would be constant over time.

Fairly consistent with past years, 45% of all Americans reported going out to eat one or two times during the past week. A much smaller proportion — 16% — ate out three or more times.

The trend suggests that frequent restaurant dining has been fairly steady, fluctuating between 15% and 18% since 2003. Meanwhile, occasional dining dipped from 49% in 2003 and 2005 to 42% in 2008. It remains slightly lower today, at 45%.

Frequency of Eating Dinner at a Restaurant in the Past Week

 

Dec 11-14, 2003

Dec 5-8, 2005

Dec 4-7, 2008

Dec 7-11, 2016

 

%

%

%

%

Zero times

34

35

40

38

One time

29

29

28

26

Two times

20

20

14

19

Three or more times

17

15

18

16

Gallup

Naturally, there is a strong relationship between income and dining out. The percentage eating at a restaurant at least weekly rises from 44% among those earning less than $30,000 in annual household income to 67% among those in the middle income group and 72% among those earning $75,000 or more.

Eating Dinner at a Restaurant in the Past Week, by Household Income

 

Less than $30,000

$30,000 to $74,999

$75,000+

 

%

%

%

Zero times

56

33

28

One time

19

31

28

Two times

16

20

23

Three or more times

9

15

21

At least once (total)

44

67

72

Gallup, Dec. 7-11, 2016

The frequency of dining out is also related to age. Seven in 10 young adults — those aged 18 to 34 — ate dinner out at least once in the past week, compared with 65% of those aged 35 to 54 and 50% of those aged 55 and older. In addition, roughly twice as many young adults (20%) and middle-aged adults (19%) as older adults (11%) report more frequent dining excursions.

Eating Dinner at a Restaurant in the Past Week, by Age

 

18 to 34

35 to 54

55+

 

%

%

%

Zero times

28

35

50

One time

31

26

22

Two times

21

20

17

Three or more times

20

19

11

At least once (total)

72

65

50

Gallup, Dec. 7-11, 2016

Income Less of a Factor for Young Adults

In analyzing these relationships using combined Gallup data since 2003, it appears that income differences in dining out are most apparent in those aged 55 and older. Among this group, the percentage eating out at least weekly tumbles from 73% of those in the highest income group to 38% of those in the lowest.

The income-related drop in weekly dining is slightly less steep among middle-aged adults, falling from 74% to 46%. It is far less pronounced among young adults, dipping from 78% to 60%.

Eating Dinner at a Restaurant in the Past Week, by Age and Income

% At least once (total)

 

Less than $30,000

$30,000 to $74,999

$75,000+

 

%

%

%

18 to 34

60

77

78

35 to 54

46

65

74

55+

38

57

73

Based on combined Gallup polls from 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2016

Gallup

Bottom Line

Americans’ options for eating dinner continue to expand, including a few that could undercut the restaurant industry: meal preparation services that deliver fresh ingredients and recipes to your front door, smartphone apps that streamline food takeout, and high-quality food bars available at many grocery chains. The relative stability in the percentage of Americans eating out is thus a positive finding for the restaurant industry — perhaps a testament to the expansion of higher-end fast-food chains that provide good value for the extra expense, as well as convenience and the social benefits of eating out.

The good news for restaurants is that young adults are among their most frequent customers and that even young adults with lower incomes find a way to eat out multiple times a week. How well restaurants do in the future could depend on how well they retain these customers into middle age as financial pressures to cut back typically mount.

From http://www.gallup.com/poll/201710/americans-dining-frequency-little-changed-2008.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_content=morelink&utm_campaign=syndication

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