Restaurant Trends for ’11: The Changing Attitudes of Customers

Business conditions for restaurants are in flux. The economy has disrupted business as usual so restaurants need to account for a different business climate in the immediate future. Based on the research done by ZenMango, we have ennumerated some changes in customer behavior and attitudes. Indeed the following list is based on a customer survey, while customer perception may not be as exact as it appears.  Still, here a couple new patterns to consider when making decisions to better satisfy customers:

  1. Deals saturate the restaurant market.
    With the arrival of Groupon and other discounters, customers have come to associate dining with discounts. So prices that were once pretty fixed are fluctuating because of the onslaught of discounting and promotions. Nearly half of customers have felt that more deals are available at restaurants. The economy has also made customers more price conscious than before.
  2. Supermarkets are becoming better at undermining the traditional territory of restaurants.
    Prepared meals have undercut some of the allure of restaurants. Surely, they have gotten better over the years and customers are purchasing them in greater number (more than 1/3rd)
  3. Less quantity of food for money
    Like our cars are getting smaller because of oil, it seems that customers sense that portions are getting smaller at restaurants. Two reasons are probably behind this trend. First, restaurants are trying to compensate for decreased traffic. The other is the sudden self-consciousness of Americans about the skyrocketing of obesity. The jury is out if customers truly mind (we definitely aren’t even close to small French portions).
  4. Diners feel they have ample selection
    Nearly all customers perceive that there options are numerous as they are different. This probably has arisen from the ability to research and find restaurants on the Internet.
  5. Consumers are dining out less
    Over 40% of customers believe they have cut back on how often they eat at restaurants. This is especially true for low income and women. Certainly, this is because the working class has absorbed the brunt of the most recent recession.
  6. New emphasis on atmosphere
    Customers want better environments. One factor is the rise of restaurants halfway between fast food and traditional dining. Quality and convenience is also tied to the expectation for better restaurant interiors and setups.
  7. Low calorie meals are becoming more common
    As concern for healthy food increases, it has finally made headway at restaurants. The reporting of calorie content has taken on new importance and eventually this will affect what customers order and where customers eat.
  8. Return to quality
    Paradoxically, while customers are focusing on deals, customers claim that their standards for food have gone up. 38 percent of customers say that quality has the most influence on choosing a restaurant, and with the dominance of Yelp, it is hard to dispute this trend.
  9. Discounts and deals still reign supreme
    Half declare that this is the most important factor in where they eat. This is probably not going to change in the near future as the economy struggles.
  10. Longer waits to be seated and served
    As restaurants tighten their belts because of the economic realities, customers think they are having to spend more time waiting.  Surely, restaurants can become somewhat overwhelmed as they cutback on staff and hours.
  11. “Green” is quickly becoming a major choice driver
    A concern for the environment and where ingredients come from has become a growing factor. For many restaurants, it has become a powerful selling point. Expect customers to become even more interested in restaurants role in the environment and how their food was produced.