Diners increasing attendance, but spending less, at restaurants, says survey

Diners are buying cheaper meals so they can dine out more often Consumers are becoming more cost conscious when it comes to what they eat at restaurants, enabling them to do so more, according to a new survey from AlixPartners.

According to the survey, consumers’ expected spending per meal at a restaurant has decreased by 20 percent to $11.49 when compared with data from the first quarter of 2009. The survey added that spending was expected to decrease in the next 12 months by an additional 3 percent.

The reason for the additional decline in spending, the survey added, was because of an increased frugalness from diners with a preference for cheaper eats.

"Customers have been trained to take specials for granted," said Adam Werner, a director at AlixPartners and one of the authors of the study. "They have recalibrated their spending expectations based on the now-ubiquitous $5 sandwich and the $10 meal, and restaurants that aren’t marching in the promotions parade risk being left behind."

The survey also showed that being thrifty when it came to cheaper meals had enabled many consumers to maintain, if not increase, how many meals they ordered out. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they ate out at least once a week for the past 12 months, up from the 52 percent who reported doing so in data collected during Q1 2009.

Looking for discounted meals at restaurants could be a solution for families who are in debt counseling to save money while not making significant adjustments to their condition of living.