Restaurant Customers Uninterested In Sit-Down Chains, Still Hungry

Image courtesy of Ben Roffelsen Photography

When you go out to eat, where do you go? Restaurant-watchers are noticing that business at sit-down establishments is dropping, while convenience stores, restaurants that deliver, and even supermarkets with ready-to-eat food are all increasing their business.

The Associated Press notes that sales at popular chains are falling or are flat, noting the poor recent sales figures at popular chains Chili’s and Ruby Tuesday, and the sale of Red Lobster.

Americans’ eating habits are changing as our lifestyles change, explain experts, and that generally means that we’re not interested in sitting down and waiting around for our meals… at least, not chain restaurant fare.

“[Young adults are] looking for convenience, quality, portability and healthfulness,” the president of restaurant analytics company Technomic told the AP.

That generally explains the popularity of Chipotle: even as its business overall has dropped, younger customers are staying loyal, with one woman who sued after becoming critically ill during the company’s food-safety crisis taking part of her settlement in the form of free food. That’s loyalty.

McDonald’s is trying to market its food as fresh and wholesome, at least in comparison to what it used to be like, sometimes taking bashing its former practices a little too far. Other fast-food restaurants have been making similar moves to improve ingredients in response to what customers say that they want, from cutting back on preservatives to using only cage-free eggs.

Another way to look at this data is that business at large chain restaurants is down, but business at local, privately owned restaurants that Technomic doesn’t track is presumably up. Unless people have started cooking more all of a sudden.

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