Visits to restaurants fell 1% in the third quarter as trips to quick-service locations, which account for 80% of total customers, declined for the first time in five years, according to a report by market researcher The NPD Group.
Bonnie Riggs, a restaurant industry analyst at NPD, said that rising healthcare costs and student debt have led consumers to curb expenditures. An NPD survey showed 75% of respondents are closely watching how they spend and many believe restaurant prices are too high, Riggs said.
The price of an average restaurant meal has risen 21% in the past decade, leading many consumers to eat meals at home, she said. Some 82% of all meals are now consumed at home. To offset this trend, restaurateurs will have to change the “experience” to draw customers, Riggs said.
Food prices in the 12 months ending October fell 0.4%, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of that, food at home prices contracted 2.3% while food away from home gained 2.4%, said the BLS, a division of the US Department of Labor. The Economic Research Service, a division of the Department of Agriculture, expects at-home food prices to rise 0.5% to 1.5% in 2017 while food-away-from home prices will jump 2% to 3%.