Food manufacturers have benefitted from a rise in at-home eating, as US consumers cut down on restaurant meals in favor of convenient prepared foods for home consumption, but many have assumed that consumers would go back to eating at restaurants more once the economy recovers.
According to the NPD Group’s new report examining the US foodservice industry, entitled A Look into the Future of Foodservice, restaurant visits are likely to increase at a rate of 1.1 percent a year over the next decade – a slower rate than population growth.
The report’s author and NPD’s restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs said this trend is largely due to the effect of an aging population, as older consumers tend to be less frequent restaurant users.
“In addition to being hit hard by the recession, Americans are eating more suppers at home, and fewer women entering the workforce have negatively impacted restaurant industry traffic,” Riggs said. “…There isn’t much that can be done about the aging of the population and population growth.”
She said that trend momentum – which tracks factors like new menu items, promotions, and restaurant openings and closures – has been unfavorable for the restaurant industry over the past nine years, but that the restaurant industry could still change the direction of the forecast.
Riggs said: “Forecasts are something to be worked against, but are not cast in stone. They are used to assess potential opportunities and risks for the purpose of long-term planning. The future course can be altered.”
This is not the first time that it has been suggested that increased eating at home is likely to continue even as the economy recovers.
A survey commissioned by ConAgra and carried out at the end of March, questioned 1,018 adults nationwide about their grocery shopping and eating habits, and found that many consumers intend to continue cooking at home, using coupons and bargain-hunting.