Franchise professionals know that consumer behavior affects industry. Regular attention to the complexities of consumer choice is good for business. In line with this, the USDA recently completed a survey based on diner behavior, particularly focused on working age adults, which examines how the recession has prompted shifts when eating out.
Diner behavior and nutrition are recurring elements in recent food industry reports. Franchise Direct’s Food Franchise Industry Report of 2012 also highlights the influence of healthier eating trends on various food sectors. Similarly, recent USDA report furnished through the Economic Research Service comments on the correlation between healthier eating habits and less frequent dining out during recent periods of recession.
The USDA report suggests a link between consumption of fewer calories, with more meals consumed at home due to lowered income, and a turn to preferences for healthier, lower calorie meals when eating out. The report highlights that over 70 percent of working adults would often or sometimes use available nutrition information when dining out. To what extent this shift toward healthier eating is due to either consumer demand or the availability of healthier meals is to be decided.
A key area of the report zeros in on how economic shifts affect consumer eating habits, with detailed consideration of how consumers may benefit from regularly choosing to eat at home when funds are lower. An increase in available time to prepare food coupled with decreased available income and higher food prices are obvious reasons why eating at home would increase.
The connection of this trend to healthier choices when eating out is nonetheless intriguing in that it points to a consumer veritable interest in the nutritional value of food, whether consumed at home or while dining out. This interest in nutritional value is heightened when disposable income is lower, a shift revealing that U.S. consumers value nutrition even more during economic decline.
What this seems to point out is active U.S. consumer interest in using whatever funds are available in a cost-effective manner—food that’s purchased should warrant its purchase by packing a nutritional punch rather than simply filling a hungry stomach. This interest is part of a wider trend that features growing consumer awareness of the link between health and food consumption, coupled with an interest in conserving available funds.