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The Restaurant Decision-making Process - US - July 2015

“Restaurants have many operational and menu elements to balance to service the greatest number of consumers. While operators may not be able to please all the people all the time, they can look at the demographics that spend the most and evaluate what they are looking for. In some cases, it’s healthy menus, and in other cases, it is indulgent desserts. Some consumers care about long wait times. If those who most value short wait times are big-spending demographics, it’s time to address the issue.”
Julia Gallo-Torres, Sr. Food and Drink/Foodservice Analyst


This report looks at the following areas:

  • How can restaurants balance health with indulgence on the menu?
  • What can be done to minimize the wait-time obstacle, especially for casual and fine dining?
  • How can restaurants effectively respond to the growing Hispanic population?

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Table of contents

  1. Scope and Themes

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
        • Data sources
          • Sales data
            • Mintel Menu Insights
              • Consumer survey data
                • Abbreviations and terms
                  • Abbreviations
                    • Terms
                    • Executive Summary

                        • The market
                          • Figure 1: Total US sales and forecast of restaurants and other eating places, by segment, at current prices, 2009-19
                        • Market drivers
                          • Competitive context
                            • The consumer
                              • Figure 2: Foodservice expenditures in the past 30 days, by gender, December 2014
                              • Figure 3: Burger and chicken (eg McDonald’s, KFC, Chick-fil-A, El Pollo Loco, or independents) Use of drive-thru for burger and chicken, by gender, April 2015
                              • Figure 4: What matters with menus, by household income, April 2015
                              • Figure 5: Important characteristics when choosing a restaurant, by race and Hispanic origin, April 2015
                              • Figure 6: What matters with menus, by presence of children in household, April 2015
                              • Figure 7: Barriers to restaurant usage, by region, April 2015
                            • What we think
                            • Issues and Insights

                                • How can restaurants balance health with indulgence on the menu?
                                  • The issues
                                    • The implications
                                      • What can be done to minimize the wait-time obstacle, especially for casual and fine dining?
                                        • The issues
                                          • The implications
                                            • How can restaurants effectively respond to the growing Hispanic population?
                                              • The issues
                                                • The implications
                                                • Trend Application

                                                    • Trend: Let’s Make a Deal
                                                      • Trend: The Power of One
                                                        • Trend: Slow it All Down
                                                        • Market Size and Forecast

                                                          • Key points
                                                            • FSRs still lead limited service in market share
                                                              • Figure 8: Total market share of restaurants and other eating places, by segment, at current prices, 2014
                                                              • Figure 9: Total US sales of restaurants and other eating places, by segment, at current prices, 2012 and 2014
                                                            • Sales and forecast of US full service restaurant sales
                                                              • Expanding sales reflect a stronger economy
                                                                • Figure 10: Total US sales and forecast of full service restaurants, at current prices, 2009-19
                                                              • Inflation-adjusted sales also show growth
                                                                • Figure 11: Total US sales and forecast of full service restaurants, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2009-19
                                                              • Sales and forecast of US limited service restaurant sales
                                                                • Sales expand at a rate of 5% and beyond
                                                                  • Figure 12: Total US sales and forecast of limited service eating places, at current prices, 2009-19
                                                                • Inflation-adjusted sales also show growth
                                                                  • Figure 13: Total US retail and forecast of limited service eating places, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2009-19
                                                                • Sales and forecast of other US limited service restaurant sales
                                                                  • Menu build-outs yield expanded sales
                                                                    • Figure 14: Total US sales and forecast of *other limited service, at current prices, 2009-19
                                                                  • Inflation-adjusted sales also show growth
                                                                    • Figure 15: Total US retail and forecast of *other limited service, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2009-19
                                                                  • Fan chart forecast
                                                                    • Figure 16: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of full service and limited service restaurants at current prices, 2009-19
                                                                  • Fan chart forecast methodology
                                                                  • Market Drivers

                                                                    • Key points
                                                                      • Jobs continue to rebound
                                                                        • Figure 17: Unemployment rate and underemployment, January 2007-April 2015
                                                                      • Disposable income continues to rise slightly
                                                                        • Figure 18: Real disposable personal income, January 2007-March 2015
                                                                      • Wages have yet to rebound
                                                                        • Figure 19: Median household income, in inflation-adjusted dollars, 2003-13
                                                                      • Consumer confidence remains shaky, but has improved year-over-year
                                                                        • Figure 20: Consumer confidence index, January 2009-April 2015
                                                                      • Population groups support targeting Millennials and Gen X
                                                                        • Figure 21: US population, by generation share, 2015*
                                                                        • Figure 22: Median household income, by age of householder, 2013*
                                                                      • Restaurant Performance Index shows solid expansion
                                                                        • Figure 23: National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index, 2004-15
                                                                      • Minimum wage wars
                                                                      • Competitive Context

                                                                        • Key points
                                                                          • Grocery and convenience stores up their game for dining-out dollars
                                                                            • Figure 24: Barriers to restaurant usage, by select demographics of those who chose “There are better dinner specials at the grocery store,” April 2015
                                                                          • Meal services bring the ingredients and recipe to the door
                                                                              • Figure 25: Where and how consumers order limited service restaurant food, by delivery, April 2015
                                                                              • Figure 26: Where and how consumers order full service restaurant food, by delivery, April 2015
                                                                          • Marketing Strategies

                                                                            • Key points
                                                                              • Easy interactive ordering/paying fills need for speed
                                                                                • Entertainment tie-ins help restaurants gain exposure
                                                                                  • Contests create vibe
                                                                                  • Menu Analysis

                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                      • Exclusive menu items appeal to consumers
                                                                                        • Figure 27: Top 10 menu item claims at limited service restaurants, by incidence, Q1 2012-15
                                                                                      • Limited service “signature” and “original” menu examples
                                                                                        • Top full service menu claims
                                                                                          • Figure 28: Top 10 menu item claims at full service restaurants, by incidence, Q1 2012-15
                                                                                        • Full service “signature,” “house,” and “homemade” menu examples
                                                                                          • Healthy menu section and items appeal to customers
                                                                                            • Nutritional claims at limited service restaurants
                                                                                              • Figure 29: Top 10 nutritional claims at limited service restaurants, by incidence, Q1 2012-15
                                                                                            • Limited service “gluten-free” and “natural” menu examples
                                                                                              • Nutritional claims at FSRs
                                                                                                • Figure 30: Top 10 nutritional claims at full service restaurants, by incidence, Q1 2012-15
                                                                                              • Full service “gluten-free,” and “natural” examples
                                                                                              • Consumer Data – Overview

                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                    • Figure 31: Restaurant expenditures, November 2013-December 2014
                                                                                                    • Figure 32: Where and how consumers eat restaurant food (limited service), April 2015
                                                                                                    • Figure 33: Where and how consumers eat restaurant food (full service), April 2015
                                                                                                  • Quick seating, fair prices, good service, and a healthy food section appeal to guests
                                                                                                      • Figure 34: Important characteristics when choosing a restaurant, April 2015
                                                                                                      • Figure 35: What matters with menus, April 2015
                                                                                                      • Figure 36: Choosing a restaurant based on occasion, April 2015
                                                                                                    • Recommendations bring in the most customers; high price and poor service keep them out
                                                                                                        • Figure 37: Drivers for new restaurant trial, April 2015
                                                                                                        • Figure 38: Barriers to restaurant usage, April 2015
                                                                                                    • Consumer Data – By Gender and Age

                                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                                          • Figure 39: Restaurant expenditures, by gender and age, November 2013-December 2014
                                                                                                          • Figure 40: Limited service restaurant use, by gender and age, April 2015
                                                                                                          • Figure 41: Full service restaurant use, by gender and age, April 2015
                                                                                                          • Figure 42: Burger and chicken (eg McDonald’s, KFC, Chick-fil-A, El Pollo Loco, or independents), by demographics, April 2015
                                                                                                        • Women most care about quick seating and a healthy menu section; older men care about quietness for special-occasion dining
                                                                                                            • Figure 43: Important characteristics when choosing a restaurant, by demographics, April 2015
                                                                                                            • Figure 44: What matters with menus, by gender and age, April 2015
                                                                                                            • Figure 45: Choosing a restaurant based on special occasion, by gender and age, April 2015
                                                                                                          • Recommendations, good price, and positive experience go a long way in driving traffic to the restaurant, especially for women
                                                                                                              • Figure 46: Drivers for new restaurant trial – Any rank, by gender and age, April 2015
                                                                                                              • Figure 47: Barriers to restaurant usage, by demographics, April 2015
                                                                                                          • Consumer Data – By Generation

                                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                                                • Figure 48: Limited service restaurant use, by generations, April 2015
                                                                                                                • Figure 49: Full service restaurant use, by generations, April 2015
                                                                                                              • Location and menu healthy food sections matter less to Millennials
                                                                                                                  • Figure 50: Important characteristics when choosing a restaurant, by generations, April 2015
                                                                                                                  • Figure 51: What matters with menus, by generations, April 2015
                                                                                                                  • Figure 52: Choosing a restaurant based on special occasion, by generations, April 2015
                                                                                                                • Baby Boomers are more promotion and price driven than Millennials
                                                                                                                    • Figure 53: Drivers for new restaurant trial – Any rank, by generations, April 2015
                                                                                                                    • Figure 54: Barriers to restaurant usage, by generations, April 2015
                                                                                                                • Consumer Data – By Income

                                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                                      • Figure 55: Limited service restaurant use, by annual household income, April 2015
                                                                                                                      • Figure 56: Full service restaurant use, by annual household income, April 2015
                                                                                                                      • Figure 57: Burger and chicken (eg McDonald’s, KFC, Chick-fil-A, El Pollo Loco, or independents), by household income, April 2015
                                                                                                                    • To draw all incomes, restaurants must have price solutions for low-income earners and quality offerings for high-income earners
                                                                                                                        • Figure 58: Important characteristics when choosing a restaurant, by household income, April 2015
                                                                                                                        • Figure 59: What matters with menus, by household income, April 2015
                                                                                                                        • Figure 60: Choosing a restaurant based on special occasion, by household income, April 2015
                                                                                                                      • Adventurous menus draw upper income earners; value draws low income earners
                                                                                                                          • Figure 61: Drivers for new restaurant trial – Any rank, by household income, April 2015
                                                                                                                          • Figure 62: Barriers to restaurant usage, by household income, April 2015
                                                                                                                      • Consumer Data – By Race and Hispanics

                                                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                                                            • Figure 63: Median annual household income, by race and Hispanic origin of householder, 2013
                                                                                                                            • Figure 64: Restaurant expenditures, by race and hispanic origin, November 2013-December 2014
                                                                                                                            • Figure 65: Limited service restaurant use, by race and hispanic origin, April 2015
                                                                                                                            • Figure 66: Full service restaurant use, by race and hispanic origin, April 2015
                                                                                                                          • Daily specials matter to Hispanics, not so much to Whites; Asians want to see pictures of the food on the menu
                                                                                                                              • Figure 67: Important characteristics when choosing a restaurant, by race and Hispanic origin, April 2015
                                                                                                                              • Figure 68: What matters with menus, by race and Hispanic origin, April 2015
                                                                                                                              • Figure 69: Choosing a restaurant based on special occasion, by race and Hispanic origin, April 2015
                                                                                                                              • Figure 70: Choosing a restaurant based on every day, by race and Hispanic origin, April 2015
                                                                                                                            • Asians are value conscious; Blacks look for interesting food and drink specials
                                                                                                                                • Figure 71: Drivers for new restaurant trial – Any rank, by race and Hispanic origin, April 2015
                                                                                                                                • Figure 72: Barriers to restaurant usage, by race and Hispanic origin, April 2015
                                                                                                                            • Consumer Data – By Parents

                                                                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                                                                  • Figure 73: Restaurant expenditures, by presence of children, November 2013-December 2014
                                                                                                                                  • Figure 74: Limited service restaurant use, by parents, April 2015
                                                                                                                                  • Figure 75: Full service restaurant use, by parents, April 2015
                                                                                                                                  • Figure 76: Burger and chicken (eg McDonald’s, KFC, Chick-fil-A, El Pollo Loco, or independents), by parental status, April 2015
                                                                                                                                • Parents with children don’t expect to be seated quickly, but they do want a bar area to compensate for the wait
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 77: Important characteristics when choosing a restaurant, by parental status, April 2015
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 78: Important characteristics when choosing a restaurant, by presence of children in household, April 2015
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 79: What matters with menus, by parental status, April 2015
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 80: What matters with menus, by presence of children in household, April 2015
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 81: Choosing a restaurant based on special occasion, by presence of children in household, April 2015
                                                                                                                                  • Fathers try restaurants with a good online presence and that conduct special events
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 82: Drivers for new restaurant trial – Any rank, by parental status, April 2015
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 83: Drivers for new restaurant trial – Any rank, by presence of children in household, April 2015
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 84: Barriers to restaurant usage, by parental status, April 2015
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 85: Barriers to restaurant usage, by presence of children in household, April 2015
                                                                                                                                  • Consumer Data – By Region and Area

                                                                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 86: Restaurant expenditures, by region, November 2013-December 2014
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 87: Limited service restaurant use, by region, April 2015
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 88: Full service restaurant use, by region, April 2015
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 89: Burger & chicken (eg McDonald’s, KFC, Chick-fil-A, El Pollo Loco, or independents), by region, April 2015
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 90: Limited service restaurant use, by area, April 2015
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 91: Full service restaurant use, by area, April 2015
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 92: Burger & chicken (eg McDonald’s, KFC, Chick-fil-A, El Pollo Loco, or independents), by area, April 2015
                                                                                                                                      • Bar areas are important to Westerners and urban dwellers; Midwesterners and suburban dwellers most prize a quiet, leisurely dinner
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 93: Important characteristics when choosing a restaurant, by region, April 2015
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 94: Important characteristics when choosing a restaurant, by area, April 2015
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 95: What matters with menus, by region, April 2015
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 96: What matters with menus, by area, April 2015
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 97: Choosing a restaurant based on special occasion, by region, April 2015
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 98: Choosing a restaurant based on special occasion, by area, April 2015
                                                                                                                                        • Midwesterners respond best to price promotions; Northeasterners and those in urban areas are least concerned with price and service
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 99: Drivers for new restaurant trial – Any rank, by region, April 2015
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 100: Drivers for new restaurant trial – Any rank, by area, April 2015
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 101: Barriers to restaurant usage, by region, April 2015
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 102: Barriers to restaurant usage, by area, April 2015
                                                                                                                                        • Key Driver Analysis

                                                                                                                                          • Methodology
                                                                                                                                            • Dining-out correlations to those who choose restaurants they learned about via social media or TV shows
                                                                                                                                              • Special occasion
                                                                                                                                                • Everyday
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 103: Key drivers of choosing a restaurant for special occasions, April 2015
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 104: Key drivers of choosing a restaurant for everyday dinning, April 2015
                                                                                                                                                • Dining-out correlations to those who choose restaurants they have never tried before
                                                                                                                                                  • Special occasion
                                                                                                                                                    • Everyday
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 105: Key drivers of choosing a restaurant for special occasions, April 2015
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 106: Key drivers of choosing a restaurant for everyday dinning, April 2015
                                                                                                                                                  • Appendix – Key Driver Analysis

                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 107: Key drivers of choosing a restaurant for special occasions based on social or television media – key driver output, April 2015
                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 108: Key drivers of choosing a restaurant for everyday dining based on social or television media – key driver output, April 2015
                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 109: Key drivers of choosing a restaurant never tried before for special occasions – key driver output, April 2015
                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 110: Key drivers of choosing a restaurant never tried before for everyday dining – key driver output, April 2015
                                                                                                                                                    • Appendix – Trade Associations

                                                                                                                                                      Companies Covered

                                                                                                                                                      To learn more about the companies covered in this report please contact us.

                                                                                                                                                      The Restaurant Decision-making Process - US - July 2015

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