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US Full Service Restaurants Market Report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Full Service Restaurants market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

This report covers consumers’ attitudes and behaviors surrounding FSRs. FSRs are defined by having a front of house staff (ie waiters, host). FSRs include the following restaurant segments:

  • Midscale restaurants (used interchangeably with family dining restaurants) offer the lowest check size of any FSR. A majority of midscales do not serve alcohol, though some may have a limited alcohol selection (just beer and wine). Midscale examples include Denny’s, Cracker Barrel, and IHOP. Buffet restaurants are classified as midscale restaurants (eg Golden Corral).
  • Casual dining restaurants represent the largest segment of the FSR market. Casual dining restaurants have higher pricing than family/midscales but lower than fine dining, and they offer a full bar. Examples include Chili’s, Olive Garden, and Outback Steakhouse.
  • Upper casual dining restaurants are a subsegment of casual dining restaurants. They are generally regarded as restaurants with a higher price point than most casual dining chains but not as expensive as fine dining restaurants.
  • Fine dining restaurants have the highest price point of all FSRs

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Jill Failla, a leading analyst in the Foodservice sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The massive and influential FSR (full service restaurant) segment demonstrates moderate sales growth overall, though it’s losing slight share year-over-year to the limited service sector and other growing threats, such as retail prepared foods. Within this segment, casual dining and midscale chains are seeing the greatest challenges when it comes to their sales and traffic, while independent full service restaurants and fine dining are finding ways to innovate and grow their businesses. Jill Failla
Foodservice Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • The issues
          • Visitation to FSR chains lags
            • Figure 1: Year-over-year change in restaurant visitation, December 2018
          • Higher-income consumers are more likely to frequent FSRs
            • Figure 2: Restaurant visitation, by household income, December 2018
          • Gen Xers and Baby Boomers don’t have a great perception of casual dining chains
            • Figure 3: Casual dining chain attitudes, by generation, December 2018
          • The opportunities
            • Off-premise business boon
              • Figure 4: Full service dining behaviors, by generation, December 2018
              • Figure 5: Full service dining behaviors, by race and Hispanic origin, December 2018
            • Contrary to popular belief, Millennials are core casual dining chain users
              • Figure 6: Casual dining chain user groups, by generation, December 2018
            • Mixed service formats can cut into LSRs’ gains
              • What it means
              • The Market – What You Need to Know

                • Limited service steals share
                  • Less-mature LSR segments outpace casual dining and midscale chain sales
                    • Labor woes set the stage for 2019
                    • Market Size and Forecast

                      • Full service restaurants track moderate sales growth
                        • Figure 7: Total US revenues and fan chart forecast of full service restaurants, at current prices, 2013-23
                        • Figure 8: Total US retail sales and forecast of full service restaurants, at current prices, 2013-23
                    • Market Breakdown

                      • Casual dining chains are second largest restaurant menu segment
                        • Figure 9: Share of top 200 restaurant chain sales, 2017
                    • Market Perspective

                      • LSR growth outpaces FSR
                        • Figure 10: Total US revenues and forecast of restaurants and eating places*, by segment, at current prices, 2018 and 2023
                      • Casual dining chains saw zero sales gains over the prior year
                        • Figure 11: Top 200 restaurant chain percentage change in sales over prior year, 2017
                      • Prepared foods industry shows growth
                        • Figure 12: Year-over-year change in prepared food purchases, October 2018
                    • Market Factors

                      • Rising food costs
                        • Figure 13: Forecasted % change in US food costs, 2018-19
                      • Labor crisis
                        • Decreased alcohol consumption on-premise
                          • Figure 14: Changes in away-from-home drinking, January 2018
                      • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                        • Casual dining chains vie for a comeback
                          • Fine dining is a bright spot
                            • Blended formats positioned for growth
                            • Full Service Restaurant Sales and Traffic

                              • Casual dining and midscale chains see slowest sales overall
                                • Figure 15: Change in sales of top 30 casual and family/midscale chains from one year prior
                              • Most leading full service chains see declining or stagnant visitation
                                • Figure 16: Family and sit-down restaurant visitation, any visit in past 30 days NET, summer 2012-18
                            • What’s Working?

                              • Off-premise as a growth driver
                                • Figure 17: New Red Robin curbside pickup sign
                              • Players who are partnering it up…for now
                                • Players who are doing it themselves
                                  • Experience is all
                                    • Fine dining menu trends
                                      • Indulgent cheeses, nuts, and sauces abound at fine dining
                                        • Figure 18: Fastest-growing ingredients at fine/upscale/gourmet restaurants, Q4 2015-Q4 2018
                                      • Raw proteins climb on fine dining menus
                                        • Figure 19: Fastest-growing menu item dishes at fine/upscale/gourmet restaurants, Q4 2015-Q4 2018
                                      • Asian items grow fast on fine dining menus
                                        • Figure 20: Fastest-growing menu item cuisine types at fine/upscale/gourmet restaurants, Q4 2015-Q4 2018
                                      • Spotlight: CBD cocktails
                                        • Darden makes a comeback
                                          • What are the key takeaways that struggling casual dining chains can learn from Darden’s comeback?
                                          • What’s Struggling?

                                            • Casual dining and midscale chains continue to slip
                                              • Harnessing booze profits amidst a decline
                                                • Figure 21: Red Robin’s email, “Late Night Happy Hour Goes Bottomless!®,” September 2018
                                                • Figure 22: TGI Fridays’ email, “New fire crafted cocktails, desserts and apps @ Fridays,” March 2018
                                              • Packaging waste challenges abound
                                                • Figure 23: IHOP’s new takeout packaging
                                            • What’s Next?

                                              • Thinking small
                                                • Fewer seats, better service
                                                  • Resident-only restaurants?
                                                    • Full service food halls
                                                      • Mixed service format
                                                      • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                        • FSR traffic shows net growth thanks to indies
                                                          • The heavy casual dining chain user is a Hispanic, Millennial man
                                                            • Higher-income consumers are heavier FSR users – and coupon users
                                                              • iGens and Hispanic consumers drive FSR delivery usage
                                                              • Restaurant Visitation

                                                                • Casual dining chain visitation is almost as common as fast food visitation
                                                                  • Figure 24: Restaurant visitation, December 2018
                                                                • Higher-income directly correlates to full service restaurant usage
                                                                  • Figure 25: Restaurant visitation, by household Income, December 2018
                                                                • White, non-Hispanic consumers are most likely to frequent a full service restaurant
                                                                  • Figure 26: Restaurant visitation, by race and Hispanic origin, December 2018
                                                              • Year-Over-Year Change in Restaurant Visitation

                                                                • Consumers are increasingly visiting independent casual dining restaurants
                                                                  • Figure 27: Year-over-year change in restaurant visitation, December 2018
                                                                • Nearly half of young men report increased visitation to full service restaurants over the prior year
                                                                  • Figure 28: Year-over-year change in restaurant visitation - Any full service restaurant NET, by gender and age, December 2018
                                                                • Asian consumers are the most likely to say they’re visiting more full service restaurants year-over-year
                                                                  • Figure 29: Year-over-year change in restaurant visitation - Any full service restaurant NET, by race and Hispanic origin, December 2018
                                                                • Most consumers who are visiting fewer casual dining chains are cooking at home instead
                                                                  • Figure 30: Reasons for visiting casual dining chains less often, December 2018
                                                                • Women, in particular, say they’re cooking at home instead of visiting casual dining chains
                                                                  • Figure 31: Reasons for visiting casual dining chains less often, by gender, December 2018
                                                                • Casual dining chains are losing some young consumers to prepared foods and limited service restaurants
                                                                  • Figure 32: Reasons for visiting casual dining chains less often, by age, December 2018
                                                              • Casual Dining Chain Visitation Frequency

                                                                • Most consumers visit casual dining chains on a monthly basis
                                                                  • Figure 33: Casual dining chain visitation frequency, December 2018
                                                                • About half of men visit casual dining chains at least once a week
                                                                  • Figure 34: Casual dining chain user groups, by gender, December 2018
                                                                • Black consumers are the lightest users of casual dining chains
                                                                  • Figure 35: Casual dining chain user groups, by race and Hispanic origin, December 2018
                                                                • Millennials are the heaviest users of casual dining chains
                                                                  • Figure 36: Casual dining chain user groups, by generation, December 2018
                                                              • Casual Dining Chain Attitudes

                                                                • Over a quarter of consumers think casual dining chains need healthier menu options
                                                                  • Figure 37: Casual dining chain attitudes, December 2018
                                                                • Women, in particular, want to see healthier menu items at casual dining chains
                                                                  • Figure 38: Casual dining chain attitudes, by gender, December 2018
                                                                • Casual dining chains may need to improve their health and value perceptions among Gen Xers and Baby Boomers
                                                                  • Figure 39: Casual dining chain attitudes, by generation, December 2018
                                                                • Casual dining chains are top of mind for special occasions among Hispanic consumers, in particular
                                                                  • Figure 40: Casual dining chain attitudes, by race and Hispanic origin, December 2018
                                                              • Dining Occasion by Restaurant Segment

                                                                • Casual dining chains reach the broadest variety of dining occasions of any restaurant segment
                                                                  • Figure 41: Dining occasion by restaurant segment, by correspondence analysis, December 2018
                                                                • Women strongly associate casual dining chains with dinner with friends
                                                                  • Figure 42: Dining occasion – Any segment NET, by gender, December 2018
                                                                • iGens are the most comfortable dining out alone at any restaurant segment
                                                                  • Figure 43: Dining occasion – Any segment NET, by generation, December 2018
                                                                • Parents are more likely than their counterparts to associate midscale and casual dining chains with family night
                                                                  • Figure 44: Dining occasion by segment, by parents, December 2018
                                                              • Full Service Dining Motivators

                                                                • Better kids’ menus could help drive traffic to full service restaurants
                                                                  • Figure 45: Full service dining motivators, December 2018
                                                                • Deals, kids’ options, and seasonal menu items are effective traffic drivers at FSRs
                                                                  • Figure 46: Full service dining motivators, by TURF analysis, December 2018
                                                                • Moms want more kids’ options at full service restaurants
                                                                  • Figure 47: Full service dining motivators, by gender, December 2018
                                                                • iGens want to be entertained at full service restaurants
                                                                  • Figure 48: Full service dining motivators, by generation, December 2018
                                                                • Asian consumers want to see more seasonal menu items and international flavors at full service restaurants
                                                                  • Figure 49: Full service dining motivators, by race and Hispanic origin, December 2018
                                                              • Full Service Dining Behaviors

                                                                • Over a fifth of consumers use table-top tablets at FSRs
                                                                  • Figure 50: Full service dining behaviors, December 2018
                                                                • iGens use FSR delivery service more than any other generation
                                                                  • Figure 51: Full service dining behaviors, by generation, December 2018
                                                                • A third of Asian consumers rely on restaurant reviews when picking an FSR
                                                                  • Figure 52: Full service dining behaviors, by race and Hispanic origin, December 2018
                                                                • Higher income is directly correlated with loyalty program participation
                                                                  • Figure 53: Full service dining behaviors, by household income, December 2018
                                                              • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                • Data sources
                                                                  • Sales data
                                                                    • Fan chart forecast
                                                                      • Consumer survey data
                                                                        • Direct marketing creative
                                                                          • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                            • Terms
                                                                            • Appendix – The Market

                                                                                • Figure 54: Total US retail sales and forecast of full service restaurants, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2013-23
                                                                            • Appendix – The Consumer

                                                                                • Figure 55: Dining occasion by restaurant segment, December 2018
                                                                                • Figure 56: Full service dining motivators, by changes in behavior – Restaurant visitation, December 2018
                                                                              • Correspondence Analysis
                                                                                • Methodology
                                                                                  • TURF Analysis
                                                                                    • Methodology
                                                                                        • Figure 57: Table – TURF Analysis – Full service dining motivators, December 2018