Description

Understand the latest casual dining industry trends and opportunities within the US. Use Mintel’s in-depth market research to become more informed and tackle challenges in your industry. This report examines the impact of inflation on casual dining habits, differences in age group casual dining preferences, and opportunities for restaurant operators in the current market. Read on to discover our insights.

Casual Dining Industry Outlook

As found in Mintel’s Economic Outlook Report, half of consumers would cut back on dining out and leisure activities if they had to cut back on their household budgets. Some consumers will see the rising cost of eating at home as a reason to dine out. However, most consumers will dine with value top of mind, looking for the best value for money possible in terms of food quality, quantity, and overall dining experience.

Casual Dining Industry Trends and Analysis

This report finds that older consumers (aged 55+) appreciate the menu variety offered by casual dining restaurants, providing them with an opportunity to take a break from cooking at home. In contrast, younger consumers (aged 18-34) are likely to favor large portion sizes provided by casual dining restaurants, given the current inflationary environment.

Though indulgence and excitement are top of mind for diners in 2023, consumers also expect restaurants to have healthier and plant-based options on the table. This is particularly true of younger consumers (aged 18-34) when compared with other demographics, and even more so when these consumers are affluent.

  • Casual dining industry trends: 67% of consumers aged 55+ associate casual dining restaurants with menu variety, while 40% of consumers aged 18-34 appreciate large portion sizes.
  • Casual dining industry analysis: 26% of consumers aged 18-34 want to see plant-based dishes on casual dining menus, versus only 11% of those aged 55+, indicating a skewed preference among younger people toward this segment.

Market Opportunities for Restaurant Operators

Casual dining and fast food restaurants have seen the highest on-premise visitation, but there is still a gap in off-premise dining. To boost off-premise traffic, restaurants can focus on introducing mobile apps, loyalty programs, and delivery/takeout deals.

Over a quarter of consumers aged 21-34 associate casual dining restaurants with good cocktail menus. Operators can seize the opportunity to offer a wider range of non-alcoholic beverages, catering to this demographic and sober curious consumers.

Take advantage of the full breadth of casual dining industry analysis, trends, insights, and opportunities in the report by purchasing your copy today. Or, take a look at our extensive foodservice market research to find exactly what you’re looking for.

This Report Covers the Following Areas

  • Innovation initiatives in the casual dining restaurant segment.
  • Consumers’ perceptions of casual dining restaurants.
  • Deals, specials, and menu items consumers are eager to see.
  • Casual dining behaviors and attitudes.

Covered in this Report

The purpose of this Report is to analyze consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions surrounding casual dining restaurants. Casual dining restaurants, for the purpose of this report, are defined as full-service restaurants that serve alcohol. 

Restaurants discussed: Chuck E Cheese, Buffalo Wild Wings, Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Chili’s, P.F. Chang’s, O’Charley’s, TGI Fridays, Uno Pizzeria & Grill, Logan’s Roadhouse, and more.

Expert Analysis from a Foodservice Specialist

This report, written by Varchasvi, a leading foodservice analyst, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends in the casual dining industry and add expert context to the numbers.

Having consistently delivered on menu variety, quality, and value despite labor and supply challenges, the casual dining segment is primed to leverage consumer loyalty, innovate boldly, and participate in emerging consumer trends, while maintaining its mass appeal as an affordable dining experience that feels reliable and special.

Varchasvi, Analyst – US Foodservice and Mintel Menu Insights

Varchasvi
Analyst, US Foodservice and Mintel Menu Insights

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • This Report looks at the following areas
        • Definition
          • Market context
          • Executive Summary

              • Top Takeaways
                • Market overview
                  • Figure 1: Category outlook, 2023-28
                • Opportunities and challenges
                  • Reward value-seeking consumers through loyalty programs
                    • Figure 2: Foodservice technology usage and interest – Select items, 2023
                  • Menu improvements will help meet a variety of changing consumer needs
                    • Figure 3: Casual dining attributes – Select items, 2023
                  • Position casual dining restaurants as ideal spaces for solo experiences
                    • Figure 4: Casual dining attitudes – Select items, 2023
                • Market Factors

                  • Value positioning is crucial as consumers cut back on dining
                    • Figure 5: Changes consumers would make due to inflation, 2023
                  • Promising increase in employment numbers may not imply good news for casual dining just yet
                    • Figure 6: Employee hires vs quits, 2023
                • Competitive Strategies and Market Opportunities

                  • Consistency should not act as a barrier to innovation
                    • Casual dining independents can be a tool for self-expression
                      • Operators ramp up LTOs to drive visitation
                        • Figure 7: Mintel LTO tracker for casual dining restaurants, by select menu items, 2019-2022
                      • Casual dining kitchens employ tech and small footprint formats to improve efficiency
                      • The Casual Dining Restaurant Consumer – Fast Facts

                        • Casual dining restaurants enjoy frequent and loyal visitation from a majority of consumers.
                          • Casual dining restaurants have a dependable reputation among consumers and are delivering well on most needs save for a few opportunity areas.
                            • Consumers’ perception of casual dining restaurants as reliable also makes them more eager to see more innovative items on the menu.
                              • Casual diners have responded well to operators adopting technology, and a majority have used and are interested in using foodservice technologies both on-premise and off-premise.
                                • Casual diners consider casual dining restaurants to be consistent in meeting a variety of consumer needs, adding to the perception that casual dining restaurants have something for everyone.
                                • Restaurant Ordering

                                  • Casual dining restaurants shine on-premise
                                    • Figure 8: Restaurant ordering, 2023
                                  • Segment versatility makes for consistently frequent ordering
                                    • Figure 9: Restaurant ordering frequency – NET – Any casual restaurant, 2023
                                  • Unfamiliar cuisines will see a rise in ordering
                                    • Figure 10: Restaurant ordering frequency, by casual dining restaurant type, 2023
                                • Casual Dining Attributes

                                  • Most consider casual dining restaurants an ideal dining option
                                    • Figure 11: Casual dining attributes, 2023
                                  • Retain classic favorites when innovating
                                    • Figure 12: Casual dining attributes, 2023
                                • Menu Interest

                                  • Balance consistency and menu innovation
                                    • Figure 13: Menu interest, 2023
                                  • Offering more choice and control will appeal to younger consumers
                                    • Figure 14: Menu interest, by age, 2023
                                • Foodservice Technology Usage and Interest

                                  • Casual diners are comfortable with tech
                                    • Figure 15: Foodservice technology usage and interest, 2023
                                  • Frequent diners will seek out casual dining loyalty programs
                                    • Figure 16: Foodservice technology usage and interest – Select items, by frequent diners, 2023
                                • Casual Dining Behaviors

                                  • Promise and deliver a guilt-free respite to consumers
                                      • Figure 17: Casual dining behaviors, 2023
                                    • Appetizer/sides innovations will satisfy snacking needs
                                      • Figure 18: Casual dining behaviors, by age, 2023
                                  • Casual Dining Attitudes

                                    • Build on casual dining restaurants’ reliability
                                      • Figure 19: Casual dining attitudes, 2023
                                    • Balance menu variety with relevance
                                      • Figure 20: Casual dining attitudes – Select items, by age, 2023
                                  • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                    • Data sources
                                      • Consumer survey data
                                        • Abbreviations and terms
                                          • Abbreviations

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