CHICAGO — New consumer research from Chicago-based Mintel has revealed that 54 percent of people who dine out regularly are cutting back on restaurant spending because of the economy. Mintel tracked the dining-out habits of consumers for the month of January 2008.
 
Seventy percent of those trying to cut back are saving money by eating out less frequently, rather than by choosing cheaper entrees or dining at less expensive restaurants, Mintel reports.
 
"People aren't trading down for cheaper or lower quality food; they're just trading out," said David Morris, senior analyst at Mintel. "Especially when you consider the price of casual and fine dining, staying in can reduce costs significantly."
 
Though people are cutting back, Mintel's survey still showed consistent restaurant usage. Three-quarters of survey respondents went out to dinner at least once in the past week. On average, people who dined out reported eating 2.3 evening meals from a restaurant in the past seven days.
 
However, as budgets tighten, home cooking is getting a lot more attention.
 
Mintel found that 72 percent of people who regularly cook at home do so because it is cheaper than other options.
 
"As people try to curb their spending, restaurants have to focus more on price and convenience to draw them in," Morris said. "The recession is taking a toll, but certain innovations can help restaurants succeed. By highlighting cost savings, all restaurants can maintain steady business."

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