CHICAGO — In a recent national survey by foodservice consultants Technomic, more than half of consumers polled said they have noticed higher menu prices at full-service restaurants. Perhaps a more disconcerting finding for restaurant operators, however, is that consumers have exaggerated notions of how much prices have increased at national chains.

The national poll asked consumers about their full-service restaurant menu price observations and expectations, as well as their forecasted change in restaurant spending. Among the findings:
  • The majority of consumers expect menu prices will increase more than 10 percent during the next three to six months.
  • Most consumers (65 percent) believe the highest menu price increases will be in large, national chains and among high check average concepts.
  • Consumer perceptions of average check, by brand, are 10 to 15 percent higher than actual average check amounts, by brand. Consumers believe they are spending more than they actually are.
  • More than half of consumers (59 percent) expect to reduce their full-service restaurant visit frequency as prices continue to rise.

"While consumers often state one belief then act in a reverse manner, we believe that well over half of full-service consumers are looking for ways to reduce restaurant spending — and that many of them will succeed," said Tom Miner, principal at Technomic.

To help chain restaurants identify appropriate opportunities to increase menu prices without negatively impacting visit frequency, Technomic recently launched its Consumer Price Sensitivity Survey. The program monitors consumer price sensitivity in limited-service and full-service segments, in various menu categories and for menu items with costly ingredients. Menu price elasticity is gauged for dayparts, average check amounts and dining occasions.

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