A new study by Chicago-based Technomic shows that even as consumers are expected to loosen their purse strings in 2011, finding a good value from the casual dining category is still of the utmost importance.

“Consumers have become very adept at getting the maximum value from each dining experience,” said Technomic EVP Darren Tristano. “Operators should avoid getting caught in the middle. Your value statement needs to be loud and clear so the customer knows what you are offering and why they should come to you."

The Future of Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report was developed by Technomic to help restaurant operators and suppliers stay abreast of consumer attitudes and trends within the full-service and fast-casual dining segments. The report was compiled using a survey of 1,500 consumers, as well as data from MenuMonitor, Technomic’s exclusive online trend tracking resource.

Interesting findings include:

  • More than seven out of 10 consumers who have been using coupons as a way to cut down on casual dining expenditures say they will continue to do so even as their finances improve.
  • Consumers say upscale casual dining restaurants significantly outpace other casual dining sub-segments for healthy options, likely because of the association consumers make between quality and healthfulness.
  • Casual-dining operators are using small plates, snacks, bar menus and combo deals in order to attract value-conscious diners. Smaller portions are another way to satisfy consumer demand for healthier menu items, providing fewer calories along with lower prices.

This report is part of Technomic’s larger study, The Future of Casual Dining: Exploring Fast, Upscale and Casual Dining Appeal.

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