• Survey: 64 percent of U.S. adults have visited a QSR in the past month

According to a recent survey by The Harris Poll, Americans dine out a lot. The data was pulled from nearly 2,500 adults in February by Harris Interactive.

Looking at specific restaurant types, more than three in five U.S. adults (64 percent) have dined at a quick-service restaurant chain in the past month and just over half have dined at a local (independent) casual dining establishment (54 percent) and a casual dining restaurant chain (52 percent). Fewer have dined at either a local fine dining restaurant (18 percent) or a fine dining restaurant chain (9 percent), while only one in 10 Americans (10 percent) have not dined at any of these types of restaurants in the past month.

Suburban Americans are more likely to have visited a casual dining restaurant chain (57 percent) than their urban and rural counterparts (both 47 percent). Additionally, urban and suburban Americans are both more likely than those in rural areas to have visited a local fine dining restaurant (23, 19 and 10 percent, respectively) or a fine dining restaurant chain (11, 9, 5 percent) within that timeframe.

Those with children under 18 in the household are more likely than those without to have visited a QSR chain within the past month (73 to 61 percent). Perhaps surprisingly, those with children under 18 are also more likely to have visited a fine dining restaurant chain within that time (13 to 7 percent).

Changes in dining out behavior
Americans appear to be cutting back on their dining out habits; when asked whether they have eaten out more or less frequently at the same list of restaurant types within the past six months, "less frequently" responses consistently outpace "more frequently" ones:

  • QSR chain (26 percent less, 14 percent more);
  • Local casual dining restaurant (20 percent less, 14 percent more);
  • Casual dining restaurant chain (24 percent less, 11 percent more);
  • Local fine dining restaurant (21 percent less, 7 percent more); and
  • Fine dining restaurant chain (23 percent less, 4 percent more).

Harris notes, however, that "less frequently" mentions have declined across all categories, in most cases considerably so, when compared to March 2012 results (for example QSR chain is 36 percent in 2012 compared to 26 percent in 2013).

Factors in choosing a restaurant
There are multiple factors driving Americans' choices between the restaurants available to them, with those most frequently identified as important including good prices (90 percent), the mood they are in (for either type of cuisine or type of food, 86 percent), having a specific menu item they enjoy (84 percent), a convenient location (83 percent) and a broad variety of menu items (78 percent). The majority also consider special offers (59 percent) and healthy menu items that fit a dietary need (56 percent) to be important.

Two things the majority of Americans say are not important when choosing a restaurant are choosing the same restaurant when going out for a meal (56 percent) and a restaurant with a menu that usually has new items to choose from (57 percent).

Gen Xers are more likely than any other generational segment to indicate that their mood is an important factor in choosing a restaurant. Additionally, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are more likely than other generations to consider special offers to be important.

Preferred cuisine
With all of the cuisine choices available, American food is still the preference for the highest percentage of U.S. adults (31 percent). Italian (23 percent) is the next most popular choice, followed by Mexican (16 percent) and Chinese (14 percent).

Tastes are largely regional:

  • U.S. adults living in the West (22 percent) are less likely than those in any other region (34 percent East, 34 percent Midwest, 32 percent South) to choose American food.
  • Eastern Americans are most likely of any region to choose Italian food (31 percent East, 21 percent each Midwest, South and West) and the least likely to choose Mexican (7 percent, 13 percent, 18 percent and 24 percent, respecitvely).
  • Additionally, men (35 percent) are more likely than women (26 percent) to choose American food.

According to the Harris Poll, "Consumers' restaurant behaviors continue to evolve, as does the country's economic fortunes. Restaurant visits appear to be in decline over recent months, but at the same time this decrease in restaurant visits appears to be leveling off versus 2012 findings. This is trend is surely one the restaurant industry will be watching closely."

Read more about restaurant trends.

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