Thursday, August 31, 2006

Casual Dining Is the Biggest Casualty of Consumer Cutbacks

Casual dining restaurants are taking a huge hit as consumers reduce spending according to BIGresearch's August Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey (CIA) of over 8,500 consumers. The survey revealed 37% of these consumers are dining out less to offset higher gas prices, higher electric bills due to the summer heat wave, and rising interest rates. However, a much more telling picture emerges when that number is divided into income groups. In households with incomes below $50K per year, 43% have cut back on dining out versus only 34% of those earning more than $50K per year. According to CIBC World Markets, the industry as a whole is struggling through its worst slump in 15 years, and this could mean even more bad news for casual dining restaurants who have already seen sharp declines," said Joe Pilotta, VP of Research for BIGresearch. "Fast food chains are less vulnerable because they have a price advantage, which is what people need these days, especially those with mid to lower incomes."

According to a recent article in Kansas City Star, the bottom 5% of Applebee's customers have stopped dining there. So where are consumers who make less than $50K per year going out to eat? McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King topped the list with 41%. Applebee's had the highest number of customers making above $50K per year, followed by Olive Garden and Chili's.

Contact: Phil Rist at BIGresearch in Worthington, Ohio, at (614) 846-0146.

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