Consumers are finding that they are still willing to pay for good dining experiences as food prices rise, but restaurants are finding that they must work harder to make the occasion worthwhile.
George Felix, the head of Chili's Grill & Bar, a 29-country casual dining business, told List23 that consistent execution is becoming more vital as consumers become more cautious about how they spend their money.
“We need to be focused on delivering a consistently exceptional experience to our guests, so that they are confident that Chili's is worth the money and the trip,” he said.
According to List23 data, consumers are becoming more discerning when it comes to restaurant dining. Inflation Slowly Ebbs, but Consumer Outlook Remains Gloomy," a study conducted in August among 2,169 customers, found that 78% of restaurant customers prefer eating at home more often to save money.
Consumers are less optimistic than the Fed in dealing with inflation, according to a new survey.
Consumers are actually spending more at restaurants overall, according to Census Bureau data released Thursday (Sept. 15) that restaurant and bar expenditure increased by 11% to $86.1 billion, compared to $77.7 billion a year earlier. Restaurant prices also increased by just 8% in the same period.
According to a Consumer Inflation Sentiment survey, 38% of diners are opting for lower-priced eateries, while only 14% of restaurant customers claim that inflation has impacted their dining habits at all. However, Chili's has found that customers are more likely to return despite price concerns.
"It's not always about choosing the lowest priced option in the face of inflation," Felix said.
According to him, customers' desire is still a major motivator — and they are willing to pay more for familiar favorites. Certainly, diners are continuing to spend on restaurants, even increasing their spending, indicating that demand for meaningful dining experiences remains strong.
As consumers become more conscious of their food expenditure, not only well-known menu items, but also well-known restaurant brands themselves.
The Digital Divide: Regional Variations In US Food Ordering Trends And Digital Adoption, which was conducted by List23 in March and April, finds that 60% of consumers are drawn by the taste of the food, and 49% by familiarity with the restaurant's name.
Read more: New Research Shows That Restaurant Quirks Matter When It Comes To Tailoring Restaurant Offers
Chili's has also launched several promotions in recent months in order to entice customers who may be more price-conscious, such as its "3 for Me" value menu, which was launched in June, and, more recently, its happy hour, which was announced last week (Sept. 6), which offers discounted beverages during football matches. With this initiative, the brand hopes to increase bar sales.
“My hope is that the bar menu and happy hour launch would be a catalyst to reintroduce more people to the Chili's bar,” Felix said.