Technomic's New Consumer4Sight Group gathered data points from 81,870 consumer foodservice occasions over one full year to reveal a look ahead at the 2015 landscape. One surprising pattern: More than half of eating-out occasions are unplanned or decided on impulse. At 53 percent of all dining occasions, the frequency of "eating on the fly" accounts for more than twice as many routine occasions (25 percent); special occasions account for just 22 percent of dining occasions.
"These numbers quantify a trend Technomic has been following for decades," said Sara Monnette, Senior Director, Consumer Insights & Innovation at Technomic Inc. "Twenty years ago, most dining—even taking the kids to a burger chain—was still a special occasion. Now it's a function of our daily lives, it's increasingly casual, and it's far less regimented than the past days of home meal planning and preparation."
A closer look at dining out occasions shows that the most frequent are family affairs, with 20 percent described as a "meal or snack with the family" and most often occurring at a midscale or traditional casual-dining restaurant. A look at the median spending per occasion finds that most come in below $20, with a $6 convenience-store or QSR stop being the lowest spend, and a special occasion at an upscale or contemporary casual-dining restaurant being the biggest splurge at an average of $25.
Regardless of the occasion, open and agile menus are in order. More than half of consumers want customization and transparency on the menu, and 70 percent want to feel good about their food choices, whether grabbing a snack from a food truck or fresh prepared foods from a convenience store, which 37 percent of respondents reported doing about once a month. Learn more about these consumer trends by downloading Technomic's New Consumer Wall Chart.