After the recession caused a dip of nearly 13 percent in food-away-from-home spending, there’s been a 60% boost in Americans’ eating-out pattern. Improved customer satisfaction with restaurants has helped to drive the increase, along with lessened concern about cost.
One indicator of an improving economy is that Americans are eating out more, according to consumer spending trends surveyed for the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), reports Millionaire Corner.com, published by Spectrem Group, a research and consulting firm specializing in the “wealth and retirement industry.”
Between 2006 and 2009, a period that includes the recession, food away from home spending declined 12.9 percent, according to a study released earlier in 2014 by the United States Department of Agriculture, Millionaire Corner.com reports.
In contrast, Americans ate out an average of four meals per week in 2013, a 60 percent increase since the end of the recession. Helping to drive this improvement was improved customer satisfaction, with full-service restaurants scoring 82 percent on the ACSI’s 100-point scale, Millionaire Corner.com reports. Customer satisfaction with fast-food restaurants held steady at 80 percent for the third consecutive year.
In a weaker economy, the ACSI report notes, price is a more important factor in determining dining preferences than quality. In strong or improving economies, the opposite is true.
Which restaurants are serving up more satisfied customers? Olive Garden tops the list of full-service restaurants, Millionaire Corner.com reports, with an ACSI score of 83, followed by Outback Steakhouse (80), Red Lobster (78, a slippage of six percentage points from the previous year), Applebee’s (78) and Chili’s (74).
Overall, customers reported increased satisfaction over the previous year in the accuracy of their order, beverage quality, the speed with which they received their food order, and the website of their preferred restaurant, Millionaire Corner.com reports.
Pizza chains top the fast-food restaurant category. Leading in customer satisfaction were Papa John’s (82), followed by Pizza Hut (82), Little Caesar (80), and Domino’s Pizza (80).
Ranking fifth through seventh were Subway (78), Wendy’s (78) and Starbucks (76).
Ranking last was the industry sales leader, McDonald’s, with a score of 71. McDonald’s U.S. sales dipped one percent in June 2014, the seventh straight month of declines, Millionaire Corner.com reports. The iconic franchise has faced challenges ranging from mismanagement of its dollar menu, image-tarnishing protests by minimum-wage workers, and competition offering healthier and fresher fare sought by the crucial Millennial demographic, it was noted.
Fast-food restaurants do receive high marks for a satisfactory dining experience, according to consumer spending trends tracked by the ACSI, but they remain well below full-service restaurants, Millionaire Corner.com notes.